Within the last year I've reflected a lot on my childhood but never so much as after listening to CCF's A Light Has Dawned learning series. Our pastors exposed the Gospel truth of current social injustices, and while they did not touch specifically on homelessness, it is a Gospel issue.
Shortly after my birth my father was incarcerated, my parents' assets were seized, and my mother suddenly found herself raising two young daughters in rural Ohio. She, we, became homeless. We had limited connections and even less resources. My mother turned to The Beatitude House, a shelter for women and children, in Youngstown, Ohio as a last resort. Little did she know that it would be the best thing that could have happened to us.
We lived in the Beatitude House for several years and it was the first home I knew and remember. While living there I didn't know that we were poor, that we were rejected by society or that our circumstance was unusual. It was not until I was older and aware of our poverty that I began to resent my childhood and became ashamed of it- lying about my upbringing or glossing over key details. As a mature (ing) woman, I now see that my Father had a divine plan, unbeknownst to me, to sanctify me and bring me closer to Him through it all. I understand that I needed to experience difficulty so that my faith would not be shaken later in life and would not be contingent on circumstances, and so that I could see that God never abandoned me.
I see God's provision.
Not only has God always met my material and physical needs, He has also met my need for security. I feel secure in Him and in His unwavering truths, not in circumstances.
I see God's protection
He kept me in a world that says I should be unemployed, unwed, unsuccessful, lost, and broken. I should be a statistic but God saw me worthy of being saved and worthy of His love. He has kept me to this day.
I value people more than things
Yes, I like pretty things, a stylish home, and cute clothes. But I know that my value, and the value of others, is not found in wealth, reputation, power, or perceived status. Our value is found in our Creator: we were each created intentionally in God's image. When you start seeing others as image-bearers of a perfect, righteous, and just God, you start seeing that they are worthy of love, dignity, attention, and respect. We are here to glorify God and spread the Gospel through interacting with others, not to accumulate property, possessions, power and wealth.
It increased my empathy and compassion
The Church was the first institution to care for the homeless, orphaned, disabled, widowed, and rejected; let's return to our roots. We need to intercede for image-bearers and serve both their physical and spiritual needs. We have no right to decide who deserves our compassion. Remember that the Lord has "compassion on all He has made' (Ps 145:19) and that Jesus was a poor, rejected, homeless man.
You're reading this
It is no coincidence that I have this experience to share and a platform on which to do so. Because of this platform, homelessness has a name, a face. It is not just someone you pass on the street; it is me-your friend, sister, confidant.
Do not ignore them; they are human and worthy of your time. Do not be afraid to shake their hand; it is dignifying and honoring. Do not stop only when you have money or something to offer; maybe they need conversation and companionship. Do not criminalize them; remember, our Savior died a convicted criminal.
If you've been following along the last two months I pray that you have felt both burdened and convicted. While God is sovereign and in control of every social justice issue - gentrification, mass incarceration, homelessness - you are not absolved of your responsibility as a believer to fight for justice and seek the redemptive power of the Gospel for their lives.
A redeemed homeless child.
The author of this letter is our sister Tiarra Hamlett, deacon, CG leader, wife of Mike and mom to Jackson.