Blessed Are the Undesirable

Unless you’re new to the blog, you are aware that my focus in ministry in 2012 has been exclusively on two things:

* In writing and study, it’s been on historical Jesus studies, Christology, and apologetics.

* In practical ministry, it’s been a complete focus on developing relationships with non-Christians (some of whom are agnostics and atheists) on the one hand, and walking along side of and aiding the poor and the afflicted on the other.

I’d like to share a few words about the latter.

At this moment, I have in mind the faces of the poor and afflicted whom I’ve worked with in 2012 and will continue to, God willing, this year.

Some of them have very few friends. Some of them are living in poverty. Some of them have mental illnesses that regularly torment them. Some of them have legal problems. Some of them have gone nose-to-nose with suicide. Some of them are incredibly needy.

This practical ministry has been – at times – emotionally, mentally, and physically draining.

Phone calls in the middle of the night, sometimes lasting several hours just to try and help keep another mortal from harming themselves.

Losing sleep, fighting off the temptation to worry.

Leaving the hospital discouraged.

Dipping into the limited savings to keep someone off the street.

Recurrent images of their plight is sometimes too much to bear. Weeping is not uncommon.

Sometimes I get tired.

Sometimes I grow weary of seeing God do something amazing, only to see it overturned a month later.

Sometimes I rejoice in seeing some of these people learn to walk with God.

Yet amid the light and the shade, I believe this is where the Lord wants me in this season.

The whole experience has been transforming. It reminds me of how deep the Fall goes. It keeps me dependent on Jesus for fresh grace. It keeps me in touch with the frailty of humanity. It keeps me in touch with my own frailty, my own brokenness, and my own daily need of a Savior . . . Jesus Christ of Nazareth who is Resurrection and Life.

It also puts things in perspective. When your mind is absorbed with the plight of others, what happens to you doesn’t seem all that important.

Blessed are the undesirable. They are God’s true gifts to this earth . . . and to us.

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About Frank Viola

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  • Rebecca Trotter

    Years ago right when I was getting involved in a prison ministry program, I made a firm determination not to have any regard for results. My job was to love. And that love was to be like a seed which I might never see sprout and which perhaps would be completely forgotten. It took a lot of pressure off of me. But its still draining. I hope you have a good support system in place to debrief with and to help you recognize when you may be wandering into an unhealthy dynamic. But good for you for doing this work. There are blessings for it, although they are rarely the expected kind!

  • Dan Sullivan

    Thanks for sharing this Frank. I’m right there with you. I work at a homeless shelter and I’ve lost count of the times in this past year I’ve said to my wife “Life is incredibly precious.” and “God really wants us all to take Him very very seriously.”

    Press on, your labor (fatigue, exhaustion) in the Lord is not in vain.


  • Patrick

    God bless you for your efforts, Frank. Some of my friends have a community in the downtown area of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and they spend a lot of time taking in the homeless as part of their community vision, sometimes just for a few days, sometimes for a few months, and I’ve watched how much it drains them. Whether it’s just to get someone a warm bed, or to help them get back on their feet, serving the undesirable is surely a gift that few can maintain, but those that can do so out of sheer love and devotion to the least of these. Your post serves to remind me of what my wife and I may be facing in the near future, as we’re looking to move into this community and join in their vision. There’s going to be a lot of hardship and heartache, but I want to practice resurrection in the lives of others, and if that means offering a warm bed, or pushing someone to overcome whatever afflicts them, then I’ll do it.