Through Dark Lands: A Young Man’s Encounter With Homelessness

In the past four years I’ve had the special privilege of working with homeless men, women, and children in different cities across the United States. Through the course of my ministry to the homeless I’ve experienced both tragedy and redemption. I’ve seen lives destroyed by sin and lives beautifully restored by Christ. I’ve both doubted and questioned my faith and drawn closer to God than ever before. I’ve had my own life threatened and seen other lives destroyed. Since I’m taking a break from writing my book, I thought it would be nice to share some of these experiences with you . . .

Let me forewarn you, however, that many (in fact most) of these stories are extremely disturbing and quite graphic. They involve drug use, prostitution, bad language, child abuse, mental illness, demon possession and a host of gross injustices. Although I will not be using any of the real names of people I’ve worked with or mention the places in which the events took place, I shall be very honest in my description of these events. In doing this I believe I’m following the example of the authors of the Bible who made it a point not to hold back any of the unpleasant details.

I will also seek to be honest about my own spiritual development during this time. I know that I have sinned and made bad choices during my dealings with the homeless. I do not wish to portray myself as a saint nor the homeless as wild savage heathen. In truth, there have been times in which the homeless have ministered to me more than I’ve ministered to them. My desire is to show how destructive sin can be and to demonstrate just how much we all need the Truth instantiated in the man Jesus Christ. I pray that these stories bless you and strengthen your resolve to stand against evil and injustice wherever you may be.

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6 thoughts on “Through Dark Lands: A Young Man’s Encounter With Homelessness

  1. I don’t think you have any concept of what it means to be homeless. It seems you see the homeless as a class of people, a separate class from yours.
    And if you are looking for sin try politicians.

    • I’m truly sorry that you have this opinion of me. It’s obvious from what I’ve written so far that I do not view homeless people as some sort of inferior class of people (and if you had read me carefully and fairly you would understand this). I believe all men – the homeless, the wealthy, and everyone in between – are made in the Image and Likeness of God and are therefore equal in value, worth, and dignity. I do, however, recognize an obvious distinction between people who are homeless and people who are not: one distinction being that homeless people typically live on the streets and non-homeless people typically live . . . well, in their homes. I don’t have a lot of personal experience working in politics; hence, I shall not be blogging about the sin of politicians. However, I have had a lot of experience ministering to the homeless; which is precisely why I will be writing about the sin of both homeless people and those who work with them. I will also attempt to share my own sin and weakness equally – something I noticed you do not do very often (if at all) on your blog . . . .

  2. Thank you for your response to my, I have to admit, short and harsh remark. My blog is not about me and my sins are between me and God. My blog is about the brutal reality of having to live in a shelter and having to surrender dignity, hope and dreams in exchange for a roof over ones head because people within the shelter decide you have no right to those. And whatever I say, don’t let me deter you! I like a good discussion and homeless people are my passion, so I do tend to get carried away at times. I am just sick of people exploiting this vulnerable segment of our society.

    I don’t know the homeless individuals you are working with, but sensationalizing the world that homeless people live in is just not fair, I am referring to your warning about prostitution and so on.
    Not once do you say ”let me forewarn you about beauty and miraculous mercy and love in my stories”. Many, many people have worked for years to remove the stigmatisms that are attached to being homeless. Prostitution, bad language, child abuse, mental illness, demon possession and whatever other negative you want to associate with being homeless are not native to that segment of society.

    Homeless people don’t need to hear how bad they have sinned they are already suffering and in many cases for something society neglected to provide for and not for what they did. I have seen this too many times, all these church goers coming into the shelter trying to sell God in exchange for a sandwich.

    And what exactly do you mean by ministering to the homeless? And why would you want to follow the authors of the bible? God demands you follow him! So, let all that hoopla go and do what you feel in your soul you need to be doing. Go undercover and see how people treat you different if they see you as a homeless person, than picture you have no one and figure out why so many homeless turn to drugs to escape. How disillusioned must a woman be to sell her body? The problem is not that people do what they do, the issue is WHY.

    • I deeply appreciate your passion and zeal for protecting the rights of the homeless–as well as promoting their dignity and value as human beings.

      I believe you and I share a similar frustration and sorrow. Having worked in three different shelters across the United States, I understand, all too well, how poorly many social workers and even professing Christians treat the homeless. I also understand how fallen and selfish the human heart is, and thus, how easy it is to look down upon and judge others (even without realizing it). Please believe me when I tell you that my intention is not to “sensationalize” the world that homeless people live in but to tell true stories about things I’ve experienced. The reason that I felt the need to ‘forewarn’ people about the darkness in many of these stories is because I intend to be very explicit and honest-some of my readers may not be interested in reading the material. If you read what I said, however, you will see that the point of each story I intend to tell is to direct all of us to Jesus. Many of these stories are very beautiful because they actually have happy endings. Sadly, however, some of them do not end happily.

      It is also not my intention to “stigmatize” the homeless – it just so happens that in my four years of working with the homeless in three major cities, virtually every one of the hundreds of men, women, and children I’ve worked with have either been involved in or seriously impacted by prostitution, drug use, alcoholism, mental illnesses, demon possession, violence, sexual abuse, and other such problems. Is every homeless person you meet a drug user? Of course not! Does drug addiction rather substantially contribute to chronic homelessness? Yes (and this is empirically verifiable). Should drug addicts be treated with dignity, love, and respect? Absolutely! Part of loving them is helping them to stop living in a manner which is destroying them and others around them. We also don’t do the homeless service by pretending they are all snugly teddy bears who just need a hot meal and a hug (although a hot meal and a hug is a glorious thing).

      In any event, if you stick around and actually read the stories I intend to tell (which, by the way, have not yet been posted) you will quickly learn that my goal is not to demonize or belittle the homeless but, rather, to share true stories about brokenness and redemption.

  3. Josh! I’m so glad you started writing this finally! I’ve been hoping you’d get around to sharing about your experiences so that we all might benefit. As I mentioned to you when we spoke a few weeks ago, I had my world turned upside-down when I saw poverty first hand while doing mission work in Nicaragua, building a school. It was only two weeks, but wow – what a change that happened in my heart. I’m grateful that you are going to be sharing out of your many years of experiences and reflections on this important topic.

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