Paul Abbott: A Man with a Mission – Part 3: When the Kingdom Happens
Is there a father in camp? Paul Abbott spending time with Roger, trying to help him envision a brighter future.
A Two-Way Street
The Good News Rescue Mission offers resources to help those who sincerely desire to get off the street; but more often than not, that desire does not translate into action—or even motivation. The reason for this is simple: This beleaguered-by-life population usually has no internal resources to break the cycle of homelessness, joblessness and addiction.
After all, how can you become something you’ve never been if you never see what you could be? Whether homeless or homed, the Bible is clear that “without a vision, the people perish.” Good parents impart the emotional tools you need to envision a good future—helping you believe that anything is possible. Poor or outright bad parenting—particularly with narcissistic parents—will crush hearts, kill dreams, and leave a child remaining a child with unmet needs trying to navigate an adult world. It’s the rare individual who can overcome that kind of start in life—worse if you add addiction and/or mental illness to the mix. In short, the homeless, particularly the chronically homeless, need a lot more help to even see themselves being able to change.
“They need a friend who operates on the Kingdom level of a family,” says Abbott. “‘You’re my sister; you’re my brother; I believe in you. You may not believe in yourself right now, you may not believe in God, but I believe in you. You can do this.’ And you have someone believing in them. You also have accountability.” We want to extend that more effectively beyond the New Life Recovery Program.”
No doubt, spiritual moms and dads, sisters and brothers can go a long way in helping a willing homeless and/or addicted person become the “you that you might have been.” But it’s never just a one-way, “I’ve arrived and so now in my magnanimity, I’m going to bend down and lift you out of the muck and mire.” Abbott explains:
“A basic principle for transformation is that it’s first and foremost relational, which means it goes both ways. A healthy family and/or individual can help overcome faulty and distorted mindsets. They can also help a man or woman lacking a core identity discover who they really are … who God always intended them to be, but which has been covered up by years of dysfunctional junk. In the context of close and committed relationships, you’re being offered a glimpse of a future you could never see before. At the same time, it’s also transactional. In this kind of discipleship model, both people benefit from allowing God to work in and through them. I’ll be changed in the process because I’m seeing Jesus in that person. That’s when the Kingdom happens.”
A Father’s Embrace
“And if we will turn our heart to the younger ones, the younger ones will come out of their lives of bitterness, loneliness, deep depression and all kinds of addictions. And multitudes will turn their heart in a godly response to fathers and the body of Christ.”– Mike Bickle, IHOPKC
While Abbott acknowledges that not all the homeless will actually respond to that kind of intense one-on-one kind of relational discipleship, he still feels it’s worth the effort and sacrifice. “A third want help … they’re ready for a hand up … and to take actionable steps to change their future,” says Abbott. “They’re the easiest to help. Another third need more incentive … more ‘touchpoints,’ if you will. Through consistent exposure and encouragement from others who have succeeded in life (in a holistic sense) they’ll know that living a different life is even possible. The other third are those that still haven’t hit rock bottom. These are the hardened criminals and the young partiers. But still, we’re planting seeds and you never know at what point over a person’s lifetime those seeds are going to sprout.”
There’s no question that forming relationships with street people who are often trapped in the cycle of addiction is not for the faint of heart. There will always be those who fall away—those prodigals who prefer to wallow in the pig sty, so to speak, rather than run to a waiting Father’s embrace. Yet it’s often because they don’t believe there is such a Father waiting for them. The Bible’s prodigal son didn’t … he was truly shocked to see his father waiting eagerly for him with no questions asked. There was no chastisement, no “I’ll love you if …” The father readily embraced his errant son and then ordered a lavish banquet to be held in his honor for doing nothing other than returning home.
It’s our job, the church’s job, to reveal that relentless “I’m there for you no matter what” kind of loving Father. Fulfilling that mission increases the possibility that the people we’re reaching out to will one day “come into their right mind.” They’ll become what they were always created to be—even if they take one step forward and three step backwards for a season. We have to believe that every spiritual and emotional touchpoint increases the chance of someone’s life permanently turning the tide.
Rise of the Grey Hairs
Abbott shares what that “you’ve got a friend in me” kind of commitment might look like when interacting with homeless individuals whom a church family and/or individual has elected to adopt. It’s a loving, but also realistic model. Boundaries, which are essential to any healthy relationship, are definitely necessary.
“We’re always going to have people you’ve befriended go south. The scenario is like, ‘Chuck, you know, I love you to death and I’m going to still be in touch. But you’ve chosen to go back to your destructive lifestyle—to make poor choices. I’m now going to be working with someone else who’s ready for my help, but I’m going to keep reaching out to you. I’m still connected with you.’ So, I keep in touch with Chuck, even though now I’m working with Bill. We never want to give up on anybody, because Jesus certainly doesn’t with us.”
Rather than a program, Abbott views street coaching and “adoption” by a family as more of a movement. Specifically, he calls it a “discipleship transformational movement.” He sees the Mission’s role as helping to equip those street coaches, Bible study teachers, mentors, family members, what have you—both inside the Mission and outside of it. He also sees a great potential for “disciple-making” retirees becoming “generals” of this discipleship army: The grandmas and the grandpas. He believes they’re the great untapped resource, one that a floundering and disenfranchised generation—homeless or otherwise—desperately needs … even if they don’t yet know it.
A Triple Win
Homelessness is a complex problem with no easy answers. But one thing is clear: committed, one-on-one, we’re-in-this-for-the-long-haul human connection can go a long way in helping to solve this systemic societal problem. At the very least, it will take us further than we are now. It’s a potential triple-win scenario: a win for the lost individual whose God-given potential can finally be met, a win for the community at large, and a win for the person who has chosen to sacrifice their time and resources to help. God is near to the brokenhearted and He’s also near to those who help them.
“The Good News Rescue Mission is a wonderful resource trying to address this growing societal problem, but we can’t possibly do it alone,” concludes Abbott. “Simply put, we all need to take ownership of the homeless problem in our city. It’s a symbiotic partnership … and a vital one. Someone once said, ‘The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.’ Jesus called these vulnerable members, “the least of these”—then commanded us to take care of them, adding, “Whatever you do for them, you do for Me.” No matter what belief system you adhere to, it’s hard to argue with that mandate.”
To volunteer for homeless ministry go to: https://gnrm.org/get-involved/volunteer/
Check out our new Faces of the Homeless gallery: https://gnrm.org/faces-of-the-homeless-photo-gallery/