This is from my friend from SCAT who works on the
streets of Seatle with the homeless. It's a
beautiful, powerful story.
Devastation in the Midst of a Struggle: NW
Earthquake Rocks outreach ministry!
by: Ronny Holste
Mental Health Chaplaincy Intern,
Ministry appears in many shapes and sizes. There are ministers who can send chills down a congregation’s spine with their vibrant words and love for the Gospel. Some ministers are able to give a comforting word to a family whose son/daughter are suffering from a critical illness. Others still, find a way to reach those who are unable to see any hope, including the good news of Jesus Christ, in any aspects of their lives. No matter how many masks ministry supports it can be broken down into one major theme...God works through many people and in many mysterious ways.
This year, the first day of Lent was a memorable
experience here in the Pacific Northwest. At 10:55am
PT, a measured 6.8 earthquake rattled as far as Salt
Lake City, Utah...It's center...35 miles SW of
Seattle, Wa. The quake was one of the largest earth
shakers in the NW's recorded history and caused
over an estimated billion dollars of destruction in
Seattle alone! The experience is one that many will
hard pressed to forget, including myself.
For the past two years, I have had the privilege of
working with the Mental Health Chaplaincy here in the
beautiful city of Seattle, Wa. Our mission is to
literally take to the streets and make friends. Like
Metropolitan areas, Seattle has thousands of people
who has no place to call home. Instead, they go
from friends home to friends home, sleeping on couches
and floors. Some take advantage of shelters and
resources available. Others simply make camp wherever
they can find a dry spot. Any way one looks
at it...somewhere along the line, society has let them
slip through the cracks, many times without looking
back. A large number of these, God's children, are
not only striving to live by eating and basic hygiene
necessities, but many of them are also struggling with
a major mental illness (ie, schizophrenia, bipolar
disorder, and major depression) Large amounts of our
nations homeless live in a state of despair and
hopelessness. Some live in several realities. Others
find themselves distraught at the fact that their
personalities go through a cycle of ups and downs.
Any way the illness grapples with their lives,
it usually turns out to be nothing but a lonely road.
Friends disown them, families desert them, and the
rest of society simply looks down on them. My goal
with the chaplaincy is to simply become a friend to
someone who has lost all other companionships!
So, what happens when something as devastating as a
6.8 earthquake shakes the lives of those who
already have a shaky foundation? What happens when
the only thing some could rely on, actually
becomes something that they have to add to their
pallet of life's concerns! Because these people have
little or no place to be inside during the day, they
were witnesses to many of the typical happenings
an earthquake of such magnitude, buildings swaying,
earth rolling, roads cracking, and docks shifting.
They saw it all. In the experiences that I had for
several days after the earth shaker, my friends on the
street were a little on end (which is definitely to be
expected); however, some spirits were up! Some
recognized its impact, and others felt an exhilaration
they have not felt in a long time! Although I have
not had the opportunity to talk with some of my folks
on the street, the ones I have had the opportunity to
talk to, things are simply going one day at a time.
For some, it was simply 30 seconds to bring them
back into what most would call the "real world" (I use
that term loosely)... however, it must have been a
world that they didn't want any part of. When I have
the opportunity to be a part of a relationship with
those struggling with mental illness...it is an
blessing to here a little of their story. For most of
was simply a very "scary" experience that many of them
could have done without. I am sure some of
them felt like it was the end of the world. Many
simply wanted to get away. Others simply had to tell
the story of where they were when the quake shook
their world. One woman, after it had just happened,
came up to me singing "I felt the earth, move, under
my feet. And the sky came tumbling down, tumbling
down" a famous song I am sure many of us can recall.
The quake had taken such a toll on this individual
that she came up to me, gave me a big hug, and said
with a smile..."did you feel that?" I said, "was that
not a really scary experience". She simply smiled and
said "I was asleep under the bridge with most of it,
so it didn't bother me that bad". I smiled and said,
"Good. Have a great day!"
I thought about that time of sharing a little while
after it took place. This woman simply wanted to
(and with the sheer volume of her singing…she wanted
to share it with anyone within a two block radius)
that she had become apart of society. For just a few
minutes...we were all scared. We were all "shook
up". For a short minutes, the Pacific Northwest was
bound together with a sense of concern...no matter
what our race, status, label, or where we live. She
was happy! She was excited! For a short moment,
others were simply not looking down upon her. She
was, for a few short breaths, apart of the bigger
picture that did not judge her on her place in life.
Then I thought...maybe that is what some of the others
I spoke with were excited about. At face value, the
quake could have been devastating for everyone
who was apart of it, but perhaps it gave a feeling of
community to those who are apart of so little in this
hussel, buffel world. Maybe, just maybe, it helped
some to feel equal! Sad, isn't it? It took something
that is completely out of man's hands, to bring such a
sense of togetherness. My friends on the street
were not an exception to the earthquake, but like
everyone else who was here, they were apart of it all.
To be honest, perhaps the earthquake actually helped
my ministry of presence, because I was someone
that they could share their experience with. The ones
who never talk to me, took the time to share their
experience. Making ourselves available for others must be apart of the larger idea of ministry! Are we not
all created by the same love?
Could Lent have begun on a bigger note? Is it
possible that under such stress, our society was faced
any better situation? Was it a signal to the
"bedraggled" society that love is a much greater thing
anything man could do? Any question we ask will be
forgotten in a few months. Funny how the feelings
we are given are not so easily cast aside.
Yes, ministry comes in many shapes and sizes; however,
it all comes down to the simple fact that God
works through many people and in many mysterious ways!