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The Homeless Evangelist

The Homeless Evangelist

Take a walk with me around the streets of any city in the United States. There are just certain characteristics of these cities that you can’t miss as you walk their streets. Unfortunately, one of these characteristics is the growing number of homeless people. There are people living in alleys, in homeless shelters, everywhere, just scraping to survive. Take a minute to talk to one of these people. His name is Brandt Russo. He is 23, and he lives on the streets … willingly. Yes, willingly. He has chosen to live homeless because he believes that another world is possible. And that world starts with us, followers of Christ, selling everything, dropping everything to follow this radical revolutionary we claim to love.

Here is a piece of Brandt’s story:

Describe a typical day in your life, including how you serve others through your ministry.
A typical day in my life would consist of waking up and doing Pilates. Kidding. I always put on music and pray in the morning, and get into whatever book I’m usually reading (or just the Bible, which is a pretty dang good book too). Lately, I have been working on building the inside of my veggie oil bus; building the kitchen/medical/sleeping area. Every night we leave around 10 to dumpster dive for food, drinks, whatever we can find to serve the poor and homeless in the area. Every evening I usually go with whoever is with me at the time under the bridges and serve the homeless whatever food we end up finding from the dive the night before. Every day varies honestly. I have no idea what I’m going to do from day to day. Some nights I’m sleeping on the streets with the homeless simply because I don’t want to leave, and other nights I’m sleeping on the floor inside a million dollar mansion trying to convey the compassion of Christ to a confused businessman I may have met on the streets. I just wake up and go wherever He leads me. Its like Mary told the servants at that party in Cana, “Whatever He tells you to do, DO IT”.

Describe how you came to realize God’s call to help the homeless.
I was living a seemingly normal “Christian life”. Work all week, church on Sunday. It was sort of the American Dream. Apart from all of the money I was making and the nice-paying jobs God had given me, they no longer made any sense. After reading The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne, I started to research Jesus myself. No pastors, no podcasts, no wikipedia– just me and the Bible. 

I opened up to Matthew, which made all the sense in the world, and that’s when I felt my senses being toyed with. Countless references to Jesus spending time with the poor, the outcasts, the “least of these.” He said that if you do anything to the least of these, that you do it unto Him. If you feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, minister to the needs of the sick, that it’s really Him you are ministering to. 

Eight months have passed, and I’ve since sold everything I have so that I can learn to live as a disciple of Christ. I know this isn’t the popular doctrine, but Jesus really meant what He said about preferring others above ourselves, about us being provided for so that we could provide for others–the widows, the orphans, all of that.

How can someone get involved in what you do?
If you have eyes to see, you will see. I think too often we are praying for God to fix our hearts so that we would have the correct vision. It’s impossible to wrap duct tape around an old cracked wineskin. We need new eyes, new vision and a new Church. In Acts 2, right after Pentecost, you see a church wrecked for the community around them and immediately after the Spirit falls, Peter preaches to the masses and 5,000 people are added to their church. They sell everything and start to care for the needy around them. My best suggestion is just go. It’s the last command we got from Jesus. He will make very clear the path that you should take. Talk to a homeless person. Sleep in the cold one night you find yourself complaining. Do something impractical, uncomfortable. By all means, if your church has a community outreach, get involved, but don’t limit the compassion of Christ to a once a month paper bag feed. Stick around long enough to find out names, stories and needs.

If there were one thing you could say to the world, what would it be?
Lets live like Jesus. Just live like Jesus. Jesus showed His love for us by giving up His life for us, hoping for the same from us. Our lives are consumed with time wasted, money blown, relationships ruined, all for the sake of the American Dream. The Church even seems to strive for this so-called Dream. Jesus reminded us not to store up treasures on earth. He believed in simplicity. He urged His disciples to give up everything for the sake of the gospel. He didn’t believe that the Church was a physical building, but that we are the Church. Wherever we are, God is. Jesus taught us that we are blessed from God to be a blessing. If we have “stuff,” it is to give it away. Jesus taught that there is so much more to life than food and clothing and shelter. And He said that when we decrease and downsize our lives, we are more able to bless others. He taught us to love; yet we so easily forget. I want to learn the way Jesus loved. Love is my mission statement.

So take some time and study this Jesus you claim to follow. What is He saying to you? Where is He leading? We can all learn a lesson from this 23-year-old radical. Let’s learn to love and let’s learn to live like Jesus.

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