Believing that a walk for the homeless was a worthy effort, they went about putting together a team and gathering support. The name of the walk was chosen to mirror John’s Gospel account of the healing of the blind man at the Pool of Siloam. The first 72-hour walk was held in May 2004, and a walk has been held every year since. Pilgrims are selected from homeless shelters around the city and taken by charter bus to an encampment on Lake Corpus Christi. Upon returning to their shelters, the men are encouraged to participate in weekly support gatherings. The cost of the walk is paid for by members of the team and offerings from other Fourth Day Communities such as Emmaus, Chrysalis, Kairos, Cursillio, and Damascus. For information, contact the Coastal Bend Emmaus Community.
To say that the U.S. economy is experiencing an “economic downturn,” is like saying that it can get “warm” in south Texas during the month of August.
Our government is pouring billions of dollars into an effort to bring the economy back from oblivion. Businesses are either closing their doors or paring back as they try to survive. Hundreds of thousands have already lost their jobs and more soon will. Many of us have stood by helplessly as our 401(k)s shrink and our dreams of building a retirement nest egg go down the drain. This recession is impacting our friends, our family members and us … some much worse than others.
This spiraling out of control is not a time to panic and succumb to fear. God says over and over again in the Bible: Do not fear. Be not afraid. This too shall pass. Someone researched God’s petition to fear not and found 365 examples of this plea in the Scriptures. One for each day!
And in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus spoke words of eternal truth to remind us to look to God for security: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. A few verses later, he followed those words with this beautiful promise: Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
“Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life … but strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6).
Recently I served on a Walk to Siloam. This walk is similar to the Walk to Emmaus, except it is designed for homeless men. For 72 hours a team of 35 guys served 32 gentlemen who had pretty much lost everything and carried on their backs the entirety of their earthly possessions. These men were recruited from various shelters and camps in Corpus Christi and Laredo. We fed them, counseled with them, encouraged them and we did all of this to show them that they have worth and that not only does Jesus love them, but we do, too.
This was the 6th year we have held this Walk and it was our largest group of pilgrims to date. Some who had been pilgrims on earlier walks were now transformed and serving on the team. One of the men will be the Lay Director on next year’s walk!
Working on these walks, I have discovered that being homeless is not what these men set out to be. In our “Icebreaker” on the first evening, we answer several questions concerning our family history, including, “What did I want to become when I grew up?” One man answered: “Anything but this!” For the most part, they wanted to become what all boys dream of, like being a firefighter, a police officer, a pilot.
But things happened in their lives and the majority of those things were out of their control. They grew up in severely dysfunctional families, they were abused, they did not get treatment for disorders such as addictive personalities and depression. Obviously, their role models were not the best. And because of that, many of them had made some bad choices.
Still, most of them had not given in to hopelessness. Perhaps that’s because a great percentage of the men were faithful Christians. They were bright, loving, talented … and, as hard as it might be to believe … even happy.
One morning I was in the coffee room when a man I will call Ray came in with a big grin on his face. It was 6:15 and I thought he was nuts. No one is that happy at that time of morning and for certain not before you get that first cup of coffee! “How’s it going, Ray,” I inquired. “What are you so happy about?” As he was pouring a cup of coffee, he said, “God has blessed me!” “Good,” I replied, “how?” “I woke up this morning,” he said cheerfully. And then he added, “IN A BED!!!”
I was convicted. How was it that Ray was so full of joy as he experienced the simple blessings of life while I was worrying about how much my retirement program would plummet this day? Why don’t I bless God each morning for the gift of a new day and the breath to live it? Why don’t I bless God for a roof over my head and a safe place to lay my head? Why don’t I bless God for food and family, for health and a vocation, for the network of love and support that makes up each and every minute of each and every day of my life? I am sinfully blessed! Why don’t I act like it?
When I arrived at the Walk to Siloam, I was prepared to show 32 men a thing or two about the love of God. But as I drove home from the retreat three days later, I had to admit I had been shown. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong (I Corinthians 1:27).
Who are the foolish/wise? Who are the weak/strong? Think on these things as the recession extends and we are called to trust more fully on God’s promise to provide. Think on these things the next time you see the Rays of the world walking the streets, who, like the Son of Man, have no place to lay their heads, but still find reason to praise the God who created them in God’s very image.
Chuck Miller is pastor of First Church in Kingsville, Texas, and former moderator of Mission Presbytery (2004).