The Good News
Topeka Rescue Mission is reaching outside of its own walls to minister to and touch the lives of unsheltered homeless individuals. We are finding men and women who have been homeless for not only weeks and months, but also years and decades. Many have grown accustomed to this lifestyle and are wary of anyone who would try to challenge it.
How is it that we are beginning to see individuals from the streets, who once appeared hard, angry and addicted, melting to tears and softening when entering our doors?
For months, our Operation Street Reach (OSR) Team had seen them and tried to reach out. They were five homeless men who spent their days and nights sitting in folding lawn chairs in an empty lot in North Topeka. Often they were angry. Frequently they were drunk. On the days and nights when our city experienced severe storms, these five took shelter in an old, abandoned car that sat on the lot. This was their home. This had become their lifestyle.
One hot summer morning, the Operation Street Reach team pulled up once again to pass out water and food. These men rarely approached the Jeep. Most of them would stand back and were typically cordial. A couple in the group seemed more hardened than the rest. One man, confined to a wheelchair for decades after being hit by a train, would never engage the team during these visits. Often, he would wheel away or just completely ignore those who had come to assist. Another man, who was always intoxicated, would visit occasionally, but then became angry to the point of physical aggression and verbal assault toward the OSR Team.
On this particular day, four of the men were gathered in one area. The man who was typically sitting in his wheelchair was spotted on the ground crawling toward a folding chair. His wheelchair was nowhere in sight. When the man was approached he voiced that his wheelchair had been stolen and probably sold for scrap metal. He was now only able to get around by being carried by others or pulling himself by crawling on the ground.
“What if I could get you a wheelchair?” our Street Reach Director asked. The man looked away and replied casually, “whatever.” He had lost hope. He seemingly couldn’t allow himself to believe that a new wheelchair was a possibility.
God has faithfully demonstrated to the Rescue Mission over the years, that when there is a need, He will supply. The Distribution Center had a wheelchair. Not only had it just come in as a donation, but it was a brand new wheelchair that had never before been used.
Within a couple of hours, the new chair was strapped to the top of the Operation Street Reach Jeep and the lot these men called home was once again approached. As the OSR team pulled up, the old car that was their makeshift shelter during turbulent weather, was being towed away. They would now be left defenseless during the storms. All five men, now joined by the property owner, were present. One can only imagine the emotions that they were experiencing.
As the wheelchair was brought over to the man in need, now sitting in a folding chair, all he could do was stare and shake his head in disbelief. “Here is your wheelchair,” our Street Reach Director smiled and said, “freely we have received, freely we give.” The man, having never shown signs of emotion or interest during any previous encounters, began to cry. As he maneuvered his way into the chair and pulled up the foot rest, the other men just stood speechless and watched. Before the Street Team left the lot, a prayer of blessing was released to the intoxicated men.
The next day, one of the men from the group came to the Mission for lunch. As he ate, he shared that he believed he was ready to make a change. He wasn’t quite sure how to describe what he had witnessed the day prior, but he knew it was significant and it had impacted his life. Our Street Reach Director told him once again that the Topeka Rescue Mission was here to help in his areas of need and encouraged him that there is always hope. The lunch conversation ended with no significant outcome.
Hours later, the man was still standing in the hallway of the Mission. When approached once again by our Street Reach Director, he shared that he was waiting to meet with a Mission Advocate. He had made the decision to register as a guest of the Mission. He said that he was tired of being drunk. As a result of the stupor he had been living in, he had not even changed his clothes since January. He shook from withdrawal as he spoke. He admitted he had been drunk every single day and that there were entire months that he could not recall a single memory. This was how he had existed. He was hopeless, numb and oblivious to the world around him.
Then, he witnessed his friend receive a new wheelchair and saw people walking in love. This kind act for his friend had grabbed his attention. Now, people were helping him, walking in love and demonstrating that they cared about him.
He stayed inside the walls of the Mission, scared, but wanting a change. Our Street Reach Director listened to the man’s heart and shared with him that there was good news on the other side. The man nodded, but clearly did not know what the words meant. It was repeated. “There is good news… there is hope… and it is through Jesus Christ.” The Gospel message was shared, tears were shed and the man received the hope he needed to take his next step forward in life.
The good news of Jesus Christ is supposed to be shared and given away. We introduce this at the Mission by offering a cup of water to those who are thirsty, a warm meal to those who are hungry, a clean bed to those who are weary and sharing the hope of a Savior for anyone who will listen. Every day we encounter individuals who are hopeless, hurting and have lost their way. Without hope, it can become nearly impossible to move forward in life.
The good news is that we don’t have to trudge through a single step of this life on our own. Jesus Christ came that we would have life and have it more abundantly. That life is for the neighbor next door, the cashier at the checkout counter, the businessman in his suit, the homeless person on the street and for you and your loved ones. Know that today is a new day and it can begin afresh for you, just as it has for these men.
Thank you for your support of the Topeka Rescue Mission. You allow us to reach out with the good news of Jesus Christ; to share His hope with the people we encounter every day. It is our sincere prayer that you also will be blessed with the good news that God loves you and there is always hope.
In His Love,
Barry Feaker, Executive Director