The Table Podcast

Homeless Ministry in Challenging Times

In this episode, Bill Hendricks and Wayne Walker discuss homeless ministry, focusing on how to help in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Timecodes
01:56
How COVID-19 has affected homeless ministry
07:04
Issues in food shortage
09:24
How individuals can help during this time
17:26
How to use gifting to help those in need
23:52
How to help people whose basic needs are unmet
31:25
Meeting specific needs for homeless people
36:06
Serving in unprecedented times
41:10
How disasters disproportionally affect the homeless
Resources
Transcript
Bill Hendricks
Hello. I’m Bill Hendricks, the Executive Director for Christian Leadership at the Hendricks Center. And I want to welcome you to the table podcast, where we discuss issues of God and culture. Today I’m absolutely delighted to have back in The Table with me, Wayne Walker, the founder and the Executive Director for Our Calling ministry here in Dallas. And Our Calling pastors and disciples those who are who are homeless in the Dallas area. Wayne, welcome back to the table. It’s always a delight to be with you.
Wayne Walker
Well thanks for having me. It’s a little bit different table today, but it’s so good to chat with you again.
Bill Hendricks
It is a different table. We’re obviously not in studio, and Wayne and I are recording this about two months into the shelter in place orders here in Dallas, in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. And that puts a finer point on everything we had talked about in our previous podcast, Wayne. Obviously, almost overnight 30 million people in America are now out of work. Many of them were already living paycheck to paycheck. According to the City of Dallas … and this was, again, before this whole crisis … more than 300,000 Dallas residents live in poverty. And almost 600,000, the city says, live in housing distressed households, as they call them. And meanwhile there are only 2000 beds in Dallas shelters. So it doesn’t take too much to do the math to figure out that even on a normal day, whatever that used to be, there were a lot of people who had nowhere to go.

You’re on the front lines with that. And I guess I’d want to ask, how has the COVID-19 crisis intensified what you’re seeing from the standpoint of working with the homeless on the streets of Dallas?

Wayne Walker
Well, the numbers that you shared are obviously pre COVID. Dallas already had the highest homeless population of any city in the southern US. We already have the highest growth rate in unsheltered homelessness of just about anywhere in the country. I think we’re the top 95 percent. We did have 300,000 people below the poverty line. And now we have, as of yesterday, it was reported we have about 14, 15 percent unemployment. That means in the metroplex, when we have seven million people living in the metroplex, one in seven are unemployed. It doesn’t take much math to figure out what one in seven of seven million looks like, right?

So we are having unprecedented poverty growth and homeless growth in the community. We already had about 10,000 people experiencing homelessness and 2000 shelter beds. So we already had an inventory problem. Now that evictions have been lifted, the stay on evictions have been lifted and people are starting to get evicted, which people have been being evicted this whole time. Slumlords didn’t get the note they’re not supposed to evict people. So we’ve seen a lot of people been evicted out of pay to stay motels, or slumlord type engagements.

And so normally we would see about seven new people a day. That’s kind of the average pre-COVID. And now we’re sometimes 30 to 40 new people a day that are coming in. It’s not just the guy with a backpack and the big beard. It’s families that live in homes. It’s families that live in cars. And we have families that come to us just to eat. The grocery stores, some of them are having trouble keeping their shelves full. But if you don’t have a job right now, if you don’t have cash, there’s no way you can afford just to feed your family. Food makers running out of food, and so we’re anticipating a depression era type level of poverty, a tsunami if you will that, of course, none of us have ever seen.

Bill Hendricks
I know some families, at least the children, were getting lunches from schools, and some of them even backpacks from schools. But in an interest of trying to contain the spread of the virus, many of those programs have been curtailed significantly. I suppose some maybe even have been eliminated. And I think about that for child who gets a backpack from school, particularly on a weekend, for many families, that was like the only food coming home. And you take that away and I … my mind just goes blank thinking, well, what do these folks do?
Wayne Walker
Yeah. So Dallas already has one of the highest childhood poverty rates in the nation, when you talk about kids. We have about 4 to 5000 kids in Dallas Independent School District that are known to be homeless. And then, we expect the number to actually be two to three times that size, because most kids don’t want you to know that they’re homeless. So the unknowns. And we have some of the highest rates of what’s called Title I schools, so its kids can’t afford meals at school, so they’ve made all the meals free. And they’ve done this for years. And then, like you said, they give them sustenance to take home so they can eat over the weekend, ’cause they get breakfast and lunch at school. No dinners.

Well now, some of the non profits have tried to figure out, can we set up in the school parking lot and have the kids still bring their backpack we can fill up, or give them boxes of food? A lot of non profits and churches are trying to figure out how to support this. But at the same time, a lot of non profits have shut their doors, because this stay in shelter in place. A lot of these organizations are volunteered by an elderly group. You’ve got retirees that volunteer at food pantry at the church, so that they can’t open it up. And so some of the service arms that you would think are there to catch people when they fall, some of those arms are disabled right now, as well.

And Dallas is pretty interesting. Dallas is a tale of two cities. I want to be clear you understand this. We have 300,000 people living below the poverty level. We also have 300,000 millionaires, in Dallas.

Bill Hendricks
Extreme.
Wayne Walker
So we’ve got this weird place, and it’s really an opportunity for those that have to step up and to support the organizations. I know right now, for us, we need 150 pounds of meat a day. And finding meat is really, really difficult. And trying to find those basic sustenance resources, and just the life sustaining stuff. Most of the time we’re focused on life giving, evangelism, discipleship, worship, and growing in your relationship with the Lord, addiction recovery, all that stuff. Right now we really have to focus on life sustaining.
Bill Hendricks
We’re down to survival for many, aren’t we?
Wayne Walker
Yeah. Survival mode. Sure.
Bill Hendricks
Is the problem with the food that we simply don’t have the food, or is it a supply chain issue? Or both?
Wayne Walker
It’s a little bit of both. A lot of the meat packing plants were shut down because of lots of COVID spread. But non profits like us, we would get pallets of food every week. Normally we would get about 12,000 pounds, about 6 tons of food a week, pre COVID, donated to us from the box stores. So Sam’s Club would … we’d pick up about 16 pallets a week. But if you go to the stores and they’re out of meat, they don’t have anything extra to give. And so a lot of the excess that we would get, the bulk donations when they’re flipping their inventory, that kind of stuff doesn’t come to us.

Same thing with restaurants. So so many restaurants are closed right now, that they don’t have any excess they could give us. We had some of them give us their inventory, clear out their freezers.

So then for us, we’ve got another inventory problem. So if someone were to come to us right now and say, “Hey. I want to give you guys five pallets of chicken,” we have nowhere to put it. So we’ve had to rent this huge shipping container freezer. We’ve ordered a new walk-in freezer to go outside. When we can get food we have to take it, ’cause we have no idea what’s gonna happen to morrow. And everyday we cook here, it’s like there’s a TV show my kids love to watch called Chopped, where the chef opens a basket and has surprise ingredients and has to figure out what to cook, what to make with that. That’s everyday here. We have no idea what’s gonna be donated, no idea what we’re gonna be cooking tomorrow.

And it’s almost a George Muller moment, where we pray, “Lord, we don’t have X.” And then the truck breaks down in front of the orphanage, and they said, “Hey, guys.” True story. My kitchen manager came to me one day and said, “Hey Wayne, I want you to know we’re out of meat, and we’re gonna be out of meat in about a day.” And an hour later, I’m sitting in the office by myself, I’m praying about it, and I get a text. And I’m really praying, and the text kinda alerts me. And I look at the text, and it says, “Hey Wayne, do you guys need any meat?” from somebody that has never … somehow is connected to someone who has a bunch of meat. So it’s trusting the Lord every day to see how can we pay the bills, how can we feed the folks, and how to keep our … keep things rolling.

Bill Hendricks
So you’re right there on the front lines. Let me then backtrack, if I could, the spiritual supply chain, if I could put it this way. Because you’ve mentioned the churches, and you’ve mentioned in the case for the 300,000 millionaires in the Dallas area, metroplex. I know some of those folks are stationed at place. They’re looking out on the world, They’re obviously have their own businesses, investments and so forth that they’re tending to. But they realize that a lot of people are in a very, very bad way. And they’re people of faith. And they’re thinking, “Okay. What can I do? What’s gonna be really most effective? And so what would be your recommendation?” Obviously they can write a check, write all kinds of checks. Is that really the most needed, or physically is there anything they can do, or practically? Do they … Some of these folks you’d mentioned, have needs for certain kind of foodstuffs. Do they have, either through their own business or through their network? “I know a guy. Let me call that guy and see what he knows.”
Wayne Walker
Well, I think that question that you’re asking is vital. When someone assumes they know what you need, and they show up with that, and that’s really not what you need, it creates another problem. We create a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist, it creates a new problem. I’ll give you and example. So recently a church in the area brought 6,000 peanut butter and jellies to one of our partners. We couldn’t give them out fast enough, because the bread was getting soggy and mushy. And by the time you’ve gone through 3 or 4000, you literally have to through a couple thousand of those away.

I went to a church one time, and this is a couple years ago, and they were so proud. They had raised all this money to buy us blankets. And they invite me on the stage for the pastor to show me, and they had the whole stage full of these blankets. It was like this wall of blankets. Great wall of blankets, I guess. And they were praying over them, and dedicating them. We’re gonna give them to the homeless. The pastor reaches in, grabs one out of the box. When he opens it, holds it up, it was a baby blanket. It went from his elbows to his belly, and that was it. And he was embarrassed on stage, and they had 3,000 baby blankets to give us.

That’s exactly what people need to do. They need to call non-profits that they know, non-profits that they can trust, non-profits that are a member of the evangelical council for financial accountability, or they’re already connected to big churches in the area and say, “What is it, specifically, that you need?” ‘Cause sometimes we need volunteers. So we weren’t taking volunteers for a few weeks. Now we are taking volunteers. Everybody gets checked every day, and temps and stuff. But those specific questions of, do you need money for a new freezer, do you need money for food, do you need money for staff? That question … and there is different ways people can get involved. And unfortunately, the non-profits are so busy right now that they probably don’t have time to knock on your door, as much as they do to answer the call and answer the door.

I’ve had some donors show up and say, “Hey, I’m looking around, watching what you guys are doing. I know you’re busy. We just want to bless you, we want to support you.” Right now we’re hiring. We have five positions open, because we have to quickly expand our staff, so that we can meet the need. We’re sending … So we work with the CDC and FEMA and the county and all these other groups all the time. And originally the CDC said, “Don’t do street outreach. Just stop it completely.” And then a couple weeks later they said, “Okay. You guys have to do street outreach.” Well, we do the most street outreach in the county.

So a lot of the agencies are looking for us to set procedures and protocols. So we came up with this process, and we know we need to send teams all over the city. And the reality is we have hundreds of people coming to our facility every day. We can’t just take our staff and send them out. So, we’ve got some out, but we’re trying to hire for these street outreach teams to be able to go. And so what you’re saying is important. When someone were to call and way, “What do you need?” Right now I need to be able to afford to hire a staff member that can go out on the street, or I need to be able to afford vehicle expenses for street outreach teams. And those specific needs have to be communicated as well.

So for a non profit that’s watching this, your donors need to know. So I created a YouTube channel about three weeks ago, four weeks ago, and I’m documenting on a regular basis of what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, why it matters, what our needs are, what’s going on. And we’re sending out tons of messages back and forth. But that takes a lot of time, as well. So like any organization, we need some administrative help, we need some operational help. We do need people to volunteer. We do need … and anybody watching this, in your neighborhood, you’ve got organizations that need you to volunteer.

And they need you to give, as well. I know many churches are struggling right now, ’cause they haven’t been passing a plate, and they’re trying to figure out how to pay their bills. And yes, a practical way is to give. But I would encourage anybody interested in supporting a local organization to first call and say, “Specifically, how can I help?”

Bill Hendricks
Ask before you give.
Wayne Walker
Yes. We don’t need 1,000 baby blankets.
Bill Hendricks
Give intelligently, is what you’re saying.
Wayne Walker
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
And prayerfully. What you’re describing sounds so utterly practical to me. And it takes me back to when hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, people had nowhere to go. And the next largest metroplex was due west, and it was Dallas/Ft. Worth. And so this massive wave of humanity rapidly swept in from the east, and literally, in a weekend, besieged Dallas. And I know many churches stepped up. In fact, from my point of view, that was, in a way, the churches’ finest hour in Dallas in my lifetime’s memory.

I know of one church where a group of people in the church came to the church offices. This was a large church, a multi staff church. But they came to the church offices and they said, “Give us some offices.” And they commandeered about four offices and set up a command center there. And they began to work logistics and arrangements and plans and strategies that, from a human point of view, had nothing to do with pastoral kind of work. It was very practical work. They found … They decided that they were gonna try to focus their efforts on 400 families, 400 Katrina families. And this had to do with how many giving units were in the church, and so forth. But they said, “We can take 400.”

And so they found places to live for these families. They helped them get clothing and supplies, just the basics of living, because these people, their homes were gone. They’re now living in Dallas, at least temporarily. Through the summer they helped get the kids enrolled in school. They helped show them where the grocery stores were, where the banks were, where the other amenities are, how to use the public transit, and so forth. And they raised a ton of money. I think it was about a million dollars within a week they had raised to help fund this thing.

And this was all done by people who were not ordained clergy. And I think, okay, here we are, in this hour, and we’ve got a lot of people in our culture who are in a really bad way. But those are very practical needs, and it seems like the gifts and the talents and the resources of the body of Christ can be very practical at this point.

Wayne Walker
Yeah. Those practical skills … Unfortunately, people that are ordained and have a seminary degree probably don’t have the capacity or the experience to run a business. So the best people to do that, to do the logistics and bring people together are often not those that have a degree hanging on their wall. I remember … I started to get a little emotional when you were talking about Katrina. I walked into the registrar’s office as a student in Dallas Seminary and canceled all my classes the day Katrina hit. I walked in there and I said, “I’m done. I’m out. I’ll be back next semester.” And my wife and I just took off. We had people help watching our kids, and we were at the convention center every day working with people there.

Finally we had a church approach me and said, “Hey. You’re doing outreach with the homeless here in Dallas. Can you go help down there?” I said, “Yeah. I need some money, I need some people.” So I walked into Home Depot that day and spent $10,000 on generators and chain saws, and took a team of people from Northwest Bible Church, and we went for a couple weeks and then started this exchange where we were sending teams down there to help and work in the community.

It’s that operational organizational structure that’s needed right now. So, for example, if I have to exegete a passage, I got a degree that says that. Your dad taught me Bible study methods. But what I don’t have is someone that can network with food processors and find, “Hey. Who’s got some extra meat?” So it’s exactly those kind of logistical challenges that we’re gonna have when … If you anticipate, and honestly, I anticipate up to 10,000 people becoming homeless in Dallas in the next six months. We’re watching all the markers around here. We’re looking at the numbers and the data, and it’s … what we’re seeing is really, really scary.

So if your churches know … and this is really relevant to anybody listening to this … if your church knows that some portion of your body is gonna be suffering, struggling financially, then right now you need to be coming up with a plan, a team of people to organize and structure around the benevolence needs. You have people in your church that have lost their job. You have people in your church whose grown children have lost their jobs. So you have some Boomers who, maybe they’re fine, but their grown children have lost their jobs, and now they’re to figure out how to support them. It’s bringing those people together that can put … who can help distribute food? Who can help them with transportation? Who can watch their kids while they go look for another job?

It’s those logistical things where every person that God’s created has the gift. Every single one of us God has blessed with some kind of talent and skill. And when you are using that talent, it is nothing less than worship.

Bill Hendricks
Amen.
Wayne Walker
Nothing less than worship. And some people worship with a guitar. Some people worship through giving. Some people worship by being a businessman and connecting people and bringing those things together or making it happen, being a counselor and listening to someone, or being a comforter. Bringing all those skills together, everybody’s worshiping together, then it’s like the body of Christ, this is orchestra, with Jesus as the conductor. And it’s a beautiful image of however you’re skilled and gifted, the body of Christ needs you now more than ever.
Bill Hendricks
One of the ways to think about poverty is that poverty, as much as anything else, has to do with access or the lack thereof. You think about people on the street. They obviously lack access to housing. They lack access to a lot of other things. Even information. I know in many parts of Dallas … this was a shock to me when I actually learned this from Reed Porter, whose name you may know over at Advocates for Community Transformation.
Wayne Walker
Talked to him on the phone two days ago. Sure.
Bill Hendricks
He’s a good friend. And they were opening a new office in South Dallas, ’cause they’ve expanded down there. And ACT, by the way, for our listeners, they are what amounts to a legal service to poor communities, impoverished communities where drug houses, crack houses have become very problematic in a given neighborhood, such that it reduces the quality or life, as well as the safety of the community. And they have a whole team of people who will use laws on the … existing laws on the books to get these situations redressed, either landlords clean up the properties and kick out the drug dealers, or they get a judgment from the city and the house gets torn down, and somebody builds a new house and a family moves in, and they’ve upgraded the quality of life in the neighborhood. And they’ve had a fantastic track record in doing that.

So they’re allies with you, Wayne, in trying to be life giving to communities here in the Dallas area. But they were expanding into South Dallas and, to my shock, I found out that there are many parts of South Dallas you can’t get Internet service. They simply have not wired up the neighborhoods. Which, when you’re trying to put an office in like ACT was, that was a problem. And they looked high and low to find buildings where they had Internet access. And I thought, “Well how do you live in this day and age if you have a house, if you have a department, but how do you live without Internet?” How would you … You couldn’t have a Zoom call. I suppose on an iPhone you might, but …

Wayne Walker
How will I order Uber Eats if I didn’t have Internet?
Bill Hendricks
Exactly.
Wayne Walker
So the City of Dallas has had to create Internet in South Dallas for kids, for school right now. They’ve had to bring hot spots in. I think they’re putting up some cell towers for that exact thing.
Bill Hendricks
You don’t have access to information, good access to information. It means you’re ripe for a lot of innuendo and rumors and lies, things that just aren’t true. And that leads to all kinds of problems.

On this podcast, obviously, you’re talking to a lot of people, Wayne, who have access. They have had great jobs, and they may be out of work now, but they know people, and they have access to information. They have access to networks of relationships. And it seems like that’s a very powerful thing that could be leveraged on behalf of the people that you’re trying to work with who don’t have access. Tell us a little bit about how that could work.

Wayne Walker
So, we’ve built a couple of apps. I used to be a software guy, and we built a couple of apps to really help us help the homeless. And one of the apps we built is Our Calling app. You just download it off the app store. Probably can’t see it on my phone here. But it’s nationwide, and it … you open it up and you can say, “Where’s the closest food pantry? Where’s the closest domestic violence center? Where’s the closest shelter?” The reason why we put this together is because, specifically in Dallas, and then it grew nationwide, you have that exact problem. You have someone has a need, and then someone who has a resource to meet that need, and the distance between them is a chasm that just can never be crossed. And helping someone find the resources they need is really challenging.

And so we built an app. And most of the people using it are Android users. There’s a lot of government programs where phones are given away, and they’re all cheap Androids. People are using it every day across the nation, and specifically for that. Because what happens is, you have a family now who maybe used to go volunteer somewhere, who now needs food. And they don’t know where to go. So they can open up this app and see, “Hey. Where can I get food today?”

But it’s the connectivity of those agencies. It’s the connectivity of those organizations that’s so very important right now. Most non profits in most cities do not function well together, for some reason. They all believe, “Well, we invented this, and no one’s doing it better than us, and no one’s ever been under a bridge and talked to a homeless person before. I invented it, and it’s changing lives.” We’ve got this arrogance about us. Sometimes they get a little competitive and, “Well, we’re doing outreach better. We’re serving food better. When we do it we pray for people, so it’s ministry, ’cause our prayers are better than the church down the street’s prayers,” or something silly.

And bringing those agencies together, collaborating together, ’cause unfortunately, the body of Christ can be the most dysfunctional body on the planet. Bringing those groups together with business people that will step up and … For example, if you’re listening to this and you’re a board member of an agency, go meet board members of other agencies. Take them to lunch and figure out how you can help bring organizations together. Because, I’ll tell you, the leader of those organizations are so busy leading that organization, they don’t have time to go network, ’cause if they’re networking, they’re not doing as much as their team needs them to do right now.

The time requirement for people that work in non profits, they were already busy. It’s crazy now, and it changes daily. And the necessity for us to network and bring those people together, so people that are listening to this, your pastor at a church, you’re an elder at a church, you’re a deacon or you serve in the church in some way, find ways that you can connect these agencies together. For example, one agency may have too much of A and need B, and the other one has too much of B and needs A.

And it could be even bringing these organizations together to work together under one roof. You were about talking Katrina. Logistically, bringing a couple people to an office, it might mean in some towns, in some cities, taking the entire poverty task force of this agency and this agency and this church and now building into one poverty task force that logistically and structurally can be a lot more effective together.

The needs are going to be nationwide here. There’s not a corner of our country that’s not gonna be effected by poverty right now. So the churches, the body of Christ really need to step up in bringing those groups together. So what can you do? You can ask agencies how to help. But you also can try to figure out how to serve in a leadership role. I don’t need people to come volunteer and say, “Hey. I want to be on your board.” I love board members. I love our board members. They’re awesome. But we don’t want to put 50 people on our board. But I do need people that can come up here and just say, “Hey. What can I do to help? Can I start making calls for this and that and the other?”

Reed, when he moved into their facility, which is actually down the street from us, when we moved here, there was no Internet in this neighborhood. There’s no pizza delivery in the neighborhood. There’s no a lot of things here. One of the funniest things is, we’re one of the Dallas Morning News Charities. They don’t deliver the paper here. And we’re less than a mile away from the Dallas Morning News headquarters.

There are areas in your city that have abject poverty. And working with your local law enforcement, working with your city council … I was talking to a mayor of a city recently, and she said, “Well, how do we know where poor people are?” And I said, “Well, you’ve got someone in your city that’s handing out eviction notices. It’s a legal document. You have a list of homes that are being evicted right there. You don’t have to hunt for them.” And then, with our app, a lot of people are reporting where homeless folks are. They’re reporting need. So we built the app originally for you. You’re driving down the road, you see a tent in the woods. You park in the parking lot and take a picture of that and report it to us. Our teams will go to that spot.

But now we have homeless folks all over the country reporting themselves. Yesterday our team got a message from someone in Huntsville, Alabama. It’s a mom with a new born baby, and she’s getting evicted out of a motel because she can’t afford. What can she do? And we get this story all the time, of people getting evicted, or people struggling, and they’re reporting themselves. And we’ve built a little bit of a tool so our team can connect to them through the app. But really, we need to connect them to an agency in Huntsville. We need to connect the person in Tampa that’s homeless and their kids are living in their car with them to an agency in Tampa.

And so, anybody listening to this, I would encourage you to figure out ways that you can connect directly to people in poverty and people in need. And they probably are not gonna come knocking on the door of your church right now, ’cause again, they’re trying to survive. You need to figure out how to knock on their door, how to go to their neighborhood, how to see how your church can serve them. And also, I’m gonna steal a phrase I heard a really wise man. Once he said, “Put the cookies on the lowest shelf.” Right? Your dad used to say that all the time.

Bill Hendricks
Yes.
Wayne Walker
How do we make the process to get the resources people need easier? Not with a 40 page questionnaire, but now do we make it easier for them to get the necessity stuff? ‘Cause sometimes we make it so difficult that nobody can fill out the form, or no one can go through the process. Obviously, there are people that take advantage of good work. But right now it’s an opportunity to give and support and to love people well.
Bill Hendricks
I was gonna ask, I think what holds a lot of middle class Americans back from serving a homeless person is that fear of I’m gonna get ripped off here. And I think what I hear you saying is, that risk is always out there, but right now it’s actually minimized. Most of the people you’re dealing with are on the margin, and they’re like that lady from Huntsville. She wakes up with a baby and no place to live, and she’s just like, “God, I gotta do something. You gotta do something to help me. And oh, here’s an app. Let me see. Maybe it’ll work. I don’t know, but it’s all I got.”
Wayne Walker
And somewhat in that moment … I was reading through the book of Habakkuk this morning with two of my sons. And the first part of the chapter he says, man, this world is falling apart. It’s terrible. God, are you gonna do something? You could have written that today. Someone in that moment is mad at God. I’ve been praying God’ll fix this, and He hasn’t. He’s ignoring me. So He either must not like me, or He’s not good, or He’s not there. They don’t need another church to walk them through the four spiritual laws. That person has trusted Christ three times a week for the last eight years to get whatever someone’s handing out for free. Jesus said go and make disciples. Growth. Not must getting people to say a prayer. They lead long term relationships.
That mom with that baby doesn’t just need someone to fork over cash for a hotel room. She needs a community to come beside her, maybe for the rest of her life. Jesus said love your neighbor as yourself. And we need, we value these long term relationships. People in poverty, they’re just like people not in poverty. They all need long term relationships. And God has created us just for this moment. It is this moment here that God created the church and brought it together for this right here, for such a time as this. Ephesians 2
8-9 we forget, 2

Right now there’s a moment of poverty in our nation, so that the glory of the Lord can be revealed in the body of Christ. And the opportunity here is to love our neighbor as well, and to be the hands and feet of Christ, and not just the mouthpiece. And the body of Christ needs people to do more than just click like or share something on Facebook, but to actually physically be out there and engaged and involved.

And maybe you have a non-profit that today you can go to their Amazon wish list page and just buy them some resources if you can’t go there. Or maybe you can run an errand for them that they can’t run. You can just do it in your car and you can put your mask on and stay isolated. Maybe at your church you could get a list of people’s that you can just call today on the phone and say, “Hey. How’re you doing Bill, I want to pray with you. How’s your family? How are your kids.” And do some pastoral care over the phone. Maybe you can clear out some of the things in your closet, in your pantry and give them to your church.

One of the things you mentioned about giving money away, I still am completely against pan handling. Now I’m not the Holy Spirit. I’m not telling you what to do, but I would encourage people to not give cash directly to a person. Jesus said, when I was hungry you gave me something to eat, not that you gave me a few bucks to appease your conscious, and roll up your window and go to the next spot. There’s so many illustrations in the Bible of people being blessed through generosity. The apostle Paul, the only time he ever raised money was to feed the poor because of famine in Jerusalem. They had to raise up deacons in the book of Acts to pass out food. Passing out real needs, and maybe even specifically through a qualified organization, and use it with accountability as a relationship tool.

So the only reason we do showers here and laundry here and clothes here and food here, it’s not bait. But we do it as a relational tool. We do it as an opportunity to show the love of Christ. One of our values here is dignity. And so the way we measure what we do is, “Would your mom?” Would your mom eat that? Would your mom wear that? Would your mom use the bathroom in that condition? We need to clean it up a little bit better. And so we want to love people with the best we have to offer, and we want to give it to them in an accountable way.

Bill Hendricks
I’m glad that you mentioned the our moment here. I would, for our listeners, just want to highlight that. Correct me if I’m wrong, Wayne. I’ve asked this of a number of people, and I have yet to have anybody contradict me. I think you’d actually have to go back to the flood to find an event that has impacted the entire world and its population so dramatically, and frankly so suddenly, in literally a matter of weeks, and brought the world, and at least half its people if not the majority to a standstill. We talk about the word unprecedented. To this scale, I can’t think of anything else that quite rivals it, except the flood.

And that means we’re in a historic moment here. And in part that means we’re all having to make things up as we go along, ’cause we’ve never really faced something of this scale of magnitude before. I … maybe I’m just an optimist … but I tend to think this is a moment to rise to. This is the moment God has given us. This did not take Him by surprise. And He knew this was coming when He put each of us that’s currently here on the planet. And I like to think that I could look back on this pandemic with some sense of joy, if not pride, in well, here’s what I did to address it. Here’s now I seized that moment. Here’s how I used the gifts, the resources, the relationships, the access, and so forth that God had given to me. That when that time came, yeah, I had needs, and I took my … I did what I tried to do, could do, to meet those needs personally. But I saw so many other needs and I said, “Okay. I gotta do something. God’s put me here for a reason, right now, to address some of these needs.” And so, what am I gonna be remembered for? What am I gonna remember, looking back on the great pandemic of 2020, and how God stirred in my heart to do something, and not just binge watch on TV to get through it?

Wayne Walker
Yeah. I want to say that’s the reason why we started Our Calling. I can’t unsee what I’ve seen. And I had to do something. We went around to every organization in the city that worked with the homeless community and said, “Hey. We want to do evangelism outreach, discipleship on the streets. Not just in a shelter, but the people that can’t get in the shelter.” And we got a ton of push back and a lot of even comments from Jesus loving folks that were really pretty challenging theologically on, “Well, they just can’t be helped,” kind of things. We’re kind of drawn to the hard thing. You get to a point in your faith where you’ve recognized that God created me to do something, and I have to do this something. I always tell my boys, they ask me how I knew that my wife was the woman I wanted to marry. And I said, “Well, it’s not because I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. It’s because I recognized at a point that I could not spend the rest of my life without her.” And I think that’s very much the same thing in ministry with the calling. It’s not that I want to do this, it’s that I can’t not do this.
Bill Hendricks
Exactly.
Wayne Walker
I cannot spend the rest of my life doing A. I have to do B. I cannot survive. That’s why God created me. And for some people that means they turn down a better job, or they make less money, or their family calls the crazy. ‘Cause we’ve all been doing that. I have someone on my staff who’s a medical doctor, gave up the entire practice and come to serve and work with homeless folks, and really isn’t practicing medicine here at all. I have another one that used to be assistant district attorney. Very successful attorney. Gave it up to be discipling homeless men and women.

We’ve got so many folks that have decided … and this is just true in ministry wherever you are. I would say this is true of every faculty member at DTS. They could all get paid a lot more work than anywhere else. They’re there because they love the Lord. And the Lord has gifted them in a unique way, and it is that space there that they can use that gift. And they cannot not use it. I think your dad used to say … and I hate to keep quoting your dad … but he used to say …

Bill Hendricks
He was memorable.
Wayne Walker
… “Your career is what you’re paid to do. Your calling is what you’re made to do.” And I believe that we were made to do this.
Bill Hendricks
Well, that’s a challenge to our listeners. What did God call you to do? What did He make you to do, and therefore call you to do? And are you doing that? And are you doing that faithfully and with intentionality?

Wayne, we only have about five minutes left here, but I guess I wanted to touch on an issue that is frankly sensitive in our culture right now. Natural disasters, including pandemics, they always hit the poor harder, because the poor are already on the margin, and it just worsens their situation. So, the tsunami hits the poor, and the famine hits the poor. The wealthy, the affluent, they have more walls between them and trouble. Obviously, this pandemic is no respecter of persons. And so you’ve got prime ministers as well as beggars taken down by it.

Having said all that, one other thing that something like this lays bare are some of the injustices that have been endemic to our culture. So, in our case, we’re seeing a higher incidence, for instance, of the virus and the effects of the virus on the African-American community, and other marginalized communities. You’re, again, seeing close up, face to face, every day on the front lines how this works. What’s your perspective on them?

Wayne Walker
Three months ago, someone might have looked at a homeless person and said, “Well, you’re homeless ’cause you’re lazy. You’re homeless ’cause you don’t want a job, and you choose to be homeless, and you’re living the life that you deserve.” Now today, when you see someone died of COVID, you wouldn’t say that. For someone who’s lost their job like, “You lost your job because you’re not smart enough to get one that survives the pandemic.” Or something foolish like, “Well, if you’d only taken care of yourself, you would be healthy.” And I’ve even heard a little bit of that static from the community of, “Well, the poor people are getting more sick ’cause they don’t take care of themselves. If only they’d focus more on taking care of their family, then they wouldn’t be dealing with this as much.”

And the twisted mentality that that brings ignores the reality that, when you’re poor, you can’t stop and go to the clinic. You can’t stop and take your kids to the park and hang out with them more, because you’re working three jobs. You’ve got these communities that don’t have medical services. They just don’t. I joked about, when we moved here we didn’t have Internet in this whole neighborhood, or the paper wouldn’t be delivered. There’s still places in South Dallas that don’t have running water. There are places in South Dallas that the police don’t want to go ’cause it’s so bad. There are places where there is no clinic, there is no testing. The city keeps saying, “We’ll open up all this drive through testing.” Well that’s great, if you can drive.

Bill Hendricks
If you don’t have a car …
Wayne Walker
Drive through requires you to be able to go there, and it’s just not possible. Why we’re not going to these extremely infected zip codes and neighborhoods, and setting up in their parking lot, an opportunity for the church to be the hands of Christ. I’ll tell you, one of our church partners, because their clinics were shut down with some of this, they’ve actually come out here now and they’ve set up a portable clinic in our parking lot. And they’re now providing medical services here, because they realized those who have needs can’t always go there. And our poor community, Dallas … every city has a history that’s ugly, often. And our whole country has a history that’s ugly of disenfranchising and taking advantage of people and abuse and all these civil rights issues that are not … ignored and are still here and still have repercussions. And you still have scars from it.

And the church needs to do the reaching out part. The church needs to be the going first part. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples.” We have to go and pursue them in the incarnational way that He came and pursued us. We have to go the extra mile. We have to be able to give more to a poorer community. We have to be able to serve more than we do a wealthier community, because they are in a vacuum, they’re in a desert. You wouldn’t go to a person that lived in a desert all of his life and tell him, “Hey, you big dummy, why are you thirsty?” Well, he’s thirsty because he’s in a desert. And so what he needs you to do is show up there with the sustenance that he needs to survive, and be the body of Christ there, and not to judge them.

There’s a quote from a book called Tattoos on the Heart. Excellent book. You should read it. Everybody should read it. It’s Father Boyle from Start It Up ministry in South LA to gang members. There’s some colorful language in there, but it’s a great, great book. There’s a quote in there where he says, “Unfortunately, we don’t judge the poor by the burdens they carry. We judge them by the way they carry them.” I’m gonna say that again. “We don’t judge the poor by the burdens they have to carry. We judge them for the way they carry them.” And if we understood the burdens they were carrying, if we understand the historical and generational poverty and generational abuse and generational victimization that this community is under, it would open our eyes, and we’ve be a lot more sensitive, and frankly, we’d look more like Jesus.

Bill Hendricks
Absolutely. The thing I love about Our Calling is that you’re not doing charity, you’re doing discipleship. And you’re doing exactly what God has called us to do. People can get ahold of Our Calling, I assume at Our Calling.org? Is that true?
Wayne Walker
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
Our Calling.org? Thank you very much, Wayne, for being with us today. This is a timely word, but at the same time, it’s a timeless word, ’cause you have touched on a number of themes here that are gonna be in place long after we’re gone. The poor, Jesus said, you have with you always.

Thank you for being with us on the table. And for the table podcast, I’m Bill Hendricks.

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Bill Hendricks
Bill Hendricks is Executive Director for Christian Leadership at the Center and President of The Giftedness Center, where he serves individuals making key life and career decisions. A graduate of Harvard, Boston University, and DTS, Bill has authored or co-authored twenty-two books, including “The Person Called YOU: Why You’re Here, Why You Matter & What You Should Do With Your Life.” He sits on the Steering Committee for The Theology of Work Project.
Wayne Walker
Wayne Walker, founder of Our Calling, continues to serve as its executive director and pastor to the homeless. Wayne earned a master’s degree in cross cultural ministry from DTS and was called to befriend and minister to men and women in the homeless community while he was completing his studies. During that time he established personal, discipleship-oriented relationships with homeless individuals, many in the same urban setting where he and his family continue to work today. Wayne and his wife Carolyn, have been married twenty-one years and have four children ranging in age from 12–19.
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