Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In Need of a Little Bit of Help

     One Saturday morning I was outside working in the yard when I noticed a man walking by. He was walking as if he was in some pain so I asked him if I could help him out. He introduced himself as Carlos and explained that he had been walking most of the night and the morning looking for a place called victory outreach. He had been battling addiction for a while and finally decided that he was fed up and wanted to check in to a rehab facility. I did not know of the place but I invited him in to the church next door so that we could call and find out where they are located. We went in the church (Grace UMC) and pulled out the phone book to call. As it turned out, they are closed on Saturdays so I proceeded to call 211. I got the phone numbers of a couple of different rehab places and called all of them but if he wanted in he would need to wait until Monday morning. I have not had extensive experience with people battling addiction but one thing I do know is that it takes a lot of energy and determination to seek help and if Carlos did not get the help he needed that day then he would run the risk of falling back into addiction.

     I was not simply going to leave Carlos alone but instead took him over to Bonhoeffer to relax and get something to eat. Carlos told me that his feet were badly hurting him because it had rained the night before and all of the walking in wet socks had caused many blisters to form. I told him to take of his socks and shoes and come in to the house to relax. He was very hesitant because he was ashamed that his feet were ugly and smelly but I reassured him that I would not mind. He eventually agreed to come inside and I got him a bucket of warm water and some soap so he could soak and clean his feet. While he was cleaning his feet I fixed some breakfast for Carlos, Jonathan and myself.

     About this time Pastor Judith came over and the four of us shared a meal and some discussion. After breakfast I made one more phone call to my friend Daneille who works for City Square. I told her I had tried everywhere I knew of and my last option was to take him to Green Oaks to see if they could help him out. She affirmed my idea gave me a couple of options for a plan B too. I was ready to take him to Green Oaks when I remembered I had taken my car in to Firestone and Jonathan had to leave for work. I then turned to call my friend Bill. Bill has been visiting Bonhoeffer for our Friday meals, has joined the lead team at New Day, and has really been a wonderful member of our community. I told him a little bit about the situation and invited him to "a day in the life of the Bonhoeffer House". He said he was on his way.

     When Bill came over he brought some foot powder which he rubbed on Carlos' feet to further soothe the pain. I then grabbed a pair of sandals and got him some new socks. We climbed in Bills car and left for Green Oaks. I will not bore you with the details but after about 4 hours of sitting in the waiting room Homeward Bound sent a van to come pick him up to bring him to their facilities and check him in to detox. I gave Carlos my phone number and a hug and left with Bill. As we were headed to the car Carlos came running out to say thank you again. He said that no one had really helped him out like that before and he was grateful for what Jonathan, Bill and I had done. Frankly, we really didn't do all that much. We gave him some water for his feet, some food for his stomach and a ride to Green Oaks. All he really needed was a little bit of help.

Peace,

Brandon

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Fatherless Prodigal Son

     Saturday morning I woke up to help George clean up a little bit outside. We were out of trash bags so I walked over to Aldi's to buy some more. As I was walking in, a man walked up to me. He said that everyone had been telling him to (buzz) off and that no one cared about him. I assured him that I would not send him off and was willing to talk with him. He simply looked me in the eye and said "do I look like I could use some help?" I was humbled by his humility and asked him what I could do to help. He said he could really use a hot breakfast. I told him to wait outside as I went in to pick up the trash bags.

     I came out and he and I walked back to Bonhoeffer. On the walk over I learned a little bit about him. He goes by Uncle Jay, he usually stays over in Oak Cliff, and when he fell asleep the night before he lost his backpack which had all of his belongings. We then got back to Bonhoeffer where George had already begun raking up the leaves. Uncle Jay offered to help and so for the next 30 minutes or so we cleaned up the driveway and talked a little bit.

     When we finished up we went inside and began to cook breakfast. George cooked some eggs and sausage from the night before, toasted some toast and I threw on some grits. The three of us then sat down at the dining room table to share a meal and conversation. We learned a little about Uncle Jay, shared a little about our selves, and simply cut up and had a good time. All of a sudden Uncle Jay just got quiet. He looked at George and I and said "If I hadn't run in to you at the grocery store I probably would have just gone off to get drunk to numb myself". It was then our turn to get quiet, we weren't entirely sure how to respond and all we could say is that we were glad to have him with us and that he was our brother. He then yelled out "I'm sick of it! I'm sick of all the drinking. This little body of mine could drink 12 bottles of alcohol like it's nothing. The body isn't meant for that, but that's what I've done to it."

     At moments like that there isn't much to do but to be supportive and to pray. We assured Uncle Jay that we were here for him and if he wanted to break free from the hold that alcohol had on him that we would support him along the way and help pick him up when he fell. At that point we moved into the prayer room and took out our Common Prayer books. We began to go through our saturday liturgy with him. We got to the point in the liturgy for confession and as George began to speak, Uncle Jay cut him off. He said he didn't want to hear any of that. George and I discussed it and we weren't sure what he meant by that. Maybe he didn't think that what George was confessing compared to what he needed to confess, maybe he was afraid that if we were confession then he too would feel compelled to confess, or maybe it was something beyond either of those possibilities. Either way, George stopped and there was a period of silence. Then, with tears streaming down his face, Uncle Jay began to share more of his story. He shared with us that he spent about 12 years of his life in prison for burglary. His whole life he made one bad decision after another to lead him where he is today. He said that he sees himself as the prodigal son, that he squandered away all that he had acquired and it wasn't until he hit rock bottom that he noticed that. He was ready to change his ways and be accepted if those from his past would accept him.

     There is one major catch, however, to Uncle Jay being the prodigal son. Uncle Jay told us that his dad was an alcoholic. He had never been there for him, never supported him, and done far more damage than good in his life. He then told us that his dad also has cancer and is currently in the hospital and most likely not far from death. How can Uncle Jay fulfill the second half of the story of the prodigal son if he doesn't have a father to turn to who can pick him up off the ground, kill the fatted calf, put a ring on his finger and throw a party? How can he return to good graces if he never actually was in good graces? How can his friends and family help him out if they are in similar or worse situations than he?

     Now I know what many of you are thinking. The story of the prodigal son was a reference to God. It means that even though Uncle Jay may have turned away, he still has the chance to be reunited with God. I get that, but what about the part of the Lord's prayer that says "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven". Uncle Jay may have a little harder time buying that part of the prayer. He hasn't seen the kingdom come on this earth as in heaven. He has seen a kingdom on this earth but probably more likely one from hell than from heaven. So where is Uncle Jay's celebration? Where is Uncle Jay's reconciliation? Where is Uncle Jay's forgiveness? Where is Uncle Jay's father? Where is Uncle Jay's family?

     I hope that we at Bonhoeffer can be all of that for Uncle Jay. I pray he can continue coming here and that we can support him on his journey. I pray that he can fight his addiction to alcohol. I pray that he can find housing. I pray that he can find a job. I pray that he can regain his name and his dignity. I pray that he can find a family with us and others that can support him. I pray for a miracle.

    Here's the reality check. Uncle Jay said that he would come this morning and go to church with me. He said that he would also go to New Day and try to come to our morning and evening prayers. He didn't show up. Maybe he'll come this evening. Maybe he'll come tomorrow for morning or evening prayer. Maybe he'll come friday for our community meal, but then again, maybe he wont. Maybe yesterday when he left he went straight to begging and then to the liquor store. Maybe he past out and that's why he didn't come this morning. Maybe he's too ashamed to come back. Even worse, maybe he's dead.

     Now I know that this all seems very cynical. Many of you may be thinking that with God all things are possible. I agree with that. I agree 100% that it is possible that Uncle Jay is sober. It is possible that Uncle Jay will be knocking on the door any moment and has a perfectly good excuse for why he wasn't here this morning. It's perfectly possible, but it's not probable. I listened to a podcast by Bart Campolo in which he talked about a story much like Uncle Jay's. What Campolo pointed out is that miracles are miracles for a reason. They don't happen all that often. Now don't get me wrong. I'm praying for a miracle, I'm hoping for a miracle but in the mean time I'm also praying that Uncle Jay, if nothing else, knows that he's loved. I'm doing all that I can to let him know that he is loved and I hope he really does. Even if he never comes back I hope he can remember the time that he came to Bonhoeffer for breakfast, prayer, and family. I hope that this prodigal son can be reunited to his father through unconditional love.

Maybe a miracle will happen. But I'm certainly not going to sit around and wait for it to happen.

Peace,

Brandon

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What is the Bonhoeffer House?

I created this blog a little over a month ago but have not gotten around to writing this initial post. Part of the reason is procrastination, finals, etc but it's also because I've had difficulties trying to formulate and answer to the questions, "What is the Bonhoeffer House?". I get the question fairly often and am not sure that I've given the same answer more than once and so it's hard for me to sit down and write down an answer. I've never been much of a writer. I much prefer to speak, preach, or dialogue. When you are talking to someone you get instant feedback and can tailor what you are saying to who you are saying it to. In writing you are not given that luxury. You have to do your best to put something out there and hope that you can reach as many people as possible.

Having said that, I will now take on the task of answering the question as best I can. I'm also going to ask the other Bonhoeffer guys to answer the same question and maybe get some other input from people who have visited or worked with Bonhoeffer.

Before talking about the Bonhoeffer House in particular I think I should talk a little bit about The Epworth Project. The Epworth Project was started by Dr. Elaine Heath who is a professor of evangelism at Perkins School of Theology where many of the residents attend school. It is a network of 5 (soon to be 6 and hopefully 7) New Monastic Houses which is part of The Missional Wisdom Foundation. The houses are the Phoebe Palmer House, Amani House, Romero House (plus the Romero House Apartment), William Seymour House, and the Bonhoeffer House. Each house has it's own anchor church and each house takes on it's own identity based on the church it is anchored in, the residents of the house, the community in which it's locate, as well as other factors. It is my opinion that the community in which it's located is the main determining factor.

The Bonhoeffer House is located in East Dallas and is next door to Grace UMC. Grace is a very active church in the community and have various ministries such as an open door preschool, free law clinic, agape clinic, ministry for teen mothers, and others. At Bonhoeffer we have worked with Grace on a few endeavors but have mostly worked to form our own identity.

We did not move in until October and spent the first couple of months simply getting acquainted with the neighborhood and the needs in the area. The three main requirements of the house are daily prayer, once a week community meals, and 4 hours of community service. Even those three simple requirements were difficult to meet when we first moved in. Jonathan and George were busy with their internship, Adam was still working on occasion with the Denton Wesley Foundation while he was transitioning to Denton, and I was taking a full 12 hrs at Perkins. Prayer was at 8:00am but many times it was just us talking for a while and then praying a quick 5 minute prayer, meals would be moved around to different days, breakfast instead of dinner, and it was mostly just 3 or 4 of us.

I went away to Peru over the winter break and the other 3 had their Christmas break plans as well. While in Peru I still tried my best to remain in contact with the guys and Dallas and I learned that they were finding ways to get to know the neighborhood and get connected. We set up a meeting with Diana, the pastor at Grace, and I was able to join via the wonderful technology of skype.

Once we all 4 got back to Dallas and the second semester began, we started doing more. We were all completing out 4 hours of community service, our prayer became more fruitful as we began using Common Prayer a Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, and more people began to join us for our weekly meals. The biggest change happened when Chris came to live with us. When Chris came to live with us he brought a wealth of knowledge about the community and shared with us the experiences that lead him to live on the streets and what he has been doing to get off and stay off the streets. We have continued to make friends with a few homeless in the community that stop by for a quick bite to eat or something to drink. We hope to continue forming relationships and helping the people in the community as they continue to help us in the process.

The final aspect has been the connections we have made with various organizations. Through Chris, we have gotten to know people from City Square  and have begun conversations with them. We have also gotten to know people from Crossroads, the Stewpot, and Art House Dallas. We are continuing to get to know people and organizations in the area and Bonhoeffer is truly taking on an identity of it's own. All 4 of us will be living here for another year and we hope that the Spirit only continues to work with the ministry here.

This is just a small part of what Bonhoeffer is to the community and to myself. I would love to continue the conversation so feel free to email me or stop by the house.

Peace,

Brandon