This is an old post. I no longer make it out on Friday nights much, but they still due. And they still hear the hearts and voices of those struggling to live in our city, by showing up.
Most Friday nights this summer I will be standing on a corner on 82nd Ave, hopefully with some people that give my supposedly intimidating figure credibility. That’s right I will be hanging out on the Avenue of the Roses! For those of you outside Portland, 82nd is that storied street for many to “avoid”. It is where the trains and buses converge, the interstate runs parallel for quite awhile, and the housing is not expensive. It is also where you easily get drugs, where prostitutes and homeless are often seen and where some of the best stories in town are located.
We call it Friday Night Stories and the purpose, as I see it, is primarily to help churches see the power of listening. The tagline which I love is “listening to God breaking into the brokenness”. We allow who ever walks by— or as was the case three times this week drive by, stop in the parking lot and then walk by—to have a hot dog, a bottle of water and tell us their story. The stories are often about a need.
“I’m a drug addict and am just waiting to use again”
“I’ve been homeless 15 years, that’s my story.”
“I just picked up my girlfriend from work at the strip club, and we are just looking for something to do now”
“We are on our way home to study. Classes start again Monday and I have to keep my GPA up high.”
There are also a lot of very strange looks. A lot of people that don’t want to accept hot dogs from dudes on a corner. Cars that come close to wrecking while turning the corner. Even a bus driver that wants to know what the hell is going on, and holds the bus up for me to squeeze too much ketchup on a hot dog and run it over to her.
Even though this was only my third week hanging out I saw people that were regulars. Formerly random people walking home or changing buses at 9 pm on a Friday night were now recognized. A guy explaining he is trying hard to turn his life around, but the felony drug charge at 20 has made it nearly impossible, and yet he is fighting still.
These are people that are more interested in letting us know God is protecting them then needing to be told God wants them to show up at 11 am on a Sunday morning to talk to them.
Ideally we will start seeing more of the same folks week after week. We will be able to hear what their needs and wants are and be able to help them out. We will be able to use their assets to help others in need.
The guy that has been clean and sober for 11 years can help the lady who is looking for her next hit, instead of judging her. The overworked mechanic could help the unemployed teenager learn a trade.
Youth groups will see people as God does – broken, hurting, alone – but still loved. Youth pastors might be quiet long enough to hear someone’s desires instead of only seeing their issues and implied needs.
Most importantly, Second Stories‘ mission of equipping churches to engage their communities in partnerships that transform neighborhoods will come true! And somehow through talking to a couple skateboarders on a Friday night over a free hot dog and bottle of water, God’s kingdom is coming here on earth as it is in heaven!
As I was procrastinating writing the above piece, I came across a video of the story that last year really made the Gospel something I felt like I could and wanted to live out again. (found here) And somehow it is probably the reason I have talked to pimps and prostitutes on 82nd the last two Friday nights.
If you haven’t seen or heard this before I am honestly shocked we are friends, but please do take the time right now to have your life transformed! I present to you Tony Campolo’s Birthday Party.
Originally published June 25 2010.