Loving the Least, the Last, and the Lost
About the Guest
The problem of homelessness is so large, it is tempting to just give up and ignore the whole matter. Michael and Haley DiMarco say that there are ways to avoid being taken advantage of, and of being apathetic. Join us and discover how you can rise above apathy, as you obey the heart of God for caring for the least and the last.
The problem of homelessness is so large, it is tempting to just give up and ignore the whole matter.
Loving the Least, the Last, and the Lost
Bob: One of the most unusual statements Jesus ever made about Himself was this, “The foxes have holes; the birds have nests; the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.”
Hayley: A lot of churches will send people on mission trips; they go to far-off lands to help people in need. I think we have a mission field right here. You have these people who find themselves in a terrible situation, who are suddenly tender to the message. They are more interested in the hand of God that can help them up. We have for churches and for individuals a tremendous opportunity to have a missionary outreach right here in our own country—having a church that comes up with a way to help the homeless in their own community if there is not one already.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, December 4th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Christmas is a season when we ought to have “the least of these” in the forefront of our minds.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. You know, of the subject we are going to be talking about today, I have found, and I have talked to a lot of people who would agree, they are familiar with Matthew 25—the parable that is found there of the sheep and the goats. Jesus is separating the sheep from the goats and saying to the sheep, “Well done. When I was hungry, you fed me. When I was thirsty, you gave me drink. When I was naked, you clothed me. When I was in jail, you visited me.” They say, “When did we do this?” And He says, “When you did it to the least of these, you did it for me.” Then He rebukes those on His left hand for not doing it.
I have found people read that passage and go, “Okay. I understand the point, but I’m not sure how to apply that day to day as a Christian.” They have a desire but they are not sure how to put shoe leather to that passage. Do you know what I am talking about?
Dennis: I do. We have someone who is going to help us nail down how you can be compassionate in a tangible way here at the Christmas season. Michael and Hayley DiMarco join us again on the broadcast. Hayley, Michael, welcome back.
Michael and Hayley: Thanks.
Dennis: Michael and Hayley have written more than 30 books. A number of books would be of interest to our audience: Dateable, that’s for single guys and girls?
Dennis: Okay. Mean Girls. (laughter) Who is that for? (laughter)
Hayley: Yeah, you can see who that is for.
Dennis: Let’s not answer that.
Michael: Biting. (laughter)
Dennis: The Woman of Mystery. That’s for young ladies to become women who can’t quite be figured out, to not answer all the questions.
Hayley: Right and for us older women, as well. (laughter)
Michael: For the old ladies.
Dennis: Anybody who has read your stuff knows that you guys are innovative, you are fresh, you are talking about meeting people’s needs where they live every day. The subject that Bob talked about earlier is the subject of people who are down and out, destitute, poor. In this case, what you are addressing and a new project you have put together, you are addressing the needs of homeless people. Explain the Hungry Planet Bible Project to our listeners and where you are going in visiting homeless people all across the nation.
Michael: All right. For the past six or seven years, whenever we have gone into our local bank and made deposits into our Hungry Planet business account, we always get looks of tellers, wanting to hand us bags of canned food, things like that. We say, “No, no, no. Hungry Planet is a publishing company. We are talking about feeding the worlds’ appetite for truth. God has brought our company name full circle into this project where we actually are dealing with…
Dennis: They kind of shamed you into it. (laughter)
Michael: Well, shamed or prepared, tilled the soil, is kind of a more subtle way. Yes. I can deal with shame. (laughter)
Dennis: So as a result, you started on a 10,000-mile journey. Right now we have caught you at what mile?
Michael: Probably about 6,001. (laughter) We are right around 6,000 miles into the journey. Basically, we have this crazy idea of, “What would it be like to have an audio Bible that was recorded, just using the voices and faces of the homeless—of the least, the last, and the lost?” In addition, to tell the stories of these people and how they came about homelessness and what helped them out of homelessness. In every one of these stories, it was through the hand of our Savior.
Bob: What has been the biggest surprise for you as you have embarked on this project? Hayley, has it been the number of women and children who are homeless?
Hayley: Yes. I think like most Americans, as we talked about doing this, I really thought it was going to be the guy I see on the street, the guy on the corner that looks like he hasn’t had a shower in months and smells of alcohol; but as we went out, I saw that that is really the obnoxious minority. There is a silent majority. There is a group of people who are homeless that we don’t really know about. They are not on the street begging. They might be in the grocery store with you and thinking, “What can I buy for a dollar?” Their kids are going to school with your kids. You don’t know that they are living in their car at night.
Dennis: Wait a second. How does that happen? I mean, I remember a number of years ago; and Bob, you will remember this too. As our listeners know, we are a listener-supported broadcast. One of the most humbling gifts we have received in the history of this ministry was $6. I believe it was in cash from a woman who identified herself as a homeless woman with a child in school who listened to our broadcast every day. She was finding hope through listening to our broadcast, and she wanted to participate in the finances of the ministry. I’m going, “Where does she live?” Where do you find them, Hayley?
Hayley: You find them everywhere. For us to actually come in contact with them, we are finding them through Christian organizations, and even through some state-run organizations, where these people have come for help. We are really talking about a majority of people who do not want to be on the street. They really do want help. These are the people who obviously that you can help. You can’t help the guy who doesn’t want any help.
Hayley: We are finding them in organizations that want to change their pattern of life and help them.
Bob: Shelters, rescue missions--is that what you are talking about?
Bob: Is it dormitory style of living that these folks are signed up for?
Michael: Well, the real model that is working is not the soup kitchen with the bed overnight and kick you out in the morning. Those serve a purpose, but really those are really kind of perpetuating—it’s a band aid. The programs that are really working are these residential programs where it is a large house. Some rescue missions now are not only running the warm bed and three square meals, but they are also running residential programs in large homes where they have like 30 residents. They have to commit to be drug-free, alcohol-free and be in the program for two years.
Dennis: You were telling me that some of these folks were running training centers around life skills, handling budgets, computer training, and that one of the big, “Ah-huhs,” was not only who is the homeless person, but also who runs these shelters? They are not people who went to college in the area of social work. Who did you find them to be?
Michael: Generally, that is true. Some of the most inspiring stories we have come across and recorded for this DVD are men and women who have been successful in the business world, in local politics, that have found that what they were working for, even though they were believers, was in their words, “Going to burn,” or in the Bible’s words, “Going to burn.” They really wanted to make a difference. What they have done, they have used the talents and the gifts and the experiences that God has given them through the business world and said, “How can we attack this problem of homelessness in our communities? Strategically, how do we do it in the business world?”
Giving them a warm bed and a meal, that’s not going to do anything—it’s just a band aid, as I said before. What they are doing is they are creating networks of homes where they go through a two-year residential program. They move to an apartment complex that is unsupervised living, but they still have Bible studies and group therapy for those who are overcoming addiction. Their success rate is through the roof. It is happening all over, especially in this tough economic time, organizations that are really reaching out to help the homeless, the hungry, widows, orphans, James 1:27.
Hayley: You know a lot of churches will send people on mission trips; they go to far-off lands to help people in need. I think we have a mission field right here. You have these people who find themselves in a terrible situation, who are suddenly more tender to the message. They are more interested in the hand of God that can help them up. We have for churches and for individuals a tremendous opportunity to have a missionary outreach right here in our own country by helping these organizations or, maybe, creating your own. You know, having a church that comes up with a way to help the homeless in their own community if there is not one already.
Bob: Hayley, drug and alcohol, a big issue? I mean we keep hearing about treatment, residential, and you have to commit to being drug- and alcohol-free.
Bob: Are a lot of these folks homeless because they have made the choice to be drug and alcohol abusers?
Hayley: Yes. I think that there are a lot of young women who get into trouble as far as being involved with drugs and they get pregnant, so they are at a point…you know once we have kids, our ideas change about God and the world; and we start to think, “Oh yeah, I need to make some changes.” There are these women who are not going to stay in that pattern any longer but they just need help. There are definitely a lot of people, both men and women, who end up on the street because of that. It is not exclusively that.
Bob: The issue of domestic violence is big too.
Hayley: That’s a big one.
Bob: Talk about that.
Michael: They tend to go hand-in-hand, especially when we are visiting these women’s shelters. There usually is a history of some sort of alcohol or drug abuse, not always, but there usually is some sort of history with that. As Hayley said, once a child is introduced to the situation, I think the mothering instinct takes over and that is when they see an opportunity for a clean break, but almost every staff worker at these shelters that help women, either exclusively or in concert with men, they almost to a man or woman say verbatim, “Most of these women, beyond alcohol and drugs, most of these women are addicted to men. They feel helpless; they have a victim mentality, they invite abuse or they look for men to solve all their problems. They will be with a bad man if he will provide for their child.”
So there is a huge opportunity for spiritual growth and for weaning these women who have come out of bad family situations or who have just been rebellious—they have been rebellious teens and have gone down a road, almost like the prodigal son. The prodigal daughter, “I just can’t call Dad. I can’t call Daddy. I can’t tell him what I have done. I can’t tell him what I have been through.” They just keep digging the hole, and they won’t drop the shovel. That is what these ministries are for.
Dennis: You know, as you guys have talked about this, I can’t help but think of a family today, listening to the broadcast and thinking, “Yeah, I really ought to take our children near; we need to go near; we need to be jarred out of our materialistic culture that we live in and be brought near to people who don’t have much.” There really are some benefits to our young people that we don’t talk about here. Hayley, you are a mom of a daughter. Your daughter is going with you. It is safe to go do this, right? I mean it is safe to go near? I think that some people erroneously think it is extremely dangerous and it is life-threatening to go into these places.
Hayley: Sure. When I told some of my friends what I was doing, they said, “Do you think that is safe?” All of them were questioning, “You are going to take Addie with you?” I think that is our natural instinct as mothers, “That would be very dangerous.” No, we are not talking about going down under the bridge and asking people in their cardboard huts if we can give them food or money. We are talking about organizations that are well-run and that have a place for people like us to plug-in.
I think for us it has been a really great opportunity for Addie to see that not everyone has everything together, and that is okay. We can help those people instead of judging them or walking away from them. It has been an opportunity for her to give things. We have her, if she wants, give up her stuffed animals to the kids. That has really been an interesting journey for her because she is only four. It is quite hard to give away the things you love, but she has been learning that. So I think all of us can teach our kids some valuable spiritual lessons if we are willing to risk going someplace that is a little messy.
Bob: I am going to make another confession; I have already made one confession this week, but I might as well just come clean with all of this. There are times when I have interacted with folks who are in need, who are homeless or who are looking for money, and we’ll get into a spiritual conversation. Almost always these folks identify themselves as Christians.
The confession is: I feel like I am being played. I’ m just being honest; I feel like this person knows that, “If I’ll say, ‘Jesus’ to this guy who has just identified himself, he’ll open up his wallet a little bigger. He will feel like he has to have even more compassion because now I’m one of him.” So what do I do with that? How would you guys coach me on this sense that someone is talking Jesus-talk to me just to get some more money out of me?
Michael: That sounds really similar to experiences that I have had on the sidewalk. You know, we all have developed our radar. That is why there is so much benefit to taking the good motivations we have in those moments and funneling them into local organizations, or even national organizations that you have educated yourself about, and plugging in your time and your efforts and your money into them. You know that people are there, they have made a commitment and there is a good strategy for getting these people out of their cycle of homelessness.
Dennis: At that point, I’ll confess my cynicism about some of these homeless shelters that I’ve run into over the years where you hear the stories about how the money is being cyphened off and it never ends up going to feeding or clothing or helping the people that it was intended for. I think there is a good practical way for you to check on that. This doesn’t guarantee you that the organization will be one hundred percent pure in its motive but if the logo for ECFA—the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability—is on their letterhead or on their door or on their website it lets you know that their board of directors and governance is not loaded with relatives. It’s a good mix of people from different disciplines and that they are audited. They are accountable to an outside organization for spending their money the way they said they would spend it.
Bob: That doesn’t just apply to rescue missions or homeless organizations. That applies to all ministries and in fact I’ve always encouraged folks that when you are looking to give whether it’s to any ministry whether it’s a broadcast ministry or a homeless shelter look and see if they are members of ECFA. If they are not you need to ask the question, “why?” That doesn’t mean you’d never give to them but it means you ought to know why they aren’t members before you make that decision.
Dennis: I’m glad you mentioned that Bob because I know some very fine organizations that give money to the poor and feed the hungry who are not members of ECFA and I know about them because I was a board member for ECFA for a number of years and I’ve actually encouraged those organizations to join because by being outside of that accountability I think they raise questions about their own organization.
Regardless about all that here’s the challenge for the single person who is listening or the single mom or married couple or even some grandparents who are listening in I think what Michael and Hayley are challenging us with today is one worthy of really praying and asking God is there something You would like me to go and do in the name of Christ in our community? To get engaged and involved and perhaps help financially this Christmas season these folks who feed, clothe, and train folks who have been impacted by this economic climate. I would go so far to say just as FamilyLife evaluated its own purpose a number of years ago and really determined that we needed to be involved in a compassion outreach. We started a ministry called Hope for Orphans which put us near the foster care system here in America but it also exposed us to needs worldwide for orphans and addressing the subject of adoption. That’s been good for our organization. I think what you are talking about Michael and Hayley will be good for individuals, for married couples, and for families here at this Christmas season. I want to thank you for enduring 6,001 miles and I pray you have no more flat tires. In fact, have you had any flat tires in 6,000 miles?
Hayley: We’ve had other things.
Michael: We did have one flat tire but it wasn’t while we were driving. Going on a round the globe road trip like this has really upped my handy man skills.
I’ve got more receipts from Home Depot and Camping World. It is my hope that families and churches and organizations will watch this DVD and the other resources together and get inspired to do exactly what you are saying. Get plugged in locally or even on a national level to help those in need.
Bob: And I think anybody who watches what you have put together and who meets via video the people you have been meeting in person…its compelling. It shows you a different face to this issue than what we normally think of. I’m hoping that families or small groups or churches will be a part of the Hungry Planet Bible Project and get the “No Room at the Inn” Advent devotional experience. This is a DVD ROM that features a mini documentary and some of the footage that you’ve shot as you’ve gone from shelter to shelter around the country. It features the Christmas story read by homeless and hungry people which is a different way to even think about the Christmas story. It’s got a discussion guide that families can use and creative ideas on things we can do to make like more comfortable for those in need.
You can find out more about this resource by going to our website FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order from us online if you’d like. While you are on the web let me also draw your attention to the book that Barbara Rainey has written called When Christmas Came. It takes one of the most familiar verses in the Bible John 3:16 that talks about God as a giving God and puts it in the context of the Christmas season. It includes some original watercolor work that Barbara has done. It’s a beautiful book and you can see a copy of it on our website as well.
You can also request these resources from us by phone. Our number is 1-800-FL-TODAY. That’s 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. When you get in touch with us we can pass along to you how you can have these resources sent to you.
One of the things that is humbling for us here at FamilyLife Today is to stop and consider the number of folks who not only listen to FamilyLife Today but those of you who have gotten in touch with us throughout the year and helped to support this program by making donations for the ministry of FamilyLife Today. It is humbling to think that you would send in a $25 or $50 or $100 donation and some of you more than that. We appreciate your financial partnership with us. We are listener supported so all of the costs associated with producing and syndicating this daily radio program those costs are funded by your generous support.
Between now and the end of the year we have a special opportunity that has been made available to us. Some friends of the ministry have stepped forward to say we want to encourage FamilyLife Today listeners to make a year-end contribution in support of FamilyLife Today. They are encouraging you to do that by agreeing to match every donation that we receive between now and the end of December on a dollar for dollar basis up to a total of $1,250,000.
This is the largest single matching gift that we have ever received as a ministry and that’s very exciting news for us but what it means for us is that we need as many listeners as possible to go online at FamilyLife Today.com or to call 1-800-FL-TODAY and be as generous as you can in making a year-end contribution. If you make a $50 donation they will pitch in another $50 so you’re donation is doubled this month. We do hope to hear from you. Again thanks for your support. We look forward to hearing from you.
We hope you have a great weekend. We hope you can worship together. And we hope you can join us back on Monday Greg and Martha Singleton are going to be here and we are going to talk about some creative ways that families can turn their home into a place of worship. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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