After the youth group bought the supplies, wrote the cards, and assembled the care bags for the homeless, the congregation took them in their cars and shared the good news. We heard many wonderful stories and thankfulness for this easy opportunity to do something meaningful. But somehow it didn’t feel like enough. We knew we needed to do more.
Our high school students, especially those who had attended the mission trip with us, wanted opportunities to get their own hands “dirty” and do more than the behind the scenes work. Although this extension of Breaking Free would cost us considerable more time, money, effort, risk, and complications, we earnestly evaluated and prayed about how to create an ongoing, consistent time for our students to share the Gospel with the poor. As we began focusing on the potential evangelistic and discipleship experience gained, the sacrifices required seemed more and more worth it. In truth, all worthy spiritual transformation endeavors are expensive.
As we reformulated Breaking Free, the verse from Isaiah gave us confidence that the students were up to the task and that it fit well into our original concept of helping set the poor free.
The Lord has put his Spirit in me, because he appointed me to tell the Good News to the poor. He has sent me to tell the captives they are free and to tell the blind that they can see again.” (Isaiah 61:1)
I found it interesting that this is the first recorded text Jesus shares in His ministry in the book of Luke, perhaps expressing the importance of living out the command to “tell the Good News to the poor.”
We proceeded by creating a once a month trip to downtown Denver to seek homeless people. After we found the places they liked to gather, we handed out the bags, spent time listening to their stories, and shared God’s love. Often we gathered in a circle praying sincerely on their behalf. Through the continued trips we have formed relationships and encountered many grateful hearts, and we have also seen our students’ hearts grow in compassion. As they listened and learned, it sort of wrecked their underlying preconceived ideas of “poor vs. rich” and “good vs. bad” people. For example, they were surprised to learn a few of the homeless knew the Bible better than they did and some of them seemed to have good hearts and just really bad luck.
How have you helped students “tell the Good News to the poor”? What do you tell your students to do when they encounter homeless people? When was the last time you had a deep conversation of really listening to a homeless person and what was it like? Were you able to share the Gospel?