Chaplain to the Homeless
Mark Sands Story of God’s Love
“I’m out here loving on you because God loved me first. The Lord has gotten me through many tough times and I’m here to give back and share His love.” That is how many conversations with homeless on the streets and in the parks of Phoenix end.”
The key to effectiveness chaplaincy – with the addict, the mentally ill, the economically displaced, the rejected by family, is accepting them as they are without judging or offering advice. They sense that someone cares; that provides a glimmer of hope.
More important than the food, cooling fans and cloths, socks, water, resource information, care kits with Bibles and even prayer, is connecting on a personal level. You don’t just hand them things and wish them well. You engage by listening and asking a few simple questions. That’s a ministry of presence.
It isn’t necessary to quote Scripture often, rather you live it. You keep in mind the Love M.O.R.E principle.
“To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the homeless which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:27) The care bags include a “Here’s HOPE” New Testament. Inside the cover is a short word of encouragement from me, my chaplain card and a McDonald’s gift card.
My federal prison experience and, more importantly, the transforming power the Spirit, has given me a heart for those hurting, lost and hungry for a better life, a change of circumstances. I know what it feels like to be the least among us.
A motivating passage for me comes from Matthew 25 when Jesus announces that He, the Son of Man, will judge the nations. “Then the righteous will answer Him saying, ‘Lord when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You a drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” (vs 37-40)
Maddy, 21, was homeless and a heroin addict when me met. Maddy looked 15 and reminded me of my own daughter who went through years of opiate addiction. The young female homeless, seniors on the street and homeless vets really tug at my heart. Our country can do better.
Maddy had an artistic flair and her pan-handling signs – the homeless call it “flying”, and youth generated decent money. When her older boyfriend and protector went to jail, Maddy was no longer seen around 7th St. and Bell. I pray that God has broken that bondage of addiction and she has gotten her life back.
Richard is an Army combat veteran and former East Valley police officer. Combat was tough enough, but seeing the body of a young girl apparently killed by her father was too much. Richard resisted the overwhelming urge to shoot the father on the spot, yet PTSD broke him. He walked away from police work and ended up on the street with wife Stephanie. Meth eased the pain.
On Thanksgiving morning, I found Richard camping in a nearby park. I was moved to invite him and Stephanie over to my place for showers, laundry and a good meal. Their long shower gave me time to do three loads of laundry (the water was so dirty it was drained and I started over) and prepare the meal.
They looked good after cleaning up; you wouldn’t know they were homeless. It was an exhausting day, yet so rewarding. I lost contact with Richard and Stephanie. God knows the end of their story.
The Lord provides opportunities for ministry every day. Pray that He gives you the eyes to see the doors He opens, the boldness to walk through those doors and an extra measure to wisdom from above to meet that person right where they are.
Mark Sands, Chaplain to the Homeless