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The River


PrintVirginia-Highland Church has launched an experiment we are calling The River. The idea is, in trying to address the many challenges of folks who live outdoors or who have no place to call home, there are not enough resources just to keep “fishing drowning people from the river.” We also must dare to go upstream and discover some of the reasons so many people come close to drowning. We need to love mercy and do justice.

This program is not an intellectual approach to “fix” the homeless “problem.” These are people—sisters and brothers—and our strategy is to make them also our friends. WE are not going to “fix” THEM. We are going to ask them to walk with us and let us walk with them. We are going to ask them to teach us, tell us their stories, share their gifts with us. Together, we are going to learn to swim.

Someone once wanted to be a disciple of Jesus, but Jesus tried to warn them off. Apparently, they either were looking for a reward or thought they had their act together. Jesus warned them by saying, “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Human One has no place to lay his head.” Then as now, this was a challenging issue, one for which not all disciples are prepared. Want to avoid the subject? Well, that means avoiding the Homeless One to whom we pray.

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Thoughts About The River

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Reflecting Jesus

When I moved to near downtown Atlanta several years ago, I began traveling each day past a large paved area that jutted over the downtown connector, a concurrent section of Interstates 75 and 85 that runs through the core of the city. I’d see people sleeping there, and it tugged at me more and more each day.

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Snapshots of the Homeless

So often, we talk about “the homeless” as if they are all the same. The reality, however, is that they are, first and foremost, people. They just happen also to be homeless. Yes, homelessness can lead to a common set of problems, but people who are homeless are unique individuals.

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Seeing the Homeless as Individuals

As time passed, I began to see these hungry people as individual humans with names and stories. I came out of the kitchen and started getting to know them, one by one. They became friends.

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Jesus Was Homeless

Someone asked, “With all the issues and challenges in the world today, why make homelessness the first major initiative at our church?” It is a fair question. The main reason is that God cares deeply about homelessness because, well, Jesus himself was homeless.

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