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Feeding the Homeless on the Streets of Seattle: Part 2

Updated on November 10, 2014
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Lori Colbo loves to write about her Christian faith and the Bible to encourage and inspire others.

Occidental Park cobblestone mall at night.
Occidental Park cobblestone mall at night. | Source

Duncan ministering in music


"You kow the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that by His poverty He could make you rich" (2 Cor. 8:9).

Serenades In the Night

We thought music might make the evening with our friends on the street extra special for them. We had no idea. Duncan brought his guitar and just did his own thing, strumming anything that came into his mind. Our merry band, otherwise known as "The Sandwich Ministry," were enjoying the evening giving out sack lunches with ham sandwiches, apples, and cookies and some juice in them. Since we come to our friends in Jesus name, Duncan began to sing songs that gave praise to our Lord. Before we knew it, he was surrounded by men and women who desperately needed some cheer and hope. So many stopped for a moment from sorting through the clothing pile and looking for their cookie to let the music and the words fill their aching souls. We saw a few hands raised, and an occasional "praise God" or "hallelujah" There were hushed, holy moments as Duncan sang into the square, and moments of rejoicing with hand clapping. Many heads bobbed and a few "Yeah man's" rang out. One beautiful woman told us how she loved and trusted Jesus. It's hard to hold back the water works when that happens. When you do this for awhile you come to find out that Jesus is the One who keeps them going. Not all have lost hope.

After a time, a young man who had been listening for a while, grooving on the vibes from the guitar and Duncan's "I'll Fly Away" Medley, stopped him and said, "Hey, that's good. Real good. Man I want to sing a song for you." Duncan's answer was an earnest "Yes... please." This dude could sing.

He made up the words as he went along. In a gritty, bluesy voice, he sang about us, how thankful he was for us, how good, real good, Duncan could sing and play. He sang about the joy of his chocolate chip cookie, and the clean socks he found, about how good the Lord was to him, and his soul was laid bare as he praised God into the night air. The tune was also improvised and Duncan fell right into it. They flowed in sync with one another. We were all bummed when he ran out of words. He went on after we prayed with him, leaving us sad that the sacred song was over.

As usual, teams of two went out in the streets nearby doing the bag lunch thing, offering prayers, and various sundry salutations and blessings. People just wanted someone to talk to. We heard about their past, their frustrations, their gratitude to God, and just some plain old chatty conversation. Duncan stayed in our little HQ all evening and I and another manned the clothing and some lunches. A young Latino man came and just listened. He spoke no English, but we could plainly see he was deeply drawn to us. He was able to tell us his name was Pedro. He practically glued himself to Duncan. Love and worship were drawing him. There was a smile on his face and a look in his eyes that said, "I've been so lonely, and for this moment in time, I see and feel loved and connected. It has been so long since I knew love." He stood there the rest of the evening. That little smile ever present.

Along came another latino fellow. Donned in a black cowboy hat, black boots, shirt, and pants, he too, listened and enjoyed the festive activities. He told us he wanted to sing too. "More's the merrier," we said. This precious man lifted his eyes and his hands to heaven, and in a kind of high pitched voice sang "I loooove you Goood. I looooove you Jeeeesus. Oh Goood, I love you I praaaise you." He was so passionate, eyes now squeezed shut. I thought I saw a tear or two. Truly, his voice was not so hot, but it was a joyful noise unto the Lord, and his heartfelt love for Jesus moved us. More prayers, more clothing, more sandwiches.

Finally all our teams returned and we began to pack up to go. We tried to say good-bye to Pedro. He started walking toward the car with us. What do you do in a moment like this? He wanted to be with us. I remembered the Demoniac who lived in the tombs in the Bible and how when Jesus had rebuked the demons and the man returned to his right mind, he wanted to follow Jesus wherever he went. Jesus told him he had to stay there and tell others about him. Pedro was not drawn to us as much as he was drawn to the Jesus he saw in us, and he wanted to follow. Man, it was hard to leave him. Oh Pedro, I hope you found love and security and a home.


The Chatty Rabble Rouser

On our excursions to Seattle's Occidental Park we really don't see the hard realities the homeless face until we get out into the streets. Recently we made another winter run. We were fully supplied with water, lunches with some homemade goodies, and coats and other winter wear. I felt energized in spite of the low temperatures. I felt compelled to get out there and get started. I don't always go out into the streets. I get a little scared, or my heart hurts too much. But this night I could not help but go out.

As usual, I went out with Rebecca. She knows where to go and what to do and what not to do. So as we set out I suddenly felt a little apprehensive. I hadn't gone this way before and when I asked her where we were headed she said said we'd just hit the neighborhood and perhaps give out food to those in line to get into the Seattle Gospel Mission. As we reached a street corner I looked across the side street to a bus stop where two or three sinister men were shouting aggressively. A bus pulled up, but they ignored it. I said "Rebecca, let's not go over there." Of course she wouldn't have anyway. It's not wise to try to give lunch and a prayer to people in an aggressive altercation any time. So we continued on to the mission. A large crowd stood around. They were thrilled to take some lunch in case they didn't get in to the mission. The temperature was about 38 degrees so there was a lot of frosty breath blowing around. All things considered, the atmosphere seemed pretty safe and no one was in too foul a mood. I went up to an older woman in a wheelchair. I couldn't believe a woman in a wheel chair was on the streets without a home. I looked up momentarily and saw a man who likewise was in a wheelchair. Rebecca was handing out lunches and chatting with everyone while I was held captive, and captivated, by the woman in the wheel chair. She had plenty to say.

"Oh, thank you" (for the lunch).

"You're welcome." I replied with a smile.

"You know," she said, "I may not get into the mission tonight. I'm a troublemaker you know."

"Really?" I said, amused.

"Oh yes, they're always throwing me out. I just hope I get in tonight cause it's so cold."

"I'll bet they will," I said.

"Well it doesn't matter, cause I got my guys to go and beat up their guys. I don't believe in violence most of the time. But I gotta take care of myself."

"Well, even if you're a trouble maker, I can't see anybody not being taken care of on a night like this."

"Oh, you don't know me. I'm a tough old bird. I am a rabble rouser. I'm 68 years old and I have multiple sclerosis. But I can take care of myself. But I'm cold tonight. I hope they let me in."

"Would you like some socks or gloves? Is there a way I can pray for you?" I asked. By this time Rebecca was out of lunches and waiting patiently for me.

"Oh, I would love that," she said and took the socks and gloves. "Pray that I can find a place to sleep tonight out of the cold. And pray that my daughter comes get me soon, too."

I took her hands and took her needs to the Lord. She was agreeing with me the whole time. Just as I said "Amen" she said, "Wait a minute. Pray that I can get help for my health. I need a better wheel chair."

So I was almost through praying for these new requests, when she said, real rushed like, "Oh, and could you please pray that such and so happens and this and that happens?"

I threw a glance behind me and poor Rebecca's mouth was frozen in a smile. Actually she smiles all the time. She was trying to be very gracious and patient, but I knew she was freezing.

Truth be told though, I was enjoying this michevious rabble rouser. I prayed again, a little more quickly. At the "amen" it looked like there was a stir by the mission door. Maybe they were getting ready to open their doors. As Rebecca and I began to start out, the man in the wheel chair said he would like a lunch. We promised to come back with more.

An alleyway near Occidental park, sometimes home to those who have lost hope.
An alleyway near Occidental park, sometimes home to those who have lost hope. | Source

Harsh Reality

We made it back to HQ and restocked with lunches and water and socks and headed back out. All fear and apprehension were gone for me. Before we got back to the mission we passed a very dark, dank, and eerie alley. Far down at the end we could see the lone shadow of a man, half laying up against the wall. Even from a distance, we knew he was strung out. This is the hard stuff. "Let's go give him a lunch," I said, headed down the alley with a spring in my step. Uncharacteristically, I was unwary, and unafraid. For the first time, though, I saw that Rebecca was apprehensive and walked behind me guardedly, letting me barge down the alley to offer this broken man a sandwich. Dark alley's frightened me usually, but he was alone, no dumpsters around for thugs to jump out from behind, and I wanted him to have something to eat when he came to.

The man was fairly young, his eyes were very glazed and heavy. He had that drug induced high of a smile. He roused slightly when I offered him a lunch. "No, that's okay. How are you guys doing?" he slurred. One of us asked if he wanted some water and he took it with a hazy thanks, and went back into his world of stupor. "God, once he was a clean, little boy with a family. Please help him," I prayed. Then I thought about his family. Were they worried about him? Or had they rejected him long ago? What happened that a good looking guy could find himself in such a place, at such a young age, too? A young man who could be in college or working in construction, or starting a family with his bride; but instead, he was strung out on heroin, slumped in a back alley in Seattle, oblivious to the temperature, and his decadent life. It was sobering and heart wrenching.

We made it back to the mission and the man in the wheel chair was relieved he could get his sandwich. The chatty rabble rousing lady was conversing loudly with the guys. I hoped they all got in to the mission soon.

Bussed to the Ranch

Just as we were leaving the front of the mission we noticed a man in a simple, buttoned down shirt. No coat, hat, or gloves. He looked clean cut. I guessed it was his first or second night on the streets. We gave him a lunch and directed him to our headquarters on the edge of the Occidental Park parking lot to get some clothing.

We walked up the road farther where there was a little square with some cement benches. There were a few homeless men, but only one wanted a lunch. Perhaps someone had already served them. We headed on and saw a very old, long, white and green bus. Lines of homeless men and women waited to get in, clouds of frosty breath billowed in the air. I could sense their sense of relief or anticipation for being taken somewhere out of the cold. I have never seen such a long bus in all my life. Rebecca and I inquired at some point that night and discovered that these folks are bussed to someplace they call "the ranch," outside the city limits. An organization of some sort provides for their needs there.

When we got back to HQ, lunchless and tired, we saw the man with only a shirt smiling with glee at his new coat, hat, and gloves. He had led others to our little HQ and there were some happy campers.

It is often so hard to detach when we get into the car and go home in a warm car, to a warm home, with hot food, running water, and bathrooms. After the effects of a night out on the streets have worn off, sometimes I find myself sitting with friends and we grumble because we have to clean out our closets because we don't have any more room for clothes and "stuff". I catch myself sometimes standing in front of my open refrigerator full of food and saying "There's nothing for dinner." I find myself sometimes grumbling because I don't have enough money to buy a latte today. I find myself sometimes totally oblivious to what might be going on with our friends on the street when it's 38 degrees because their plight has drifted out of my mind. I need to keep going, I plan to keep going, God calls me to keep going. If I forget, I become complacent, and I will forget to care.

Occidental Park in Seattle

© 2013 Lori Colbo


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