"Reflections Of A Home Ministry"
In 1992, Karen and I were living in an apartment. The jobs I was working were sufficient, but not abundant. God had impressed on us the need to take people in, but our landlords wouldn't allow it. So, informally, we looked for another place, a place where we could take people in, even when it seemed financially impossible.
At the time, we had been attending church services in a small house in Vancouver. On nice days, we'd wander outside and fellowship between services. A few of us had seen this big empty salmon-colored house across the street, and so we wandered over to check it out. There was nothing there to show who owned it, or even if it was rentable. The only thing we spotted was a small piece of a memo pad on the front door, which had the name of a business on the back. No connection, just the name.
I checked it out. The business was an ambulance company. They had used that house prior to us. They also had the owner's name and phone number.
I called the owner. I had taken him by surprised - he hadn't even put the house on the market yet. We talked. I discovered that he knew my dad. And my dad's reputation was the key which put us into the house.
My parents had divorced when I was barely a teenager, and dad and I had never really been close through the years. I tried many times to tell him about Jesus, but he was stubborn and defiantly set in his ways. Shortly after we were accepted for the house, while driving back from visiting his ailing sister, my dad suffered a severe heart attack, and plunged his car 200 feet into a ravine. As far as I know, he died without Christ - yet God still used him to help us.
This house has been, to many, a shelter from the world, and a protective umbrella in the midst of the hailstorm. To others, it's been only a one-night-stand, a place to crash, or to take unfair advantage of.
We've had many people stay with us. Mostly they've been people with no place to live, but we've also taken in people who needed a Christian environment, and God just brought us together.
Sometimes they've stayed for days, others weeks and even several months. A couple of them left, then returned, and left again. We never knew just who God was going to send us next, but we tried to be prepared to love them and accept them, and guide them towards the Cross.
Some people who've been through here have rejected the Cross, and have returned to their worldly ways. Others reject the Word of God that is preached straight, sharp, and true, and they fall back into a pattern of false religion that caters to their flesh.
The shortest stay that comes to mind was a guy nicknamed "Too Tall." We met him on the streets of Portland, Oregon. He wanted to get free of the street life and the drugs and stuff. He came in on a Saturday, and Tuesday we discovered that he had left - through the bedroom window! Next weekend, I saw him back on the streets, and moved around behind to surprise him with a hug and a grin and a comment: "You could've at least used the front door, brother!" But he had to do what he had to do, and there was nothing I could have done to stop it.
Not all stays have been uneventful. Sometimes when they leave, they take our property. Other times, they take our hearts. But, by the grace of God, we love them and forgive them, and praise God for the opportunity to love them and give up our home for them, no matter the cost.
And we've even made the headlines.
Fred (not his real name) was a 22-year-old man with the mind of a 12-year-old. He had made some mistakes, and had spent time behind bars for child molestation. We knew him, were friends with him, and so, when he was released, our home became his home, our family became his family.
Things started off great. He was thankful to be free, we were glad to have him around. Karen modified a set of flash cards so that she could tutor him in basic math. We also seeded a lawn in the back yard. He was a very hard worker, and a blessing to our home.
Then, one month after he was put in our charge, things became ugly.
Without warning, official police notices were distributed to our neighbors, informing them that a convicted sex offender lived in our house. The press were warned, however, and they proceeded to attack. One tv station, unable to make contact with us, filmed the house, the neighborhood - and our neighbors. We were pressured by reporters, and finally gave into granting an interview, which was butchered and turned against us, portraying Fred as a dangerous sexual predator! In one day, everyone who read a paper or watched the news knew where we were. And the opinions taken from the local community - even our own neighborhood - were hostile.
Our neighbors shunned us. We were harassed and persecuted. A sign on our front lawn. A rock with a note placed at our front door. Words spray-painted on the wall next to our front door. Fliers passed around at local stores, and posted on every surface and in every window. And the phone calls, of course. I instructed Karen not to go to the store unless I was there with her. We were prisoners in our own home, and it was only God's protection that kept us from worse harm.
We weren't even comfortable at a church we visited. People looked at us, and it was obvious they knew who we were. As expected, the church elders asked for a meeting, and we agreed to some simple guidelines about keeping Fred close to us at all times. They also saw the love we had for Fred, and their hearts were touched.
Not all the press coverage was negative. I gave a phone interview to a newspaper reporter, who actually portrayed the story accurately, emphasizing the ministry house and the compassion for the lost. But that was the only exception.
Soon after, Fred was returned to jail for his own protection, then released after things had died down (some time later).
I don't know if all the wounds were ever really fully healed. I put numerous signs up in our windows announcing that Fred was no longer living with us, and asking that the harassment stop. Our next-door neighbors moved (whether this contributed to it, I don't know), and people continued coming to our door looking for Fred for months afterward; these incidents were settled quickly, with a little of God's love and reasoning together.
Had we known what the future held, would things have changed? Doubtful. God protected us inside and outside. No blood was shed, no serious property damage was done. And many people saw a practical example of the love of Jesus Christ for those who, as He endured, "knew not what they were doing."
We've taken in singles, and couples. Black, white, old, young. Didn't matter. They needed a place - they had a place!
The last two to stay with us were a blind young woman named Sunni, and a visually-impaired young man named James. Due to a social situation with a previous roommate, James found himself without a place to stay; he moved in with us in early July 1995. Sunni was looking for love and Christian fellowship that she could not find in her somewhat-isolated apartment; she moved in later that same month. Sunni and James needed to know God in a deeper way, and we became a family. And because they both looked to me as a father figure they never had, they adopted me as such.
We could not imagine that they would be the last to pass through this ministry house.
They left a few months before things came to an end. They wanted the desires of their flesh, not the desires of the Lord Jesus. As of this writing, they are both still struggling with what they want over what God wants of them.
At 4:30pm on Tuesday May 7, 1996 we left this house for the last time.
We couldn't keep up with the rent any longer, so God closed the door.
We leave behind many memories, some shared here. This house had been a blessing for many people, including those who would drive by and see the signs in BIG BOLD LETTERS in our large windows. JESUS SAVES - LET HIM. JESUS LOVES YOU. And you could see the words JESUS CHRIST IS LORD from a half-block away. Every person through this house became a lesson in love and grace. We've learned from every one of them. I'd be a fool not to admit that I wish some things would've happened differently, but I praise God for it all - the good and the bad.
I praise God for it all - and for the challenges to come. Amen.