I have been troubled lately by the reality of my calling, namely to live among the poor and minister to addicts. What does success look like in this calling? It looks like the bloody form of a man hanging naked from a first century empire’s means of keeping the peace: the cross. This crucifix is my calling. It is my promised reward. Jesus said “Take up your cross and follow me.” I remember the vision that William Booth had of rescuing drowning scores of people. But I can’t but think about how, after rescued, in this line of work some folks jump back in. It seems a cruel irony to me that in faith based nonprofit work donations come in as long as only the good results can be shown. Donors want to know that somehow every glowing dime they gave had only rosy effects. Heaven forbid that anything go wrong!
Growing up at the New Life Evangelistic Center I remember my dad and NLEC recieving many rewards for their work. His office is lined with plaques. He has recieved on numerous occasions St. Louis’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. award for service. This Saturday in fact NLEC will be recieving that reward again. For that reward to be issued while NLEC lays victim to a smear campaign in Springfield Missouri reveals the bitter reality of this kind of work. Years ago here at JPUSA I remember that a certain legislator from Kentucky brought up certificates for each of the eight pastors naming them Kentucky Colonels for their service at JPUSA. Along with the certificates were sent some “hard-living” people, homeless men whose lives were filled with disillusionment and despair. I can’t think of those honors without associating it with those men.
Most of them didn’t work out here in Chicago.
When things go badly you don’t go dust off your plaque and remember that somebody once loved you. You think “Dear God get me through this.”
In a previous post I wrote about how hard it is for the public to “get” this kind of work. Demons or Angels, folks sharing the love of Jesus can never really “win” in the eyes of the world. “You do so much good.” “How come you’re always in so much trouble?” There are a few undeniable results about myself and my friends in this line of work. Lines on our faces. Scars on our hearts. Lots of good and bad memories. More faces than can be counted. Weary bodies yes. But very young hope and faith. But when your hero hangs there dying what do you expect?