A Note from Stephanie: And so the blook continues! (That’s “blog” and “book” combined, and it is apparently an existing word.) We hope you’re all enjoying it so far, and we’re planning to announce a contest about this blook soon. In the meantime, we’ll be spending time with family next week, so look forward to the next chapter in 2 weeks!
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”
–Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)
Frank Winn, attorney-at-law, worked with Christian ministries on a sliding scale. Bread of Life, however, was special to him. He worked for them on a pro bono basis, and in return he was given a small cottage in the back of their property.
Frank lived alone as his family had gone away, but in spite of this he was usually happy because of the new life he had found in Christ. Being especially troubled today, however, Frank wondered if he was going to lose everything else that he had worked so hard to obtain. He reflected on his worries as he trudged around the corner.
Putting the pieces of his life back together had been much like playing with a child’s building blocks. The once-proud tower of his life had crumbled, and he found himself living on the streets. But even then, God had been watching over him. God’s protection was confirmed when someone told the attorney about the Bread of Life shelter.
On their steps, Frank had once found hope in something aside from his law practice, but now he wondered whether that hope would ever enter these walls again.
Frank opened the shelter door with a bang. Collapsing on his old couch with a glum look on his face, Frank didn’t notice when one spring poked through the upholstery. He just sat in silence for what seemed like hours, with his head in his hands.
Suddenly shaking himself, he awoke as from a trance. “What’s wrong with me?” he said aloud, sitting up straight. “I haven’t talked to the one who guided me here in the first place!”
The attorney bowed his head. “Dear God, you know all about how the city of Phoenix is calling for a deposition to shut the men’s and women’s shelters down, and you know what it has meant in my life. If it’s Your will, I pray that You’ll keep these doors open, and give me wisdom as your representative. I know that I can’t do this alone, but I also know You are in control. So whatever the outcome, please encourage everyone with your peace. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
Frank stood up with new resolve, and no time to waste. His first order of business was to call the shelter administrators.
“What’s happening?” Austin Carter asked upon picking up the phone. He listened in silence as Frank sighed.
“I hate to tell you this, but I got a certified letter from the city at the last minute. They want to close our doors.”
“Oh, no!” said Austin. “This is terrible!”
“There’s more, I’m afraid. I only have two days to prepare my case.”
Austin whistled into the phone. “I know how important this is to you. What do you need from me?”
“I need you to tell them everything in person.”
“How long will this take?” Austin asked. “I’ll have to make it brief.”
“Why?” Frank growled.
“My schedule is jammed,” Austin replied calmly. “I have to fly out that day.”
“Cancel all your appointments,” Frank barked. “This is a crisis!”
“I wish I could, but I really don’t have a choice.”
“Well, then,” Frank mused, drumming his fingers on the old desk, “we’ll just have to go to plan B.”
“And what might Plan B be?” Austin asked dryly.
Without a moment’s hesitation, Frank snapped in an exasperated voice, “Remote and videos! Where have you been?”
“Okay, boss! Let’s do it while I’m on the line.”
“That would be great,” said Frank in a clipped tone, “but I need about fifteen minutes to set up. Then I’ll call you back.”
Frank could almost hear the grimace of annoyance in Austin’s voice as he interrupted. “In that case, Frank, I’ll only be able to give you a few more minutes.”
“That’s better than nothing,” Frank muttered. “Just launch right in.”
So, hurrying like never before, Frank was back on the phone in record time. When Austin picked up the phone on his end of the call, Frank said, “Okay, go.”
“I founded the Bread of Life shelter twenty years ago, and I admit we have had both success and challenges. I would like to elaborate on these as I go along.
“First, I will briefly tell you about my background, and how I feel this uniquely qualifies me. I grew up at the Briggs Home for Boys, where I learned all about life on the streets from an early age. The homeless problem is very real to me, as I was thrown out on those same streets at age 18. Because of this, I know what these men and women are dealing with.
“I was a hard worker, but when I couldn’t find a job, I would lie and steal. I didn’t have the luxury of a shelter in that small town, and one night when the temperature dropped, I got fed up with sleeping behind buildings.
“I had never darkened the doorway of a church, and I didn’t believe in God, but I made a deal with Him anyway. I said, ‘God, if you’re really out there, get me off the streets, and I will open a shelter for men.’
“God apparently heard me, because I was apprehended with drugs while stealing a car a few nights later. I already had previous charges on my head, and I was thrown in jail. Of course I didn’t like it, but that prison term turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me.
“God changed my heart while I was in there, so when I got out, I settled in Phoenix to get a fresh start. Once there, I opened the men’s Bread of Life Shelter.
“While the problem of homelessness is still most prevalent among men in our community, I would like to outline the ways we are trying to fight back. I’m afraid I can only give you a few more minutes, Frank, but Brenda can fill in any gaps when I’m done.”
“Okay, any info you can give me would be great,” Frank replied, so Austin continued his tale.
“Aside from planning different vocational courses, our objectives for both men and women are the same. In the men’s shelters, though, I admit there is a higher rate of recidivism in general. That’s why we need this particular program.”
“What do you mean?” asked Frank.
“While it’s true that there are other shelters in the city now, this is the only one with a Christian framework. We believe that homeless people are a microcosm of society in general, and that every man possesses a God-shaped vacuum within him that only Jesus can fill.”
By this point Austin had to get going, so he picked up his briefcase as he concluded his testimony.
“Filling this emptiness creates a sense of purpose and meaning, and helps our homeless residents to face and endure what lies ahead. Thanks to God’s plan and some strong vocational goals, these men are less likely to get in trouble and return here.
“Now here’s Brenda Cook, who has served the women’s shelter for 17 years.”
Once Brenda got on the line, the attorney continued his remote questioning.
“Miss Cook, thank you for taking the time to talk. Why, in your opinion, is the women’s shelter a vital part of our community?”
“Well, I’d like to answer that from both a personal and monitary standpoint, if I might.”
“Go right ahead.”
“From a personal point of view, a shelter like ours helped this drug addict and thief find a new life in Christ. I use myself as an example of all the people who come through our doors every day. They have all reached rock-bottom as I once did, and they’re flat broke. With nowhere else to turn, this shelter is their last hope. If they stay on the streets, many people will continue to steal or do much worse, and they’ll very likely end up in prison. This fact can lead to more crime, unless the homeless are put on a different path.
“Austin has already told you why these shelters are vital, so from a monitary point of view, I would like to tell you a little bit about their mechanics. As you know, Phoenix summers are extremely hot, and this climate encourages the homeless to come here in droves for relief.”
Frank interjected, “And what are some ways you bring them relief, other than water and air conditioning?”
“The minute they come through our doors, our residents learn about the only one who can change their hearts. Then, pastors and counselors listen to these people, and do what they can to meet their spiritual needs. We offer free meals, and we are excited to tell you about a new vocational program we are planning to roll out.”
“Could you please clarify that, Brenda?”
“Since most of these men and women don’t have high-school diplomas, GED courses are essential for them. This is the first step, and these courses will be free for our clients. We encourage participation in the General Equivalency Program because it will open the doors to various new career options.”
“And what might these options be?” Frank prompted.
“The women’s shelter will be the first to offer educational courses upon completion of GED’s. These courses will include baking, home management, and medical assistance. The men’s shelter will offer similar courses shortly. In both cases, there will be a nominal cost for each vocational course. This will help cover expenses, and allow us to expand this program more quickly.
“While in this phase of the program, clients in each shelter will map out goals which they’ll strive to complete after graduation. Let’s say Joan wants to be a medical assistant. In order to reach her goal, the course she takes would be broken down into sections so that she can work at her own pace and gain practical experience. After completing her classes, she would be required to pass an internship in a medical office, and she would most likely live there during her internship.”
“I hear what you are saying,” Frank mused, “but if most of the clients you serve are broke, how can they pay back their schooling expenses?”
“That’s a good question. Clients will spend one-on-one time with the case manager, working out the payment specifics. Also, each client will have an interest-free 5-year payment plan that may be extended if necessary.”
“What if a client’s goals were outside of what you plan to offer?”
“In that case, they can talk to the case manager about applying to the local community college. Either way, if clients finish these vocational programs, the loan which they have to pay back begins when they get their first check.
“But I would like to go back to the budgeting aspect for a moment, since the payment program is important. Most of the clients, regardless of gender, have never learned to save money, and having a loan helps them learn to budget more efficiently. So we use this as a teaching tool. We show them how to open an account, and how to balance a checkbook.”
“Are there other reasons the cost is important, Brenda?”
“Yes. Everything is designed around the eventual goal of rehabilitation, and we believe that if there is a price tag attached to their classes, they will value these classes more. This program will also make them feel like they are giving back to the community.”
“How many people do you expect to finish this program?”
“We hope that most of them will finish what they start, and I believe that we can be optimistic about this, based on studies of the GED program in general. These studies have shown that people will be more effective when they feel a sense of pride in their work.
“Furthermore, other studies have found that people who receive GED’s are more likely to complete their vocational objectives. We will definitely help them in any way we can, and we plan to follow up with clients who have graduated from our 5-year program.
“At that time, we of course know some of them will leave their jobs, probably due to moving away, or changes in their family structure. But if our reasoning is correct, it means that fewer people will return to the streets. So, looking at this from a monitary standpoint alone, there is virtually nowhere that you can get that kind of return on the dollar.”
“Thank you very much, Brenda,” said Frank. As he hung up the phone he prayed a second time, asking God to protect the homeless shelters that held such a special place in his heart.
A few days later, after some deliberation with city officials, the attorney spoke in a gravelly voice.
“There are some complex issues which must be addressed more thoroughly. In view of time constraints, my colleagues do not feel that we can do these issues justice. Therefore …” He cleared his throat, then continued. “The shelter will receive a certified letter within 5 days, stating the conclusion we have reached.”
To Be Continued …
Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 101 S Kraemer BLVD, Suite 123A, Placentia, CA 92870. Finally, you’re always welcome to join our Monday night Bible study or Tuesday night prayer meeting. Both are conducted by conference call, and they take place at 5:30 PM Arizona time. Our conference number is 712-775-7031, and our ID is 607518748. We hope to talk with you soon!
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