Keith has 1 year clean and God led him to Retreat from the Street to fulfill one of his final steps in his recovery. The court and his program required him to perform some community service hours to complete his journey. When we met he was unsure (as many are) how to enter into our simple form of ministry. It took a couple of days before he was comfortable forming relationships, but since he started he has been blessed and a blessing. This morning he told me how he had decided to throw a bar-b-que this past Saturday at his recovery center. He has been working for several months now and said that the few dollars he saved up and subsequently spent on the food (grill and supplies were already available) had made an incalculable impact. His supprise was not so much how it affected those he was reaching out to, but how it altered his own thoughts about loving others. Though he may not have begun that Saturday thinking about loving others, the end of any act of outreach often results in a deeper introspective view of God and his creation.
Today when he arrived we spoke about the weekend and what he could do at Retreat. I told him what I always do: make a friend and let his sobriety and faith be an inspiration to them.
Enter Marcus. Several days ago he found his way to Retreat. A quiet, somewhat humble guy that tended to stay to himself. I hadn’t had much time to get to know him well but he was paying attention to what was going on.
This morning he took me off to the side and started to tell me a story I am starting to hear with more frequency. “I just can’t do this any more,” he said. “I don’t know what to do or where to start.” It turns out he just got out of jail after serving several months and returning to the streets he has fallen back into addiction with no family or friends willing to take him in. He stated how thankful he was for a place like ours that doesn’t push or judge. A quiet place to clear his head and consider the course of his life.
I called Keith outside and introduced them. I told Keith that I was too busy dealing with the rest of the crowd and that the only program I had faith in didn’t have any beds available. Asking for his help finding Marcus a good program he happily jumped in and by lunch time had called (and even went to) one of the programs he trusted. They came to me and said they were leaving to get Marcus settled in. Something made me ask them to wait ’till after lunch so we could first eat together and they agreed.
Here comes Steve. About 4 weeks ago Steve entered a program. Well it didn’t work out according to plan. The program closed their doors his 2nd week there and threw everyone out. By now you know the story, 1 or 2 days back on the street and he started using again. We were always supportive and never judged him for it. [I know these problems first hand and the more someone pushed the more I rebelled]. The question was simply “When?” “When will you be ready again? Because when you are, you know where I am, right?” “Right,” he would say.
As we were serving lunch he appeared in the line and just looked at me and said “Gary, I’m ready”. “Really? Are you ready today? Right now?” He said he was and I told him to finish his lunch and grab his stuff.
After lunch the 4 of us walked outside and loaded Marcus and Steve into Keith’s car. I continued to encourge them and sent them off. The truth of the matter is that I was the one most blessed. I told them both to keep in touch and let us know how God is working in their lives.
Our work in this ministry is one of love – our love for the God of creation working itself out through loving others. But the greater story is when others acting out of their own brokeness begin to reach out and love each other. This is the truest expression of community.
This is the living mission statement of Church on the Street practically expressed through Retreat from the Street. These stories are not exclusive to our ministry so please post your stories on our wall at facebook.com/churchonthestreet and join us in this labor of love.