Drop-in Center Cafe
April 16, 2015

Lessons Learned From the Homeless

We’re celebrating National Volunteer Week! In honor of that, we’d like to share about one of our wonderful volunteers:

Deborah Elliott captures stories on Thursday afternoons as a barista at Lighthouse Mission’s Drop-in Center. She has been volunteering  as a barista for nearly a year. It’s amazing to see how much she has learned and how many people she has met during her time as a volunteer. The following is taken from a longer essay written by Deborah. The names below have been changed for privacy.

Lessons Learned From the Homeless

“I walked alone in the shadows of death, so full of pain. I led the life of a thousand lifetimes, so full of pain. I searched alone to the ends of the earth, yet I never knew. That all the answers to my very dreams live inside of you.”
Song by Matthew, a homeless addict.

Jesus is walking among the homeless. I find Him there when I volunteer at the Mission Drop-In Center. His Word compelled me to be there in the first place and His Spirit, in His infinite grace, used the setting to teach me deep lessons of faith. I carry both the memories and the lessons with me always.

I remember Charles. He collected rainwater in a tarp to drink and cook with. Believing that the city puts dangerous chemicals in our water to influence our behavior, he also laughingly acknowledged that he ingests this “contaminated” water when he drinks the free coffee at the Drop-In Center. Lesson #1 – Be a good steward. Treat the environment with care, even if it involves extra effort on my part. And be forgiving of myself, and others, when our actions don’t match up to our ideals.

I remember Drake. Drake beds down in the Mission at night while his girlfriend and young baby sleep across the street in the Agape Home. He is desperate to find a home for his family, and I know the odds of that happening are not in his favor. Lesson #2 – Be thankful for my home. Refuse to fret over repairs, property taxes and other homeowner laments.

I remember Bobby. We had long conversations about alcoholism. My most reliable customer, he stopped coming in for his cup of coffee. I fear he has relapsed and is facing the formidable climb, once again, out of the valley of addiction. Lesson #3 – Be careful. Take seriously the enemy’s desire to create a dependency in me on anything other than God. And be keenly aware of my weakness to fall in this area. Lesson #4 – Be kind. I do not know when I will have my last conversation with those around me.

I remember Phillip. Just passing through town, he asked how he could get a ride to Fairhaven. Immediately, another man pulled out his bus pass and gave it to him. It was literally all he had to give. Lesson #5 – Be extremely generous, always remembering the lavish generosity my Savior poured out on me.

I remember Matthew. The author of the above song, he sang for me one day. Singing, strumming, crying, his story unfolded. Shaking from withdrawals, he expressed his pain over his inability to get free from addiction. Lesson #6 – Be transparent. Sharing our brokenness reminds us of the reality of our struggle against the powers of darkness. It allows others to be partners with Christ, bringing light into those dark places. Lesson #7 – Be hopeful. We know that it is in our darkest places that we draw the closest to God and while we may never know the end of the story, God, in His wisdom, compassion and mercy, pulls together the pieces of people’s broken lives to complete His good work.

When he finished singing, Matthew said, “I wrote it for my wife, but I could’ve been writing it for Jesus. Who knows, maybe I was.”

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