Dejected, BUT Not Forgotten!

Part 1: shocking news devastates a community

Heads hang as the news echoes through the ears of dozens of the Macon men, and quickly it filters into the Uptown homeless community. “We’re closing ….. Can’t be true ….. Can it? ...... Why us? ...... We can’t believe it!” The reality of our men’s program closing left many, if not all of them, despondent and feeling dejected. Grown, proud, street toughened guys were breaking down in tears. Triggered by fear, others gazed with blank stares. Trauma filled folk somberly prepare to take another blow by suppressing more emotion. Anger begins to slowly erupt as the news sinks in.

Already despised, snarled upon and rejected from nearly every facet of society, this news was another brutal kick to a man already down. The “powers that be” had listened to and heard the relentless pleas from a very fearful and merciless exclusive club. This group represented a relatively small number of people determined to promote hatred, fear and deception by painting negative pictures like violent ex-offenders living near innocent children. Nothing was investigated and propaganda had been used as a powerful tool, and the result was “no more funding!”

We, the workers in this flourishing harvest, were also flooded by an overflow of emotion and tears. Ironically and sadly, friends and foes, celebrated the impending closing, yet we cried to God, despised the political schemes and tried to be strong in the diversity. We fought against becoming bitter as we saw the suffering of “the least of these”. We had wept when they wept, suffered in their suffering, but we had also laughed and prayed together. As workers in the harvest, we consoled one another, knowing we needed to love our enemies, despite seeing the ugly reality of people rejoicing in the fact of an empty cafeteria and a bunch of displaced single guys.

The city agency came, picked them up and transported over half of these tired men to another shelter just around the corner. Some were housed, some were left in transient locations and a small minority, like Nick, ended up lying under Chicago’s hazy stars or roughing many nights trying to sleep on the “red line” train. Great promises had been made (especially to our many veterans) by a very elegant and pervasive speaker, and it sadly proved to be a lie, as almost all of the men were still without a permanent place to call home. Cornerstone’s normally noisy, chaotic and hectic cafeteria which nightly housed around hundred homeless men, was hit with a ghastly screaming silence.

The words of emotionally charged individuals summed up the tension and fears that resounded through them all: “We guys are already the rejected, the dejected, the hated and despised. We are feared. We are the bottom of the barrel. People fear us, but they don’t know us, they don’t talk to us, see us as human beings, as husbands, fathers, sons and grandfathers. You gave us that. You spoke to us as human beings. As a friend who loves us. You gave us hope. Hope in God, hope in Jesus, hope in love, in community, in friendship and in family. You helped us believe we can do and be something – get a job, live drug-free and find stable housing. Man – we need you guys and you’re all some of us have.”

The words, the fear and the emotion seen in these men added to the voice echoing in my head. “YOU WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN!” God will never forget or forsake these men, and neither must we! Jesus gave me a mission to keep in contact, uplift, encourage, and share our love with these men and to be a voice for these voiceless souls.

Politics, money and fear had worked very powerfully, so in our mourning and weakness, we grasped the only thing we could; God through the power of prayer. We prayed a prayer embracing these men. We prayed that the three year journey would not be over. We prayed for doors to open. We prayed for a miracle. We simply prayed.

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