For years, Homeless Outreach has been a stalwart piece of GIM’s programming. Once a month, the Team walks the streets of Manhattan to pray with the homeless and to hand out care packages. Inspired by the story of the Good Samaritan, the team is currently led by Cat Oh and Chris Yi. I caught up with Chris over some chicken fingers and Guinness to learn more about what the Team does.
“If you think about it, you’re only going twelve times a year. If you really think about it, it’s not that big of a sacrifice!” Chris laughed at my suggestion that Homeless Outreach was a big commitment. He continued, “there are 365 days of the year and your life is supposed to be in missions. And Homeless Outreach, you only go to twelve times – it’s really nothing. Can you sacrifice 12 days? And it’s a Saturday, it’s not even a workday!”
He’s right, of course. Like most people, my Monday-to-Friday is filled with stressors and anxieties from work. So when it comes to my weekends, I guard them as a rare commodity. They are reserved, sometimes weeks in advance, for travel, for sleeping in, and for going out. In other words, Saturdays are for Me. Chris understood this mindset, but challenged me to think differently. He told me he feels blessed after each outreach event because he’s always expecting God to do something special with their prayers.
When I asked him why he first got involved with Homeless Outreach, he talked about how he used to spend his weekends going out, drinking, and meeting girls. After doing this for a while, though, there was a moment when he realized, “this life that I’m living is not my life to live on my own will – I need to be doing things for the kingdom.” To him, this meant reaching out to the homeless and building relationships with them. He spoke about the parable of the Sheep and the Goats (but don’t ask him to recite it from memory):
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
This parable gave Chris a sophisticated, exegetical conviction: “I just didn’t want to be a b****. Quote that.” (Sorry Chris, partial quote will have to do here). I didn’t press for further explanation, so I can only assume he meant he didn’t want to be one of the goats Jesus was rebuking. But who knows.
Nevertheless, our conversation was a great reminder that we don’t have to travel far to get to the missions field. While there is certainly a need to spread the Gospel overseas, there are neighbors here in our local communities that need help too. And as Chris explained, you don’t need to be rich to help the poor: Homeless Outreach emphasizes “the power of prayer and the power of God rather than what money can do for someone.” But to be sure, they also supply the brothers and sisters they meet with a care package containing food, water, toiletries, hand warmers, and other supplies.
This coming Saturday, March 4, 2017, the Team is having a special event and will be serving at Bowery Mission in New York. It is the first time the Team is partnering with the Bowery, but Chris expects it won’t be the last.
If you’re interested in participating in Homeless Outreach going forward, you can sign up here. Or you can email Chris, Cat Oh, or Sam Hong, who leads GIM’s Homeless Outreach effort in New Brunswick, New Jersey.