A Glimpse of Hope

She sways to the music with one hand in the air. It’s the old familiar hymn about Surrender, and she knows every word. I see her cry, smile, sing, and even dance a little. She looks happy, and whole.  While the song lasts, she has forgotten the torment of her pain, her addiction, and her life on the streets.

This woman, V*, walked into Hope Cafe for dinner that night and she stayed after for our worship hour. Many of us at Cityteam know her. We’ve seen her struggles and tried to help her in the ways that we can. Tonight, as I sit down beside her, I’m looking forward to the music and it looks like we have this in common.

The band plays a few songs, and the music is great. It sounds good, but it feels better.  I find myself settling down, chaos within me being smoothed out. I see that V is enjoying herself, too, and then the time comes to sit and talk about tonight’s Bible verses.

We are talking about Jesus. The passage says that all who are thirsty can come to Him for a kind of water that restores our souls. We all say a couple of things and V tells me she wants to go to rehab, this time for real. In the next breath, she tells me about her plans for her next drink. The demons of her past haunt her and alcohol has a hold that seems unbreakable.  Then she says the thing I’ll never forget.

“I know Jesus gets me,” she says and holds her hand to her chest. “He understands me, He understands my heart.” She’s right, He totally does. Sometimes we spend all this time trying to figure out God, trying to make sense of who He is. And there it is, the most important thing: Jesus has us figured out.

He gets us, all the parts of us. The parts that are not cleaned up, that are unhealed. He knows them all and He loves us richly. He understands and his response to our brokenness is not to abandon a seemingly hopeless cause but to make an offer to quench our thirsty souls. Thank you, V, I really needed that.

The music starts again and this is the one that gets her to sing. “All to Jesus, I surrender. All to Him I freely give.” I am moved by the peace she is granted in her momentary surrender. I join her, reminded of how good it is to sing to a God who knows it all and loves us still.

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*V’s real name has been omitted to protect her privacy

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

Thanks very much to Joel Gerlach for editing this story.

“All I Want For Christmas”

“Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year

Sleigh bells in the air
Beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there”

Remember Charlie Brown’s Christmas? Watch this little clip here if you don’t. At different points this Christmas, I have felt a little bit like Charlie. In my mind I know that this is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but recent events and personal losses of my own–well they are difficult. And sad. And I find it a little confusing balancing these things with the expectations of this season.

I keep finding reassurance, though, in realizing that a world seemingly overtaken by injustice, tragedy and loss is the very reason we celebrate the coming of Jesus. The reasons He came, then, are the very same reasons we still need Him, now. He brings hope, peace, and grace to us. And we still see this hope come to life, even today.

I want to share with you an update of a story I wrote a few months ago. (You can read it here.) Last December, I watched a heroin addicted man I know walk away from Cityteam and into the cold. He was without hope that he could change and I was losing hope that he might have any strength left to try.  Last Christmas, I prayed that he wouldn’t die before he could get the help he needed.

Now, a year later, everything is different. This man celebrated another milestone this month. He has over 9 months clean and he has successfully completed our learning center program and he is one test away from completing his GED. I look at the hopelessness we both felt last Christmas, and I look at what Jesus is doing in this man’s life today and I am inspired. The same Jesus the world needed, then–He is still changing lives, now.

Recently, this man  wrote a paper about what heroin addiction does to a person, one of many papers he wrote during his time in the learning center. And he’s given me permission to share it here, which I am proud to do. The last line moved me, knowing how differently he saw things not that long ago. It reads: “Heroin is a huge downfall in the United States today and we all have to join in the fight against heroin addiction and the war can be won.”

A war that can be won. That is real hope. “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”  Thank you, Jesus. Merry Christmas.

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

“The intense high the user seeks last only a few minutes. With continued use he/she needs increasing amounts of the drug just to feel normal.”

His research paper about heroin is really informative. Please take a minute and read it by clicking here.

One Man’s Miracle

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

Miracles are powerful things. In the first place, they benefit the recipient—a person sick beyond the help of anything but divine intervention. But miracles also resonate with their witnesses. We still talk about Jesus’ compassion, how he raised Jairus’ daughter, how he knew when a desperate woman reached out to touch His cloak. Those stories give hope: if Jesus did all these things, then he can heal us, too.

Last month, I was witness to a miracle. A thousand of us gathered on a church’s lawn for “Baptism Night.” An old friend from Cityteam was first to go. He stood before us, healthy and strong, happily telling us all how Jesus had given his life a new hope. His testimony was inspiring but it reminded me of when my friend looked and acted nothing like this man.

Only months before, I had seen him at his worst. He was losing his battle with heroin, in and out of Cityteam and other programs, each relapse taking a little more of him. He spent two nights in our temporary overnight shelter, where we have one rule: you can’t be high. On the third night, visibly under the influence, he was asked to take a drug test which he refused. He stalked out into the night.

The next morning, he bristled as we spoke, resenting the rules, me, everything but the real problem. With no place left to go, his desperation broke him and he began to beg. I felt desperate myself; I longed for a way to ease his pain but knew he didn’t want the help I could offer. My last words to him were, “When you are ready, we have a place for you.” His eyes glassed over as he turned to go out the door.All I could do was pray. I worried that I might never see him again.

Then the miracle began. Not long after that meeting in December, he returned to Cityteam, this time to our recovery program, ready to fight for his life. He was truly ready to surrender—ready to admit that he was powerless on his own, that he needed a power greater than himself, and that he needed to turn himself over to God’s care. Much like that woman so long ago who needed healing, he reached out—and Jesus went to work. Nothing less than his life had been saved.The pastor dipped him in and out of the pool.  Dripping, his smile beamed at us, a thousand hope-filled witnesses to his miracle.