Monday, May 28, 2012

To Walk the Brick Streets Part 4

I had no idea what I would say to the woman as I exited the Max, but I tried to keep my eyes on her, trying to figure out someway I could naturally talk with her. I saw her approach one of the men on the corner asking for directions. He didn't seem to be helpful.

"What are you looking for?" I piped up. I don't know downtown Portland hardly at all direction wise. Smile.

"W. Street?"

"I don't know where that's at. I'm sorry." Wow, danae. That was successful. I'm pretty sarcastic with myself sometimes. Well, she walked off and because I didn't feel like I could follow her without seeming like a stalker, I tried to navigate my way to where I thought Janeen would be.

The day was eerie. The sky was covered in white cloud, making the city feel grey and only half-alive. I watched people going this way and that. There were couples together, holding hands, not looking into my eyes as I passed them but staring straight ahead. Everyone seemed to be going somewhere and nowhere at the same time.

And as I trekked the streets, trying to find the seal water fountains that Bethany and I been next to when we prayed for Janeen, a man, probably in his twenties, came up to me, wearing dark colored, worn clothing.

"Ma'am? Can you spare some change? I've talked with 40 people today and only got 50 cents. I'm trying to raise money for my girlfriend for her birthday to send her to California to see her kids. Please? Can you help me?"

And his story was good and sad, and I reached out my empty hand. "I'm sorry, I can't help you, but what's your name?"


"I'm danae. Nice to meet you, Wesley." And we shook hands.

And he walked right on past me in a daze. "It's for her birthday."

Oh Wesley. Jesus loves you. I wish I would have told you that. I don't know. Maybe you wouldn't have remembered it the next day. Maybe you were on drugs. I'm pretty naive when it comes to things like that sometimes. But Wesley? Jesus wants you to be His son, and I am praying for you, that He will send someone else to come find you and love you and point you to His cross. I'd really like to meet you in Heaven someday, friend. You are a person, sir, and so valuable in His sight. Please, Jesus, please take care of Wesley tonight.

James asked me for money too. He was an older man, and I did the same thing. Outstretched hand. Shook his hand. I wanted to show him that he is a person. He might be homeless. He's still a person.

Well, considering my talent in navigating myself in such a way that sends me in circles (aka my lack of navigational talent), I ended up passing a random side street and saw the same girl that I saw in the max headed toward a bus stop. Well, without planning out what I would say or what I'd do, I followed her. I figured that since God put her in my path again, maybe it was on purpose?

She set her duffle bag down and sat on it as she waited for her bus. And . . . well, . . . let's just say I wasn't super graceful, but I came up to her and tried talking with her. I don't remember the conversation perfectly, but I think it began something like this:

"So you found it!"

"Oh hey! Yes, I did!"

"What's your name?"


"Hey Raina! I'm danae. Nice to meet you!"

And we talked for awhile. I learned that Raina's twenty-two, that she's just traveling while she's young, her life in a duffle bag I guess. She's a Christian, went to church earlier that morning. She just has no place to call home. She was in foster care but ended up with no family, no home base. Heart breaks for this and the broken foster care system that leaves kids orphans. Her plan is to just travel for awhile, eventually finding a place to settle down. She was fairly upbeat and kind, though she seemed kinda ready to get on the bus when it came and put some distance in between herself and the crazy danae-girl that followed her from the max. :/ :) But there was something about her. I think we would have been good friends. She looked like someone who totally could have just walked off Warner Pacific's college campus. She was just a normal girl in her twenties. Without a home. And maybe she was fine with that, but my prayers go out for her tonight, that Jesus would protect her from the life of the streets. That He would be a safe place for her and that He'd lead her to a place of rest, no more wanderings. Lord? Please be her home, but is it okay to ask that You would send her somewhere, to a place she can call home and be surrounded by people who love you and who would love her? Please, God?

She boarded bus 14, and it sped away away. I was left alone, standing at an empty bus stop, wishing I could have given that girl my number or something, wishing I had a home I could invite her to come in and rest. She's in Jesus' hands now.

I turned back from where I had come, my eyes still open for that girl with the blood clot and the small brown pony-tail. Janeen . . .

To Be Continued. :)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

To Walk the Brick Streets Part 3

It was on Friday that I met Janeen, and her broken heart had left burn marks on my heart. I couldn't shake the memory. I couldn't shake her tears and how real they felt. Not concocted. Pure brokenness and starvation for something she had been deprived of for a long time . . . love.

I wanted to go back.

Really badly.

I wanted her to know that when I said she was valuable and when I said we cared, I meant it. I didn't want to be another person who handed her Jesus' name and then ran away, not really caring what would happen to her the next day. And I was worried about the clot in her leg.

I worked on homework that Saturday. It was hard to concentrate. I could hear her words, over and over again.

The clock ticked slowly and finally Sunday came. I wanted to do something.

But my heart was oh so inverted.

Janeen was in distress, and she needed saving, and if no one else was doing it, why not me?

And I lost sight of Jesus.

Well, I sure wasn't wanting to, but my desperation to help save her was very much rooted out of a belief that was wrong. That I could save her. I could not and cannot. I can love though, with Jesus' love, and I hope and pray that Jesus used my rashness and my silly, broken heart to still love . . . even though the mission I took that Sunday was probably pretty foolish.

It took me a long time to figure out whether or not I should go downtown that Sunday. I really wanted to though. Really badly. I looked online for some info about blood clots and the nearest homeless shelters. I tried to be smart (some would debate this . . . haha) and didn't take a purse, just carried very few belongings with me that could fit in my pocket, including my little canister of pepper spray. (: I grabbed the change I needed and decided to just do it alone. Bethany was doing things with her church, and like I said before, I was pretty antsy. I sped walked to the Max station around 6:30pm, heart beating. Praying for little signs on the way but not really paying attention to them.

As I pressed the buttons of the ticket machine, trying to get what I needed, a man came by and handed me his ticket, "Here, it still has about 2 hours on it." And with that, he sped off. I wasn't sure what I should do, but I grabbed it and hoped I wouldn't get fined. I moved pretty fast to the max stop, where I saw an older woman. That made me feel so much better. Honestly, I was scared.

I don't know that I have ever been so scared.

And not that the fear was something rational (though it might have been rational that I was afraid. haha). For instance, I wasn't afraid of a specific thing happening. I just felt fear.

But finally a train came, and I walked on. I grabbed onto a pole, smiling at a cute little boy riding with his daddy. The max train made several stops. On one of them, a girl came on who looked about my age. She carried a big duffel bag. She was dressed in lots of color like an ordinary college student, and I caught her eyes a few times and smiled. She smiled back, as if we could have been friends. My mind was filled with so many questions. Is she running away? Should I talk to her? How should I talk to her? What should I say? What if she's in trouble? 

And as I continued riding, I tried to figure out what I could do or say. And finally, the Max hit another stop, and she walked off. I knew a few more stops down might take me closer to where I was hoping to find Janeen, but because I recognized the name of the street and because my friend was making her exit, I stepped off the max train, waiting for any opportunity . . .

To be Continued

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

To Walk the Brick Streets Part 2

As Bethany and I approached the girl with the sign, we saw her more clearly. She saw (is) a small, young woman (probably in her early twenties) with brown curly hair, pulled back in a ponytail, very thin. We slowly walked up to her and introduced ourselves and shook her hand. Her name is Janeen. I can't get her out of my heart. Not that I'm trying . . . I don't want to forget her.

I don't remember the exact words of our conversation or the order of what all was said, but roughly, it went like this.

"Wow, Janeen. You are so brave. It takes a lot of guts to hold that sign out there."

"Yeah, I'm just doing what I have to. I bet you girls would do the same thing.

I'm just trying to get $10. Just being honest, guys, I'm an alcoholic, and I just need to get a beer tonight or else in the morning, I'll get shakes. And I need some tobacco too. Just to be honest here."

"I bet it's hard, Janeen."

"Yeah. I have a blood clot in my leg, and so my shoes are pretty uncomfortable."

"Oh goodness, lady! Is there something you can do for it? Put ice on it or anything?"

"Not really. Ice doesn't really work with a blood clot."

"Ah, I'm sorry. Janeen, do you have any family around? How long have you been in Portland?"

"I've been here about three months. Nope. I really don't have a home or any friends or family, just my homeless friends. It gets lonely."

"I bet. Where do you stay at night, Janeen?"

"Under the bridge. Thankfully, the weather hasn't been too bad lately. Hasn't rained, but when it does, your sleeping back gets so wet. And you don't know until the morning when it's soaked."

And I don't know exactly what built up to this. I call it Jesus moving us. He knows the right words to break us enough to love us, but we told her:

"Janeen, you are so valuable. You really are."

And her beautiful brown eyes filled.

"Can I give you a hug?"

And I held her for just awhile as she cried. Oh what world is this that people don't understand how valuable and loved they are by God? What world is this?

"Thank you so much," and her tears kept falling.

And a lady came by and gave her a few dollars, and asked her what was wrong, and she said that she was nervous.

"I've just never had someone care."

"Oh Janeen, we love Jesus, and we believe that He loves you so much, even when it doesn't feel like it, and it's okay to say that."

And the tears fell and fell, and my tears fell too. This blog doesn't come close to the power of that moment. I don't know if I've ever had someone respond so in such away to the love of Jesus.

I asked her where she normally stayed during the day, and she said that she was normally either right there or by Safeway, where there's a lot of people.

"Janeen, we're busy college students, and I can't promise you anything, but I really, really hope I can come back and see you sometime!"

We held her again. We left.

Tears in my eyes. Tears still in hers.

And Bethany and I walked off and begged God to love on her, to take care of her. We asked that He'd send others to love her, that He'd bring us back if we could.

And we left. But she never left from my heart. She was and is so real, such a person. I am guilty of stereotyping the homeless as those who have bizarre stories and who just need cash for their guilty pleasures. But no. These people are real. They know what it means to feel and to hurt. They know what it feels like to be treated like DIRT. They are real people with Mama's and Daddy's, who maybe had first days in first grade and played on the monkey bars at recess. Or maybe their Mama's and Daddy's weren't there.  Maybe they've never had a real home cook meal or have never been given a big hug before going off to school. Maybe they had no friends in elementary school. I call Janeen my friend, and I hope beyond all hope that I see her again. I really, really do. But that hope leads me into another part of this story . . .

To Be Continued