You Care About ME??

‘Rodney’ is back at Nickelsville. things didn’t work out where he was trying to stay, and from what I hear, it was probably a great decision to leave. So he came back, this time at the new location. it has been about 2 months since I had seen him. when he first saw us, he was so happy to see us! “you all still comin’ out here every week”. he said, excited to see our familiar faces (its stuff like that that’s why we can’t stay away!) In our gatherings, ‘Rodney’ is one who often shares his own struggles in his life. He is quick to see his faults and mistakes, as are we, which creates an environment of vulnerability and honest like no other.
In two weeks, ‘Rodney’ goes to school to get his CDL license. he had a suspended license but got that taken care of and now he’s saved up to go to school. hopefully he will be able to get a good paying job driving a truck so he can get off the streets and get a place of his own. it wasn’t that long ago, he did 9 years for making and selling Meth. “I’m done with the drugs man… no more for me”, he says. “I’m not going back there!” He’s had some problems with alcohol before, but holds up his Arizona Iced Tea to show me, “Ya see what I’m drinking now”, in his southern accent and ear to ear grin. He also told me of the many other felonies he had committed… all in his past. Struggling to make money, he finds himself living outside… at least in a safe place like Nickelsville!
After some conversation, he comes over after our gathering and tells me how bothered he is that hear that I was still having financial problems. He lives in a tent, in Nickelsville, (which is threatening to be kicked out of their current location next week, btw!) He’s concerned for MY well being… MY needs. “You are an amazing singer”, he tells me…”I know American Idol has an age limit, but you should go on America’s Got Talent… all you need is the right person to hear you and you’ll get signed”.
I laughed but was overpowered by his encouragement… and amazingly humbled by his genuine concern for me! I am consistenly floored by my friends who sleep outside, and how much they care for us and our well being! It is an eye-opening and heart-changing experience to hang out with my friends. They have incredible stories, and they share them with us… just because we see them, and we take the time to listen. the mind-blowing part is they see us back… and they want to listen to our stories, and encourage us… and love us!
“Don’t worry man… it will all work out ok for you” he says to me as I’m leaving.
I will never be the same!

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quotes of the day – will we learn to love in community?

“Resistance to oppression is often based on a love that leads us to value ourselves, and leads us to hope for more than the established cultural system is willing to grant … such love is far more energizing than guilt, duty, or self-sacrifice. … Solidarity does not require self-sacrifice, but an enlargement of the self to include community with others.”

– Sharon Welch,
The Feminist Ethic of Risk

‘love only functions when we value ourselves enough to engage wholly in community… and that, a community inclusive of those whom society deems hard to love. love is hard to learn, but it’s the most valuable lesson of all… through it all of creation is altered…without it, our lives truly become meaningless’.
— j. greer

“there is no us and them, only us!”
“we love people face to face…”
“we do mostly nothing special…”
— ken loyd
ken loyd’s blog

are we ready to love? a lot of times it sucks, but it’s always amazing!

Church Under the Bridge, Waco -Article

Below is an article that was in the most recent RELEVANT Magazine posted online. What Jimmy Dorrell and all the ‘Trolls’ are doing in Waco is so similar to the heart and vision of what several of us here in Seattle have been journeying towards, in connecting with our outdoor friends. I am currently reading Jimmy Dorrel’s book ‘Trolls and Truth’, which is great. His work has helped in mentoring us as we embark on what is becoming known as ‘church outside’ here in Seattle. There is some great stuff to take a hold of in their story if we are willing to hear it and let it sink in.


Bridges and Trolls: The Church Under the Bridge
Lee Ann Marcel
Crack addicts, prostitutes and criminals filter in under the bridge as the sun rises. College students begin folding chairs around a stage. Meanwhile groups of people fill the empty bowls of the homeless. This isn’t your typical Sunday morning church service.

A few men sporting scraggly beards lean against the huge concrete pillars as the roar of cars rush overhead. The gray-headed, stocky pastor jumps out of his beat-up truck, sporting a college T-shirt and shorts. He mingles with several of the college students and the homeless, giving them bear hugs or a hearty pat on the back. The pastor, Jimmy Dorrell, makes his way to the stage and begins to preach. Pigeons coo and bustle above, dropping an occasional “surprise” onto the heads below. While some pastors may preach about health, wealth and prosperity, Dorrell teaches on the idea of simple living.

Waco, a historic town in the heart of Texas, is filled with religious culture and poverty. Baylor University, the largest Baptist college in the world, is located right in the heart of the city, but immediately surrounding the college is immense poverty.

Waco is the fifth poorest city in Texas with twice the poverty rate. The average poverty rate for a city is 13 percent, but Waco has a rate of 27.6 percent. The city is historically full of poverty, low wages and ingrained racism that make it difficult to break out of the poverty cycle.

In the midst of these two contrasting worlds, stands a bridge where people come to worship. The Church Under the Bridge provides an unorthodox yet beautiful image of what the Church should be, where the unlovely come to be loved. It’s a place where social walls are demolished, left crumpled at the foot of the cross.

The Beginning

Church Under the Bridge began as Bible study in 1992. Dorrell had just started an interdenominational program called Mission Waco, a program that aided the poorest parts of the city. One morning Dorrell and his wife, Janet, treated a group of homeless men to breakfast. This soon developed into a Bible study where his wife played guitar and he presented a message.

What started as a group of homeless men that slept under the I-35 bridge soon developed into a church of 300. The church still meets under that same bridge.

“Today, we have this very diverse group of people, not just homeless people but lower income, and we also have middle income and even wealthy folks,” Dorrell says. “So it’s very racially diverse, black white and brown, rich and poor.”

Trolls and a Bridge
But why does the Church brave the elements?

“There were a lot of folks who where unchurched who would never walk into the doors of a building but feel free to just stand on the edges,” Dorrell says. “As soon as you go into a building, you lose that. You begin to have walls that mean people have to come in and sort of be there and participate so it changes that.”

But the reason behind using the interstate bridge isn’t just for the members. Dorrell found that there is a visual impact on people who simply pass by and see the church service.

“We also just found out that this has an incredible impact on being the visible community. We think that the church is the visible community—not a building but the people.”

They call themselves “trolls.” Many members of Church Under the Bridge even sport a shirt proudly displaying the word.

Trolls are usually considered to live under bridges, Dorrell explained. The image seemed appropriate for the Church, not just because of their location.

“We are all trolls and we are all the sinners. So we got our warts and ugliness, and people are scared sometimes of the old troll under the bridge,” Dorrell says. “By society’s standards, we are misfits. We don’t have buildings, we don’t have pretty people—we have these people who are somewhat rejected in culture but when you really get to know the trolls, with all the warts and the ugly side of their past experiences, there really is a genuineness and a lot to learn from them. So we are trolls, nobody gets excluded. You can even be a Pharisee, and rich and be a troll.”

Sunday Mornings

Each Sunday a group of people come to serve a meal to the church attendees. Dorrell says they feed up to 125 people each week.

“We serve our meal early at 10:30 a.m. so that we don’t create the soup kitchen mindset that says, ‘You gotta listen to the sermon before you eat.’ We say, ‘You know if you wanna eat and leave, that’s fine. We’re gonna be here worshiping.’ So most everyone sticks around, but it’s the sense of, you can stay as far back and away from the sermon, or be in the center of it if you’re not comfortable with,” Dorrell says.

The service starts. The band is mutli-racial, not your typical white middle class Christians. A mentally handicapped man stands boldly as he sings joyfully on stage, turning back to the drummer every now and again giving him directions.

“There is this real interesting love relationship with people crossing social barriers socially, and it’s a pretty amazing atmosphere,” Dorrell says. “We try to incorporate the people who are a part of the city that might not be accepted anywhere else. So, we are going to have a mentally challenged guy helping out with music, who really can’t sing or really can’t play anything. But we let him play like he is playing a guitar.”

The church also provides special events such as their health fair on Sundays for their less fortunate members. Groups of professionals along with medical students from the nearby college will give people checkups.

The church has also tried to do away with a clergy and laity feel. They hope to encourage that everyone has equal spiritual gifts, from pastor to the college student.

“I’m just Jimmy, I don’t want to be known as reverend,” Dorrell explains. “I want everybody in the church to know that they have gifts no matter what they have done, or where they have been. So there is a real sense of empowerment.

Bursting the Bubble

At Baylor University, there is a saying that students live in a sheltered bubble nicknamed the “Baylor Bubble.” Some students are unaware of the world around them and live their day-to-day lives wrapped up in school and social circles.

“We have a lot of students who never leave campus or the nicer areas of the city, and they don’t even recognize that poverty is in the shadows of their own buildings,” Dorrell says.

But the same can be said about the Church. Many churches can be wrapped up within their own walls and can fail to see their neighbors.

“Mission Waco began to not only provide empowerment programs for the poor but also to say, ‘Hey, Church, wake up! Worshiping is more than being in this quiet environment behind stained glass windows,’” Dorrell says. “That you got to address the social concerns of the community. The Church has got to press back the darkness and let the light penetrate in and make a difference for the poor.”

But a trap that the Church often falls into is the mistake of looking down on the poor. We often just throw money at the situation rather than seeing them as equals worthy of our time.

“One of the biggest challenges is that we want outsiders to understand that not only is this a ministry that includes the poor, we do not look down on the poor as sort of the victims. We treat each other as equals. Especially if middle class Christians who typically have a tendency to feel sorry for people that are poor and all these people considering, lets go fix them or help them.”

Many times the middle class can merely feel sorry for the poor and never move to the next step or simply don’t know where to start.

“Our values are very skewed as the middle class people,” Dorrell says. “Even though we are Christian, we have synchronized our values with more of the culture than our faith. So we know that most middle class people don’t understand poverty, they feel sorry for them, they care, but they don’t understand a lot of the issues.”

Dorrell suggested simply opening your eyes to the community around you and outside the safe walls of your church and your home

“I think the main thing is just to figure out a way that most people could feel enough comfort, they should feel a little bit of risk that’s a part of the whole deal, we move into a place of apathy and safety instead of the risk,” Dorrell says.

But for some of us, we aren’t quite ready to jump in headfirst. Dorrell suggested a safe, first step.

“I feel the most safe step is serving at the soup kitchen or working in the homeless shelter or helping with after school programs,” Dorrell says. “Through those, you begin to take the next steps. With each step you get more and more comfortable, and you realize all your presumptions were wrong.”

Once all our social barriers are gone, all our presumptions have been shed, we begin to realize the strange upside-down quality of God’s Kingdom. That He tends to use those who we least expect. That He might use someone other than the rich to spread the good news. Maybe heaven is a little like Church Under the Bridge, where there is no rich, no poor, just a bunch of redeemed trolls under a bridge gathering to worship God

the story of Nickelsville…continued

well the story of nickelsville is definitely one that has it’s up’s and down’s… mostly downs it seems from the perspective of the media and mayor Nickels, who’s continuing threat and personal agenda to put an end to Nickelsville once and for all, has been chasing them out of every location they have popped up in.  

What is Nickelsville? http://www.nickelsvilleseattle.org/nickelsvillefordummies

Well it is much more than a ‘tent city’ as some would call it.  On the contrary it is a vision… a vision to make a better living for many who have no place to go and can’t afford housing in the area.  the idea started because of the 15% increase in the number of homeless people in Seattle, along side of the mayor making it illegal to sleep out in public and coming through and sweeping homeless camps out of the city.  There are not enough beds for all the homeless, and there is no affordable housing, so the homeless have no place to go and the vicious cycle that they find themselves in, when trying to sleep in shelters, keeps them from ever moving forward… it perpetuates their dilemma.  

Think of how difficult it would be to hold a steady job with a steady income, when your living situation changes regularly, or when you have to struggle to find food or water, or find a bed or shower.  Even the tent-cities, which give them a little more stability, have to move very 2-3 months and so keeps them from establishing any real consistency where they can start to get a footing and make a change in their situations.  And the mayor is not exactly excited about tent-cities either, it’s just that there is not really anything he can do about them.

There is a great ‘speech’ on the matter of homelessness in the city and the need for Nickelsville here!

Also check this out for more info on why Nickelsville should happen!

So Nickelsville is now at its fourth location, after being chased from it’s prior three in the last four weeks by the city.  It is currently in a parking lot in the University District of UW, owned by Universtiy Christian church.  They hope to stay there until the first of the year.  Since being there, the church has been threatened with fines for allowing them to stay yet they have ignored the cities threats.  It is still uncertain how long they will be able to stay there and may have to move again soon.  

 

I have had numerous opportunities to hang out with my friends in Nickelsville, sharing my music and my words with them and have been quite moved by their sense of community, love for each other, and how organized they are and such a diverse group of people.  They have one over-arching commonality… they have no home.  No one understands what they go through like themselves.  The mayor doesn’t know, I don’t know, most of you who may be reading this don’t know.  What amazes me is that those who are completely outside of their situation are the ones judging their situation and making rules against their situation without ever experiencing or participating in their situation.  

I am humbled when I am with them.  My experiences with them has made me ever aware of how much I have prioritized the want in my life for things which have no significance.  I have pursued the ‘finer things in life’ and completely taken for granted my warm home, my warm bed and blankets, my hot food, my cold water… all at my disposal… while my brothers and sisters go hungry, thirsty, cold and bed-less on the streets.  Yet we are the ones who think we can judge them and their situation… we are the ones who think we have all the answers to their problems.  

So I stand up for Nickelsville, because I see the grand vision… to build a safe, self-sustaining community where people in need can live without fear, and begin to build a life for themselves, with the help of a community of others who want to do the same help others do the same as well.  

I stand up for Nickelsville because I know their names and their stories.  They are my friends… they care for me and I for them.  They have welcomed me with open arms into their community.  I have shared my music with them, and they have shared their lives with me and I am changed because of it

I stand up for Nickelsville because I am awed by the sense of love and community that many others only dream of.  Sure they have problems, sure they have issues… who doesn’t?  We just have so much stuff to cover up our issues and our problems… they don’t have that… they are laid bare, on display for the world to see, and so we judge them because of it.  

Yet, we ourselves are just like them… we have the same basic human needs.  Will you stand with me to support Nickelsville?  Please join the support Nickelsville group and cause on Facebook!

http://www.nickelsvilleseattle.org

the story of nickelsville (prologue)

i have been wanting to blog about the story of Nickelsville, a homeless community in Seattle that has decided to take matters into their own hands to correct their situations.  I have been involved a little during the process and my good friend Dustin has become one of their biggest, non-homeless advocates, spending most of his days with them, even to the point of being arrested with a group of them.  so, i will write soon about the story… the events that have taken place over the last week or so and some of my thoughts on the situation and how we are involved in helping them out!  stay tuned for that blog coming soon!  In the meantime, here is a synopsis of what Nickelsville is all about!

 

WHAT IS NICKELSVILLE?

Nickelsville is a permanent homeless shantytown in Seattle WA which will accommodate up to 1,000 people. Nickolodeons (Nickelsville’s residents) will live in permanent structures (not tents) and will not have to move every few months. Emphasis will be on safe and sanitary conditions.

WHY NICKELSVILLE?

This year’s one night count showed an increase of 15% in the number of homeless people sleeping outside. Sleeping outside is dangerous; unfortunately there are not enough indoor shelters. There is safety in numbers, there is power in being organized.

WHY THE NAME NICKELSVILLE?

Mayor Nickels’s edict to systematically drive people out of their encampments and to destroy their property was the trigger for the present crisis. It is only befitting that our shantytown be named in honor of Mayor Nickels and his “humane” treatment of the homeless.

WHO?

Anyone who is homeless, willing to take charge of their living conditions, participate in a community and follow some basic rules is welcome to Nickelsville,

WHAT STANDARDS?

Houseless people are neither better nor worst than housed people. Resident of Nickelsville will be held to the same standards as those of any civilized neighborhood. Nothing more, nothing less