A week ago I was visiting Albuquerque, New Mexico where I joined Agent Z on a mission to bring the homeless in to his church and party with Jesus. I am delinquent in reporting on it.
Agent Z is one of my kids. My step son, to be exact. But he grew up in my home, and it seems has accepted influence from me which prompts him to devote his life, both personally and professionally, to ministry for Jesus. Being a young man, he finds his way forward through youth ministry, but reports to me that actually he thinks ministry is just ministry really, and the “youth” part is just the pathway the academy opens up for him.
This summer he took an internship, a temporary/student job, as a youth minister assistant for a church In ABQ. This church sits on the intersection of I-40 and San Mateo, a corner heavy with traffic that includes lots of meandering homeless people. And considering all his experience and his heart for the poor, Agent Z immediately began reaching out in his own small way as a youth minister to the homeless living just out the front door of this church.
He went out and met some people face to face. Then after a social gathering for the youths, he gathered up the left over food and took it to the streets for distribution. Soon one of the elders at this church prompted Z to examine their outreach program and determine ways to improve it. And then Agent Z put forth a prayer request to the church with names of homeless men living just outside for the whole church to pray for.
As the summer progresses, Agent Z is required to “do a project”. There are myriad tasks of a more mundane variety that Z is given as he learns the expectations of a staff minister, but to fulfill academic requirements, he is also supposed to take a leadership role in designing and executing a ministerial project. Z chose to do what he does best, invite the poor to party with Jesus!
And this is where Agent Z has broke through to new territory. In all the years he has watched or participated in Fat Beggars School of Prophets and our efforts to get the church to open a door to the poor and homeless only to be told NO every single time, Z got that little church in ABQ excited about the possibilities!
Last weekend, I showed up to see it for myself.
Saturday evening, the fellowship hall of that church hosted a Luke-14 Jesus Party. About 15 people, some youth and parents and a few elders and staff ministers showed up, fired up the grill, held a short devo, and then formed a mission group that hit the streets. I was one of those who hit the streets with this small group, and we went in search of the poor, the broken, the lowly so that we might compel them in to the party!
And we managed to persuade six. . . at first. Six people from the streets showed up to eat. I did not meet them all (after all, I was meeting the other fifteen for the first time as well), but I did meet and interact with four of them. But before they came in, we had the adventure of reaching out to find them.
Agent Z’s youth minister supervisor, the main youth minister, was eager to visit with me, and when we encountered the first homeless man, Manny, on the corner, I engaged him with invitation. It quickly became clear that Manny was deeply suspicious of church and church people, so I was stuck there for several minutes trying to assure him that we would not manipulate him, merely share a meal and celebrate Jesus with him. Thus the rest of the group moved on, except Manny, the youth minister, and me.
After several torturous minutes of failing to convince Manny of our good intentions (I suspect Manny suffers mental illness with paranoid complications), we left him with our blessing, and upon realizing that the rest of our group had disappeared going North on San Mateo, I suggested we head South to get more coverage. The youth minister agreed.
We found three more individuals in a nearby park who agreed to come, and we escorted them back to the church. Two of them were a young couple, and man and woman, but the man never gave me his name. They also kept a fair bit of distance as we made our way down the boulevard to that meal, but the other fella, an older gentleman, told me his name was John. And escorting him was like herding a one-man herd of cats.
John asked if he could finish his beer. I agreed that it would be better for him to finish it there in the park rather than take it to the church, so he slugged it. But then he was a gregarious drunk, very friendly and open and told me lots of stories about his life along the way. He was rather entertaining, really.
As we made our way back to the church, I met another man named Phillip. Phillip was on his way to meet other friends at that moment, but upon hearing our invitation, he became excited and suggested he might show up a little later with other friends. We sent him off with our blessing in hope of seeing him again with yet others too.
Upon arriving back at the fellowship hall, I had a second chance to talk to Manny. So I lingered outside with him as the youth minister escorted John and the other couple inside. I coaxed and coaxed Manny and even felt very hopeful when he ventured up to the entrance with me. But he just could not let go of his fear, and I just could not alleviate it adequately. So Manny drifted away into the city.
But once I joined the others inside, I found John entertaining the people gathered around his table by singing. It turns out he can sing very well. When he sang Neil Young songs, he actually sounded like Neil Young! But the part I found particularly exciting was that one of the church ladies sitting there EATING WITH John (who interestingly had by now introduced himself to everyone else there as “Donald” (multiple personality???)) was completely engaged in singing with him. They played an impromptu game of Name That Tune with each other and created many smiles and laughter between people of such deeply divided stations in life that ONLY Jesus could bring them together!
I had cause recently to look at a very old post on this blog about another church that opened their door one night to the homeless (here in Lubbock, btw), and I was stunned by the joyful tone and rhetoric coming off my own keyboard! I would love for you to check it out. I notice that the day I posted it holds my all time record for the most views in a single day. Almost 100! Find it here:
I am just as excited for the ministry Agent Z is affecting in ABQ!
I watched this woman who lives a deeply devout Christian life amid all the comfort of American society welcome a drunk, possibly Schizophrenic, unbathed bum into her church’s fellowship hall where she shared a meal and joy and Jesus with him. And I think he was the face of Jesus while she was the hands and feet of Jesus, and where the two were gathered together, Jesus was there in our midst!
Agent Z reports to me that after the party, which was small, he heard several people speak about doing this again! He is planting seeds!
Later, after the party was done and cleaned up (I had to leave it early because I had babies with me that I had to tend to) I heard that four other street people showed up, and they too were welcomed and food was shared with them as well. I have no way of knowing, but I wonder if Phillip didn’t come and bring his friends!
Word is out on the street in ABQ. On San Mateo Blvd. in particular! Jesus welcomes the poor, the lowly, the broken and parties with them!
Score one for Jesus!
God opened a door!