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Wash And Worship

Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech,

“How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? (Proverbs 1:20)

Hello All,

I know I’ve mentioned this before but I thought I’d give a more thorough description in response to some beautiful and amazingly thoughtful comments that I received hereon my alderman post. I’ve also had several people ask me about how things are going so this will serve as a mass update as well.

I’ve always had respect for homeless people, but the fact is I didn’t pay much attention to them. That was until GOD proved to me that He was real in Nashville. When I got back, I felt like GOD was telling me to do more than just walk by. So I stopped and talked and started to form relationships with them. Soon after that I was telling my testimony and all the great things GOD was doing in my life everyday.

One day Tara and I were talking to a woman named Terry who was living in the park near our house. After talking to her for a bit, she asked if we would take her to church and we eagerly said yes. We figured we’d all get on the city bus and go to Willow Chicago as we normally did and then grab lunch and all come home. My normally for profit entrepreneurial brain all of the sudden became not for profit very quickly. I thought that if she had this need, that there must be others and I started thinking of systems for how we could help more people.

I’ve always felt that giving homeless people money does more harm than good. We’ve never given money to the friends we’ve made and I think that is the main reason we can call them friends. In most cases the second you give homeless people money, that is what the relationship focuses on for them from that point on. The genuineness of the relationship is gone. It’s not their fault, it’s human nature when you’re in such a horrible postion. I also realized that they didn’t really need money, they had very little problem hustling up what they needed. They also didn’t have a big need for food. The thing they needed most was compassion, love and someone to treat them like a human being. They needed autonomy, control and the feeling of being empowered. After that I also realized they needed their laundry done. I realized that keeping their cloths clean was very low on the totem pole for what they would spend their money one. So I thought what if Tara and I found a Laundromat, paid for their machines and detergent, brought some food and just kept forming deeper and deeper connections with what were quickly becoming our friends.

Finding a Laundromat was no easy task after a lifetime of despising Laundromats and only having been inside maybe two in my whole life. When I first started the search I couldn’t remember seeing one anywhere in the city, ever, they were so off my radar. Once I found one, I drew up some flyers and started handing them out. Tara decided the best laundry day would be Saturday, so that we could remind them about church the next day. So on the same flyer we explained that they could have their laundry done every Saturday from 4-5Pm and then meet us at the city bus stop in front of our building at 8:30am on Sunday to go to church.

The first couple weeks there were anywhere from fifty to hundred people at both church and the Laundromat. It was amazing to see so many people fit in that little Laundromat… Ya I wish! Make that anywhere from one to four and almost always the same people. At first I was a little discouraged because I always want to do things big, efficient and effective. I soon realized through scripture and just getting to know GOD better that GOD isn’t about quick success and overnight riches or fulfillment. There is so much more glory (He only wants glory so that we know it’s Him and in turn trust Him more) in it for Him when something starts from nothing and becomes big. This can be seen in the starting of Willow Creek, Culver’s, Chik Fil A, Wal-Mart (I’m pretty sure since Walton died there isn’t very much Divinity going on here anymore) and many other divinely inspired start-ups.

I also quickly realized GOD’S silver lining in starting small. Tara and I could get to know each of them really well, really quickly and that is how you really help people. The connections are the most important aspect of this program. The camaraderie, love and warmth we show them and they show us in return, is more valuable than all the tangible things we could ever give them. Helping people is all about forming connections! Whether they’re homeless or elderly or kids, they’re human beings, not something you should or can just throw money at like a business, job or an employee. Your time is your most valuable commodity. Don’t ever “give back”, “do your part”, or allow your conscience or sense of helping be quenched by only giving money. The most effective help is done through relationships. It may not be relationships all the time or relationships with homeless people but we are meant to connect. For the Christians out there especially, if you’re not giving of your time for GOD’S work you’re not truly giving fully. Tithes are expected, like breathing, they’re not His work.

I think I can safely speak for Tara when I say this; the concept of sharing our time like this was impossible before the Holy Spirit came into our life and changed us from the inside out. We still both struggle with this but it’s like night and day from before. I’ve come to realize that no one has any room to complain about this world unless they’re willing to give their time to make it better. People have been giving money forever and look where we are. Real change will only come when people start living their life for Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to change the way they see themselves and this world. And for Christians or people who claim to be Christians, like Paul said “Faith Without Works Is Dead! James 2:26” and “works” isn’t just giving money!

So after a couple weeks of doing the program Tara and I were quickly approaching a serious problem. We were going out of town the following weekend and had to find someone to run the program. I knew right off the bat that this was not going to be an easy person to find. Even though I had life long friends, I also knew that like the old me, they weren’t going to be willing to give of their time, especially if it involved the Creator of the Universe. So I asked anyway, since I figured that they’d do it seeing as how I was in real need. To this day none of my friends I’ve had since college (I’m 36) have gone to church or came by the Laundromat to see what I’m up to. It’s amazing how something so fake can garner such a strong reaction.

So after asking all of them, I moved on to plan B. After plan B fell through I was really stuck and trusting that GOD would come through and keep this program going. I knew the momentum we had was very weak and the consistency of the program was very important. You can read about the details of what happened next here, but the long and short of it was that the night before we needed to find someone, GOD sent us Lawrence. Lawrence calling me right before it was too late is one of the clearest examples of GOD’S presence in this world and our lives since my testimony. It taught me that GOD many times waits until the last minute so that we know it’s from Him and in turn so that we learn to trust Him more. So that we see His time frame is not only the best time frame but also the only one.

Lawrence has been amazing from the first time I heard his voice that day. He had an eagerness to help that I don’t think I’ve ever heard from someone in my life. As I was telling him what I needed him to do, I got the feeling that it didn’t matter what I said next. There was no balking at the “I need you to be at the bus stop tomorrow (Sunday) at 8:30am”. No balking at “We’re getting on the city bus with some homeless people and then going to church downtown and then grabbing lunch and then riding the bus back and should be done around 2pm”. No balking at the “and I need you to do this from time to time ongoing, tomorrow I’m just training you”. Even though he has a full time job during the week, there hasn’t been any balking since, actually the complete opposite.

He’s proactive and creative in finding ways in which we can do more and be more effective and efficient with GOD’S resources. He hasn’t missed the church portion since he started two months ago, and I think he’s also been at the Laundromat every time as well. This is even true of the times he doesn’t have to be at church or laundry and Tara and I have it covered. He cooks home cooked meals for the Laundromat and has even had a cook out with everyone. Like Tara and I he’s spent so much of his own money on the program for food, supplies, cloths, washers and dryers, and many other things. He has personally told me that what he is doing is so fulfilling and brings him so much joy. All of this from someone who himself would admit that he’s not quite sure what he believes, but that the truth becomes clearer and clearer everyday as he seeks it, exactly as the Bible and I promise. There is no other way that you get a person through what was already a ridiculous set of events, at the last minute, who’s a perfect fit for the craziest job ever, other than GOD!

Lawrence has been helping us run the program for a couple months now. In addition he’s even stayed over night outside with our friends on occasion. It’s just so amazing. Praise GOD on so many levels and in so many ways!

In the past couple weeks our numbers have began to increase to around eight. The word is getting out and our friends are becoming more and more comfortable, confident and hopeful. Tara has started cooking for everyone as well and the women that come love having her to talk to. I don’t think the average woman knows how much love they can bring to a homeless woman’s life just by talking to them. Women need women to talk to, and thankfully there aren’t many homeless women on the street, but conversely this also makes it hard for them to fill that need themselves. Our goal for Wash and Worship is to start this exact program all throughout the city and bring the people who need it the most to Willow Chicago. The reason for this is I believe Willow Chicago brings people closer to GOD better than any other place in the country outside of Willow’s main campus in South Barrington. There has been thoughts of doing it at churches closer and I’m still praying about that but the concerns I have are as follows. Firstly, I believe Willow does the best job at helping people come to Christ with their services. The second week we did the program one of the gentleman we brought with us had a full-blown Holy Spirit induced break down. The service was so overwhelming that he just let it all out. It was so beautiful! Secondly, the time spent on the bus is amazing time for bonding. It also gives them autonomy and freedom since we provide them with day passes instead of single use passes, one of the many brilliant thoughts from Lawrence. Finally and I think most importantly, the getting up early, getting on the bus, going downtown, going to an hour service, getting lunch downtown and riding the bus back, demands that they invest and make a commitment. An ancillary benefit that I never expected is that going downtown for a homeless person that doesn’t live downtown is a real treat, almost like a vacation. In the end we’ve realized that the people we’re working with aren’t perfect and neither are the rest of us. So when they make a mistake or do something out of line we’re incredibly forgiving and forgetful. Creating negative feelings or embarrassing someone would be counterproductive for us. It’s become clear to me that the best way to change behavior is to allow the persons GOD given conscience to do the work. This isn’t only true in Wash and Worship; it’s true in all relationships. If you reprimand or get mad you are essentially giving the person a way to rationalize their behavior in that your negative response now allows them to make you and your reaction the prominent issue, which in turn allows them to justify their behavior because now you’re the bad guy, not them. Now there is obviously a line to this technique, you should “Above all else guard your heart” as Proverbs 4:23 states but what I argue is if you stop yourself from punishing, reprimanding and getting upset,  you’ll have a much lower recidivism rate. Consider starting out by letting the person know that they’ve disappointed you or hurt you but anger, punishment or ongoing negative interactions have no use. I pray every night that GOD will increase the numbers in the program or help me expand it to other parts of the city. If anyone reading this would like to start the program in their area of the city feel free to contact me (justinobriecht@gmail.com) and we’d be happy to train you, show you the ropes and potentially help you with the costs. I want to reiterate that none of what I’ve written here is for our glory. We can’t take credit for any of this. I’ve been trying for years to start something that I could be passionate about and I now know the reason I was frustrated all those years is because I didn’t know GOD and I didn’t know how to interpret His signs and signals. It feels so good to be working on something that GOD has specifically designed for you; something that He knows will trip your trigger. Sometimes I worry about the amount of money we spend on this program but GOD has given us reassurance after reassurance that there is nothing to worry about. This “don’t worry about the money you spend doing GODS work” seed was planted by GOD early for Tara and I. As I mentioned in a previous post Tara was saved at a John Bevere speech around June of this year. His whole message is about how when he started his ministry he was nearly homeless, but time after time GOD came through in the clutch the same way He did for Wash and Worship with Lawrence. John talks about how he almost ran out of money several times and at the last second a big donor would come along and write a check out of no where. Well in addition to Lawrence, GOD has done the same thing for us on several occasions. It may not be GOD saving us from running out of money, but He’s certainly made it clear that He approves of what we’re doing and that we’ll be paid back in spades both financially and spiritually.  The first example of this happened when I came upon a homeless woman lying on the street. I asked her if she was ok and when she looked up at me I had the wind knocked out of me by what I saw. She had a gash across the top of her entire head almost down to the skull. It was a week or two old with no treatment. I told her that I was calling an ambulance and she begged me not to. So I asked her what I could do for her. She said give me some money. I told her that’s not an option. I said that she should follow me down to Walgreens and I’d buy her some supplies to take care of it. I don’t think she could believe her ears. She jumped up off the ground and we walked down the street to Walgreens. On our way there I looked down and saw a twenty-dollar bill just sitting in the middle of the sidewalk. I picked it up and as she saw this she immediately started building a case for why it should be hers or how a part of it should be hers. I quickly and easily dismantled her case and told her how rude she was being. We got to Walgreens and got her what she needed and then I put her on the bus. She couldn’t thank me enough and I know the love and effort I put forth meant much more than any amount of money I could have given her. A few weeks later as I’m walking into Target to restock the grab bag we have on laundry days which is filled with supplies, I look down and find a five-dollar bill. About a week later I’m walking our dog Juliet in the park and under a small tree in the weirdest spot ever is another five-dollar bill with a ten wrapped inside. The final reassurance came after church one day when we took everybody to a sit down restaurant because I got the distinct feeling that they hadn’t been served in a while. When we all got done with the meal and I went to pay with my credit card, they told me they didn’t take cards. A little anxiety crept in for a moment because it was a pretty big bill and I didn’t think I had enough to cover it. So I dug in my pocket, started counting what I had and the amount in my pocket was exactly the amount I needed including the twenty percent tip. Our honeymoon was another time when Tara and I weren’t sure if we were stewarding GOD’S resources appropriately. It was a really expensive trip and we were both feeling a little anxiety over the cost of everything. That was until we sat down to eat in the airport right before we got on our plane to come back to the US. We ordered our food fully intending to use our card. When the check came we realized that we should spend all of our Euro’s and when we put all of our money together it hit it on the head. If you look at any one of these on their own it may not look like much but when you look at the whole picture it becomes pretty clear, and that’s without that indescribable feeling the Holy Spirit plants in your heart when you just know when GOD’S at work. The truth is that no one can prove that the GOD of the Bible isn’t real, and if He is, that means that there is intelligence behind everything in this world and that in turn would prove that there is no such thing as coincidence.

So many people who refuse to search for truth have a serious misconception of GOD and in turn Christianity. That there’s this great sacrifice, this loss of yourself, this boring, straight life style. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no sacrifice when GOD knows you better than anyone and contours His work to fit you and your passions perfectly, as He has in my life. There is no sacrifice when you learn to understand the Holy Spirit and in turn realize that GOD doesn’t give you His exciting work all the time, only when He calls, and when He calls it’s amazing and you’re so humbled and thankful that He did.

 

Sacrifice is dying a little everyday as you sit in a cubicle or traffic or work vehicle with no ability to discern what GOD wants you to do. God has a plan for each of us, and everyday you’re not on His plan, you’re dying little by little and you know it!! Sacrifice is living your life in and out of bad relationships or lonely because you wont humble yourself and allow GOD to direct you to the person of your dreams, who He’s specifically made for you. Sacrifice is having to put on a mask everyday and not feeling comfortable in your own skin because there is a hole in your heart that you try to fill with everything but the truth. Sacrifice is having sex with your hand in front of your computer every night. Sacrifice is identifying your life with a rock band, or a drug, or a sports team, or a work out, or your teeth, or your hair, or your vanity, or your perceived intelligence, or a car, or a movie, or a TV show, or your job, or your money, or how many girls you can lie to and have sex with.

Loss of yourself comes when you realize that when you’re not working, sleeping, grocery shopping, brushing your teeth, cleaning, running errands, showering, getting ready, doing dishes or in other words basic survival in this society, you’re doing a work out that your ego has become a slave to, watching TV, sitting at a bar, recovering from a hangover, idolizing sports or music stars, texting or online with the occasional vacation fit in that’s filled with recovering from hangovers, over eating and eating poorly, thinking about how much you’re dying everyday back home, and dreading the day the vacation ends. A straight lifestyle is doing all the things mentioned in the previous sentence since you turned 21, never mixing it up, never going toward what makes you uncomfortable, never taking a risk, never being tested, never seeking truth. Take a step back see exactly how boring your life is.

Conversely after a lifetime of boredom, I haven’t been bored for one second since GOD made the truth clear to me. How could I be bored when I know that the GOD that controls the universe is my boy, that there is a third party that is always good and loving at my back. That when I wake up every morning that anything is possible. I remember the world when I didn’t know the truth, that feeling that everything was black and white and blah. I now know that it’s not just me that felt that way, that’s it’s universal for people who don’t seek the truth. The only difference between most people and me is that I’ve always been genuine enough to admit that I thought the world sucked, while everyone else keeps up the Grand Illusion (Listen to the lyrics by Styx).Now I can’t wait to wake up and spend another day with GOD.

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