To Give is a Powerful Thing.

I heard from a  friend that today was Union Gospel Mission’s annual “Operation Overcoat” event where they do a coat-drive for all of Portland’s homeless – which is to last them through the cold winter months.  We took the kids with us and went down to 3rd and Burnside as a family to see if we could help. There were many people lined up for coats and food – about two-three blocks long. We stopped by Stumptown Coffee Roasters for a cup o joe first…where I met “Rex”, a girl who seemed in her late teens, sitting right outside the coffee shop. She was obviously homeless, with her sign asking for money so she could pay for her place in a hostel that night…and her small bundle of belongings. She was tan, had short, curly hair covered mostly with a cute hat, and eyes that were tired and kind and evading.

As I stood in line at Stumptown, I thought I’d just have Rick order so that I could talk with her. I never would have done this one year ago. But since learning a bit more about street life, and since I’ve been given more authority to approach people, I’ve gotten used to it. I probably even seem pushy or entitled to some. But regardless, I have way fewer thoughts about how people view me. (Gal. 10:1) especially if there is a greater, God-given purpose at steak… I really dont care much about anything except wanting to use this new audacity and courage to further His cause and Kingdom. Sure, I get insecure and pelt with anxiety at times, but I’ve been pushing through, because of that end purpose.

I had Angel & Braylon with me and we approached her with a smile. She smiled back. I said, Hi. and introduced myself and kids.  Then the conversation went something like this,

So, we wanted to take our kids down here and meet some people – kind of get out of our lil neighborhood today. It’s good to meet you. How long have you been in Portland? {Just like 2 days. I’m from New York. But came here to Portland from Cali.}

Wow, how’d you get here? {Usually, I hitch-hike… but sometimes jump a train. It’s not so bad.}

So, you’re trying to get enough money to stay at a hostel tonight? {Yeah.} …then we talked about the coffee at Stumptown and how someone bought her one and the barista made a heart design in the foam…and somehow the conversation turned to the Saturday Market….and then to child trafficking. She didn’t know really what it was, or that it happened in the U.S. much. I told her it sure did…and right here in Portland. I let her know that ,ost of the time it is not actually not done by kidnapping or force at first (like she thought), but by people tricking (mostly) girls (average age 12-14) … coercing them – dating for a while, buying them nice things – or giving them food & shelter – just enough to survive, but make sure that these girls never have enough to feel secure or independent. I went on to say that many times, when girls are lured in like this, once they’re in, they are usually raped or even gang-raped – told they are useless, stupid and other painful things. And told they are a piece of property now. But I didn’t want to just tell her all that and then be like, “Well, I gotta go now, good luck!”, so,  I let her know of the Walk to Stop Child Trafficking next Saturday, Oct.2nd, to stop this crime, and gave her a post card with the address. I made sure to let her know it was was free & that I’d love to see her there.

Before we all went on our way, I thought I should ask her if she wanted prayer for anything, so I did. She smiled again and looked down and said “sure”. I asked her what to pray for and she replied, “just happiness”….nodded her head & said it again. I reassured her I would to that. She replied, “thanks”, paused, and then reminded me to check out Saturday Market.

We walked on, toward Burnside, and came across a man playing guitar for change. Rick & I don’t carry change or cash usually, but Braylon had just earned $5 in allowance yesterday. This wasn’t just any $5. though. Rick must have gotten it from the bank in the form of silver & gold coin dollars…so it was more like treasure than allowance money. He was SO excited to get it that he went back to hug his dad with a few extra ‘I love you’s.

Well, Braylon saw this musician’s case open and he realized he had that money on him. He reached in his pocket and walked back and tossed in a silver dollar. The old man winked and nodded and kept playing. Braylon just smiled. When we asked him why he did that, he said, “because of the feeling I get when I do that”… “and because he was playing soooo goooood!” We told him we were very proud of him and that the Lord loves a cheerful giver.

Two more blocks down, a frail looking woman in her late 40’s who was limping, asked us (as a family) if we had just 75 cents so that she could catch the bus. Rick & I felt lame that we didn’t & told her that and started to continue on our way, but Braylon slowed up a bit. To a stop. He reached down again, into his pocket and pulled out another one of his silver dollar treasures, walked back toward her, and extended his hand out with that coin. She thought we’d passed her up so she was taken aback – especially that an 8 yr old boy would give her this. She actually refused as first. But when Braylon kept his hand out, she took the coin and thanked him, and said to him, “God bless you, son, thank you! You are so precious!” As we walked on, kiddingly, Rick said, Bray, you’re gonna go broke if you keep givin’ away your money!” And that woman was still right behind us and heard and said smiling, something like, “Oh, you will not go broke. I know you won’t. God will bless you with even more!”

We just kept telling him how proud we were of him, giving like this. After we dropped off the coats, we went to Burger King. I guess there was a spirit of giving – a theme for the day! And next thing I know, Ricky had bought several gift cards there, to give to homeless people. We drove back to Stumptown to find Rex & give her one, but she’d already packed up her few things and moved.  I really wanted to see her again. Maybe I will next weekend.

Tonight, Rick and Bray did a reading experiment. Since 8 is B’s favorite number, we went to the 8th book of the New Testiment, the 8th chapter and 8th verse…just to see what it said. To get the full idea, he had to back up one verse and read it all together:

Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving. I am not commanding you to do this. But I am testing how genuine your love is by comparing it with the eagerness of the other churches. – 2 Cor. 8:7-8

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