Dear Friends and Family,
Dan has had a difficult year. His brother died from alcohol abuse, and his mom was moved to a nursing home. He was evicted a few months later and has been living on the streetsand occasionally with friends. He showed us the small park near our home where he sometimes sleeps. Dan says he wants to get his life together, but many obstacles lie in his path. He needs an ID in order to apply for jobs and housing. In order to get an ID, he needs to get a social security card. When we took him to get his social security card, we were told he needs to present an ID to obtain it. Dan is stuck in a system that is difficult to escape. We are helping him through it, but Dan’s obstacles are as much internal as they are external. They are deeper and more intangible than an ID.
Dan sees the minor obstacle of his ID as an impossible barrier. He has lost the desire and hope needed to overcome it. Instead of working to get his ID, he drinks during the day. The last time I saw Dan, he had just gotten out of the hospital for alcohol poisoning. He cannot afford cigarettes, so he makes his own from the butts he finds on the ground. He picks apart the discarded remains of tobacco and rolls them in scraps of newspaper. Dan’s poverty marks him. The smell of stale cigarettes seeps into his clothes and pores. When I hold his hands during prayer, they are stained black with tar.
Dan is too ashamed to face his mom. She lives in a nearby nursing home and rarely has visitors. She smokes in the courtyard and lays in bed the rest of the day. She is lonely and unhappy. During our visits, the conversation tends toward two topics: going home and Dan. She wants to know how he is doing and smiles when we tell her that we recently saw him. We asked Dan if he wanted to come with us to see his mom, but he said he wants to turn his life around first.
It is easy to be critical of Dan, but many of us are guilty of the same behavior. God wants us to come to Him, and we refuse. There are always reasons: we are too busy, too tired, too uncertain, too sinful. We add “too” to the front and our minor obstacles become impossible barriers. We want to turn our lives around before turning to Him, but we need God in order to turn our lives around. He does not want us to find an apartment or a job before coming to Him. He doesn’t ask us to first abandon our vices and purify our souls. He wants us in our miserable, sinful condition. He wants us with our poverties, addictions, and tar-stained hands. He wants us as we are, and he wants to make us clean. His love is a great and terrible thing. When the love that created us looks us in the face, it is not easy or comfortable. It demands everything of us, and it gives everything to us.
We asked Dan about his mom during a recent visit, and to our surprise, he agreed to see her. The next day we went to pick him up. After waiting for 20 minutes, he still hadn’t shown up. I felt certain that he had changed his mind, but he finally arrived. He was wearing the same clothes from the day before, and his hands were still black with tar. For the entire two-hour visit, Dan refused to sit down or share any of our homemade lemon meringue pie. He only seemed at ease when he and his mom went outside to smoke. They did not talk about Dan’s eviction or his unemployment. They didn’t talk much at all, but Dan’s presence was enough. It was the best visit we’ve had simply because he was there. We couldn’t give Dan the desire to visit his mom. We just provided the push and the ride he needed to make it possible. Visiting his mom is a first step in Dan’s path to holiness. God loves us as His children, and Dan is learning to be a son. He is learning to accept a love that is difficult but good. This is our role as missionaries: to give people a push towards God and to provide a means to get to Him.
During Lent, we make a concerted effort to be there. Our prayers, fasts, offerings, and sacrifices bring us closer to God. We can choose to go to Him now, exactly as we are. We cannot hide from Him in our shame. Instead, we present our sins with repentance. We throw ourselves at the foot of the cross and ask for mercy. We have hope because the sorrow of Lent gives way to the joy of Easter. Our sins bring us death, but the death of Jesus brings us eternal salvation.
Salvation must be the goal of everything we do. As missionaries, we aim to help people with whatever needs they present to us. These are often material needs such as diapers, groceries, and Metro passes. But material needs are secondary, as “the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us” (Romans 8:18). The assistance we provide is the means by which we build long-term friendships. These friendships move beyond the merely material. They help people to know God’s love and enter into union with Him. Your donations relieve the sufferings of the present time and build up the Kingdom.
Simple House missionaries are not professionals. We are lay volunteers searching to live out the Gospel and bring it to others. We do not receive salaries, and we have very little overhead. We ask that you consider becoming a monthly donor to provide ongoing support to families throughout the year. We are also in need of your prayers. Our prayers are with you, as well.
God bless you,
Mary-Kate Burns with full-time volunteers: Ethan Bertrand, Mark and Lora Eckstine, Gabriela Figueroa, Ryan Hehman, Clark Massey, Chelsea St. Peter, and Margo Wernel