Here at Johnson County Christian Lodge we work very hard at showing God’s love in very tangible ways to thousands of individuals, however we sometimes have encountered people who accuse us of being non-Christian. These accusations usually come to us from those we have been serving with free food, free lodging, free counseling, free medications and free assistance in obtaining documents such as birth certificates, driver’s licenses and social security cards but who feel there should be no rules about how to behave in our facilities. It also comes from those who don’t feel that they should have to do daily chores to keep our shelters clean and sanitary. In other words, to be “Christian” you have to be like Santa Claus. “Give me what I want, when I want it with no responsibilities attached.” That is not “Christian.” It is “welfare.” Goods and services obtained without sacrifice on the recipient’s part have no value to them. A large part of what we do here at JCCL is help teach residents to be responsible for their own actions. That’s part of being a “Homelessness Recovery Center” and not just a shelter. Teaching new life skills and attitudes are the only way to bring about lasting changes in a client’s life. If our residents aren’t actively involved in their own recovery we really can’t help them. If we put more effort into their recovery than they do recovery will not take place. We do everything we know how to assist and direct those who are actively involved in their own recovery. Those are the ones who follow the house rules and do their chores. Those are the ones who turn out to be successful in finding and keeping permanent housing. Using scripture as our guide we refer to 2 Thessalonians 3:10 where Paul states: “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” We welcome all who are willing to expend the effort to improve themselves.
When I began this ministry almost 7 years ago I didn’t know quite how I would accomplish what I had set out to do. There was no book entitled “How to Run a Homeless Shelter.” I knew there were people who didn’t have an appropriate place to stay because, as a Pastor, I was continually being approached by those needing lodging for the night. My small church didn’t have any funds for this type of thing and so I would have to turn them down. The government had initiatives to “End Homelessness.” They throw money at the problem and start bureaucracies. But the answer still eludes them. It reminded me of the time during a children’s sermon when the children were asked “What is grey and furry with a large bushy tail, that climbs trees and eats and stores nuts?” There was a long pause and a boy in the back raised his hand and said, “It sounds like a squirrel but I know the answer is Jesus.” Lots of adult laughter ensued but his answer was actually correct. In all of the government programs the one missing element is Jesus. And it is forbidden in most cases. A personal relationship with our Lord is central to solving the problem of homelessness and almost everything else for that matter. Yes, the government is always searching for the answer but it’s like the man who found a young lady on her hands and knees under a street light obviously searching for some unseen object. As he approached he said, “can I help you?” to which she replied, “I lost my contact lens.” So he said, “let me help you” and got down on his hands and knees and began searching as well. After searching for a while he asked, “Where did you lose it?” to which she replied, “about 15 feet over there.” He asked, “why are you looking over here?” She replied, “Because the light’s better over here.” The lesson here is that if you’re looking in the wrong place, the answer won’t be found even if the search is easier.
We have had a great deal of success in helping over 1300 homeless people but we always start the process by presenting Jesus, the answer to most problems.