Where do I even start? Have you ever had that happen to you when someone asks you to share a little about yourself? Usually I am not at a loss for words, but for some reason, at this moment, I was. Maybe it was due to the amount of times I had been asked this before; maybe it was because of where I am at; maybe it’s because of my personality style which I am an INFP (Myers Briggs), but for a moment I wasn’t sure where to start.
My path has crossed so many other paths. So many stories. So many journeys. So many people filled with pain and loss including my own. From being raised in Western Pennsylvania, to a treatment facility working with young men from the streets of New York City, to a residential school in Central Pennsylvania running a home full of at-risk girls, to working at a therapeutic foster care agency training and trying to retain foster care parents, job loss, eventually transplanting to Colorado Springs working for a world-class family organization, to now running a ministry here in New England. I have crossed many paths and each path has become one of many threads in a richly diverse, colorful, warm, and comfortable yet worn fabric of my life. Worn, because many of the threads represent the hurting and the broken I have come alongside that changed the course of my life.
As I reflect on this fabric and the many stories that make it up, there is a very clear picture that emerges and it is this: I am hurting and broken and in need of saving. I am a beggar surrounded by beggars. In the words of D.T. Niles, “Christianity is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.”
Being a Beggar
This view of a “beggar surrounded by other beggars” was particularly shaped when I worked directly with at-risk youth in New York City and in Hershey, PA. When you saw some of the situations that the youth and children we worked with came from, many struggling with poverty, not only would your heart break but you would form assumptions of the people responsible for them. Often times these assumptions would lead to anger and judgement. That is until you met them. Usually, my heart would break again.
Unfortunately, poverty is not just a financial problem. Poverty impacts your value, education, attitude, and character and these are not just traits we keep to ourselves. It becomes a spirit of poverty that we pass on to our children and their children. As parents, we are always leaving a legacy, good or bad, and it goes well beyond our wallets.
This concept of being a beggar would ring loud and true for them, but what I quickly realized that there wasn’t much difference between us. I would often put myself in their shoes and wonder, “Would I be any better off?” Would I have the courage to do the right things, often in the wrong environments? What if I was in their situation, would I behave differently? Only by the grace of God was I in a position to help and love them.
But the more I have done life with those who have struggled to maintain their value and dignity through the most horrific of circumstances, I think they have taught me more than I have taught them. As I worked alongside many of these situations, I quickly realized that each and every day I held the power for good or evil in my own marriage and as a dad. My kids were only a decision away from possibly living a life of poverty and hardship at my hand. Those kids and families taught me so much about resiliency and perseverance that, despite the obstacles, we can overcome.
I have come face-to-face with the reality that I am a beggar too.
Embracing our Future
As the new Executive Director here at MCM, I realize my journey continues to evolve as I respond to His calling upon my life and the needs of those around me, including my family.
Over the years of my life, I can see distinct themes for each year – a thread that God uses to teach me and draw me closer. I believe this theme of “being a beggar telling beggars” is coming not only to the forefront of my life, but to the forefront of this ministry.
What does that mean? It means quite simply this:
“Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)
If you are looking for a ministry that is sincere but broken; authentic but messy; safe but imperfect – who is “forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead” to reach the goal in Christ Jesus, then you have found the right place. A safe place “where your story meets His story.”
My prayer for this new year is this: That the people of New England would see our light shine brightly in the darkness, and that they would know the hope we have found in Jesus – because we are just beggars telling beggars where the bread is.