Sept 9. 2014 I am beginning a new extended CPE (Certified Pastoral Education) unit with SF Night Ministry.
SF Night Ministry (www.sfnightministry.org) is a nonprofit organization in San Francisco. Here is what they say of who they are:
The Night Ministry provides crisis intervention, counseling and referral services every night of the year. We haven’t missed one night in 49 years.
And we do this every night, rain or shine, whether it’s a holiday or not, between 10:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. We staff a crisis telephone line and support night ministers who literally walk the streets of San Francisco offering face-to-face conversations to those who are lonely, anxious and afraid in the middle of the night, when crises are most acute and when social services don’t readily exist.
Some people have asked me why I am doing an extended unit and why with them? Truth is I don’t ‘need to’ but I ‘want to.’ My ‘why’ goes deeper and yet, it is evasive.
It all began in Oct. 2007 when I was lifted of my own pit of despair. I am a recovering alcoholic. I have not had a drink since and praise God, no relapses. But it was that life-changing moment (an encounter) with Jesus where my sobriety began that was powerful, grace-filled and oh so very real. More real than most things I experience everyday.
Once I began my “one day at a time” walk it did not take long for me to walk right down to the banks of the St. John’s river in Visalia, CA where homeless people struggled to survive. Their plight became my plight.
At the time there were a few dozen tents set-up and their situations varied. Some were there because they too suffered with addictions. Some were there because they lost everything and had nowhere else to go. Others were there because they were dropped off; having been released from prison, they had no alternatives. There was a rescue mission in town but they only had so many beds or they would split families up which, if it were me, I wouldn’t want either. Truth is too, for some who use or drink? They can’t quit, they’re not ready or able to stop yet and therefore cannot sleep in the shelter. So there they were up and down along the river bank and I befriended them and when I saw them, I saw Jesus.
He was in their hunger, cold and thirst. Jesus was even in their jones-ing or shakes. Wherever suffering existed, Jesus was there and who wouldn’t want to be with Jesus? I know I sure did.
For some that enter homeless camps and alleyways they envision they are bringing the light of God into dark situations and surely they are… But perhaps it is less of bringing than it is revealing that which is already there.
So my venturing to the streets of SF this Fall is to see Jesus and join others in seeing that light.
What I figure I would do is write here my experiences, my take. The model of CPE is action – reflection. We do something and then reflect on our having done it. This helps develop and deepen our skills of presence and listening. As I write here my experiences, as they unfold, I will be mindful of this and try to take you along with me as I develop. I might share some harsh things. I might write some vulnerable things. But…I am in this for Jesus and if you like seeing Jesus too, perhaps, you will join me.