My wife and I recently had the chance to visit Cherith Brook in Kansas City where our friend Nick Pick works. Nick has a huge heart for the homeless in Kansas City. Read the interview and learn more about how Cherith Brook makes a difference with the homeless in Kansas City.
Enoch Magazine ) I was reading through your blog and it’s very apparent that you have a passion for the poor. Has it always been like that for you? How did it start?
Nick ) I definitely did have a heart for the poor, but it wasn’t until I started the work at Cherith Brook that it finally began to shape me. Mainly this is because I had no clue how to act around someone who has found themselves on the streets. I always felt awkward and would be cordial… then keep walking. After having moved into Cherith Brook, the awkwardness and discomfort finally gave way to really meaningful relationships; so meaningful, in fact, that as I interact now with some of my friends from the days of yore, I find shallowness and a lack of depth there. I guess you could say that everything has been flipped upside down.
Even today though I still battle myself. There are days where my heart isn’t quite into the work I’ve been invested in for almost a year and a half. Some days I am not present with my brothers and sisters who are on the streets while other days it is so fulfilling and so alive that I couldn’t imagine living any other way.
Enoch Magazine ) That’s awesome. I love your honesty. It’s so encouraging that you have God’s heart for the poor. How did God call you to work in ministry? I know you you’ve been involved with many different ministries over the years.
Nick ) I don’t know if I’ve ever sat back and thought about it that way. I guess the way I look at it is, I am on a journey. If I’m not constantly deepening that faith, then I don’t really believe it. I guess what I mean is, I don’t feel like I ever had a call into the ministry, it was merely an extension of me seeing the beauty of a life lived when trying to follow things like Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Maybe the parable of the hidden treasure would make sense here. As I read more about Jesus’ life and the contrast-society he initiated, I became so excited that I had to sell some stuff, sell my car, and jump into life with other people wanting to do things. This includes things alive in the margins of society, sharing and caring for all- regardless of what people have labeled them. The homeless, the addicted, the prostituted, the abused, the abuser…all are welcome in Jesus’ day and this little community I now find myself living in is my first taste of the great treasure…a glimpse into the kingdom here on earth.
Enoch Magazine ) I think that’s great that you realized ministry is just an extension of our faith. It’s not often I have the chance to talk with someone who truly believes this: To live like Christ, we have to make sacrifices and give things up as we realize we are building treasures in Heaven. Could you please talk about what a typical week of work at Cherith Brook looks like?
Nick ) Yeah! We do simple things. We really focus in on family and presence in all that we do. We offer showers to folks who are sleeping in abandoned homes, in camp sites, or at places where they are unable to pay their water bills. People come in from 8:30am to 11am, and can get a good breakfast, hot showers, some clean clothes, maybe a bus pass, and can relax. Beyond that, we have a large community meal every week where 60 folks gather in our dining room and we share a meal together. We serve together, eat together, and clean up together. There is also a time on Fridays where we gather up lots of sandwiches and fruit and take it to the streets. We go to our friend’s abandoned houses, alleyways, and campsites to sit and visit. We also do things like grow a garden (we don’t have any grass in all of our front yard and most of our back), pray together, eat together, work together, speak out against the evils of our day together, and arrive at possible solutions to those evils… together.
We also have a common pot where we pool all our incomes together. We agree to work no more than 20 hours outside of the community and then we all share. We each get a monthly stipend and that covers the “wants” we would have (like eating out or going to shows). Things like auto repairs or medical needs come out of the pot. In this way, we strengthen our community by really depending on one another. It is beautiful, because it lightens the burden that many shoulder alone. When a car breaks down, it is the community as a whole who comes together to fix it and pay for it. It truly is freeing to know that I will not suffer alone and we’re not meant to in the first place.
A random side note: In all we do, we sit and listen to our friends. That is the most important thing. We don’t bring an agenda to them…they get enough of that. From churches who make people sit through a service in order to eat, to the various people and groups who make people their “project” to fix them and make “better.” We listen, love, and when they tell us they want to go to rehab we take them to rehab. When they ask to stay, we open our home. When they want to get an ID, we help them. Basically, we love like family and support them when they want to do something that is beneficial for them to be more whole, more human.
Enoch Magazine ) It shows great faith and trust with those involved around you in your community to live like that. I love that Cherith Brook is so open to REALLY meeting the needs of people. Many people want to be involved with loving others and serving God but they don’t know where to start. What are some basic things people can do to really take on the heart of a true servant?
Nick ) I would say to begin to allow some time in life for interruptions. Busyness kills community, and if you look at Matthew 25, all things listed there–feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger are things that require more time and thoughtfulness than money. We have the equation backwards. We should freely give of our money but it is imperative we spend time with the oppressed, marginalized, and forgotten peoples in our cities. Another thing, we should not mistake our time spent with the poor among us to be time for us to proselytize (attempting to convert people to another opinion, usually religion based). This would be a great folly. The reality is that we are just as broken as the next person. The more beautiful thing would be to simply offer your time and listen to their stories and allow yourself to be swept up in the life of this person whom is Jesus in the guise of the poor.
More practically though, I would give some of the following suggestions:
*ask for the panhandler’s name
*share your own name
*find out the person’s likes and dislikes
*think of how you can support the person’s likes
*make food and carry it with you to hand out
*carry blankets with you when it is cold
*if you can give money, GIVE without worrying about what will be done with it (disclaimer: make sure money giving isn’t all or the majority of what you do)
Those are just a few suggestions. A lot of it just involves being a loving, constant presence to someone…and allowing them to love and care for you.