Two Years In June (Part One)

The Spring

It will be two years in June. My journey from Cornelia to Seattle, from pizza delivery guy to full time missionary, and from sold out follower of Jesus Christ to follower of nothing but good questions and great conversations had begun.

I find it interesting how quickly you can forget what you came from. At times I forget that my initial purpose in coming to Seattle was to “share the love of Christ” with people in the city. And for the most part that meant addicts and recovering alcoholics. It seemed as though they were the only ones who saw the immediacy of needing something (or someone) to free them beyond themselves. Basically they had lost hope in themselves.

At the time it was my belief that the story, the life, and the power of a man named Jesus could free anyone, anywhere at anytime from anything. And so I went into the city to share this gospel not through words but through actions. I sat with men at shelters and heard story after story of how drugs, alcohol, and pride had reduced these once powerful men to nothing but beggars at the doorstep of a downtown soup kitchen.

I listened and they cried. I listened and they asked for prayer. I listened and what I heard time after time was someone asking for hope. Someone who had come to believe that they had lost their way and were now asking me if I knew of a path that led to a better place than the one they were on. My motivation for wanting to share the story of Christ with these men was varied. I grew up in a home were my mom and dad told the story of Jesus like it had happened yesterday. In my childhood home he was one of the family. He shared breakfast, lunch, and dinner with us. On Christmas morning my mom would take a loaf of freshly baked banana bread, stick a candle in it and gather the entire family round to sing a rousing happy birthday to Jesus (my family still engages in this timeless ritual).

The magnetic pull of addiction was something I understood. I had seen its effects first hand in my own life and the lives of friends and loved ones. Uncles would come to stay with my parents to get clean, get sober, and try to get on with their lives.

And so it made sense that I would sit with the addict and hear his story, it was something I had seen my mother and father do plenty of times. I found myself in the “seedier” parts of Kuala Lumpur watching hollowed out men roll cigarettes made of newspaper advertisements, staring blankly out of windows while waiting for a meal to be served or a shower to be freed up. The memory also comes to mind of below freezing mornings in Bishkek crouching next to a fire on the side of the road sharing bread with men who smelled of alcohol well before the sun was up.

Aside from the bread, all I had to share with them was a story. I’ve found that no matter what condition a human might be in they will more than willingly listen to a story. We love stories. Southern author Harry Crews said it best, “truth of the matter was, stories was everything and everything was stories. Everybody told stories. It was a way of saying who they were in the world, it was their understanding of themselves.”

I came back to Seattle from Bishkek with many questions in my mind. They weren’t new questions; they were old questions that I had buried beneath fervor and involvement, expectation and dedication. By the summer of 2006 I was more than ready to move out from under the protective safety net of the missions organization I was working with. I had many questions and I needed a forum that would give me the freedom to honestly ask those questions without the fear of christian social retribution hanging over me.


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