I’ve been meaning to write an August update, and now September is almost gone! We’ve had a very busy summer!
I wanted to share with you some “behind-the-scenes” work that I’ve been engaged in. About three years ago I put together a series of workshops that were designed to help interested laypeople be more effective in ministry with the homeless. I’ve found that the overwhelming majority of people who are engaged with the homeless are non-professionals: volunteers, family members, friends, strangers on the street.
Most of those people struggle to know what to do, or what to do that will be the most helpful. So I put together the “Helping Humans Workshops” where we focused on Gospel informed approaches to ministry, with particular emphasis on issues particularly common amongst the homeless. I facilitated these workshops through local churches, and had other experts come in to teach on different subjects (such as mental health and substance abuse).
I also gave a few invited lectures on the subject at some of our local universities. During that time I got connected with a wonderful ministry called The Field’s Edge based in Midland Texas. (The Field’s Edge just broke ground a few months ago on a permanent tiny house village for the chronically homeless, and they also run a number of fantastic programs at the street level for their homeless neighbors.)
After a few conversations with their director, John-Mark Echols, I went out to Midland to give a lecture for their board members and some of their key supporters and volunteers. (This would have been in approx. 2019?) We had a great time! Such a great time that John-Mark and I began planning a way to share this material more widely.
Well, everything finally came together in August. After about a year of on-and-off planning we sat down in a professional studio and recorded 8 short videos. The video team at Redeemer Church was incredible. Each of video focuses on a different aspect of homeless ministry. These are not going to be “training videos” but are rather recordings of our conversation on each topic. The final session was spent giving 30-45 second long answers to a list of “Frequently Asked Questions” that we encounter, well, frequently.
The dominant thread that runs through all of the material is that "Friendship is the ministry." Friendship with God, reconciliation with each other, ourselves, and the world. The best, most valuable thing we have to offer anyone is a gospel-shaped friendship that points them towards the best, most valuable thing anyone can experience: God's indescribable gift: friendship with Him.
John-Mark has a tremendous heart for the Lord, and so our time together was richly encouraging for me. It was a week of “work” but didn’t feel like it at all!
We are still in the editing stage, and it will be some time before these are available, but I’m excited to let you guys know what is coming. We are hoping that these videos will be of great benefit for our respective organizations, as well as many other churches, non-profits, and individuals who want to be better informed and trained as they engage in ministry. We will also be exploring how to refashion the recorded material into print, possibly a forthcoming book.
In the midst of all of this, I also wanted to share that God has richly blessed our home and family with great amounts of peace and joy. The last six months have been amongst the hardest of our lives. The work has been difficult. We’ve experienced a lot of deaths in our community (I have another funeral in just an hour). We have lost some very dear friends through this last season. AND YET through at all we have experienced the overwhelming “peace that passes understanding.” We are excited to be doing God’s work in accordance with the way the He keeps leading us. Blessed be the name of the Lord! Thanks for reading and for all of the love and support so many of you have poured onto us through this year. Mary Blake and I are so, so grateful for all the words of encouragement we have received.