By Ted Rydmark
Is it foolish to sell all your possessions to give to the poor? Is it unwise to take your wife and kids to the streets in order to embody Christ to the homeless? Is it reckless to trust God day-to-day for your bed and dinner?
These are the questions asked daily of Mike and Angela Davis and their two children. Mike is the “unofficial pastor” of the homeless population that makes SE Portland their home, particularly along the Springwater Trail. His congregation lives in campsites, under bridges, along streams, and in drug houses between SE 72nd Avenue and I-205 and between SE Flavel Street and Johnson Creek Boulevard, respectively.
Choosing to shepherd a congregation that doesn’t meet in a church building was an intentional choice of Mike’s. “[The homeless] will never walk into a traditional church building,” said Mike adamantly, placing emphasis on the word “never.” “So we must go be with them.”
For Mike and Angela, “incarnational” is a church-word easily invoked but sacrificially applied. Pastoring the homeless led Mike and Angela to sell all of their possessions, including their keepsakes. For them, it meant leaving a comfortable church salary and trusting God for their day-to-day needs.
This lifestyle freed Mike to pursue his calling. He spends his days making rounds to the various camps, visiting drug houses, driving his homeless friends to the hospital for medical care, advocating for them in court, visiting them in prison, and empathizing with the raw reality of their survival. The result? Many of the homeless camps now hold daily church services.
Mike says he doesn’t assume and doesn’t judge, neither his homeless friends nor his friends with homes. Yet, there is an obvious contrast of his lifestyle with my own. Mike has put the words of Christ into literal practice, and it has cost him more than comfort and security. Mike’s strongest opposition has come from the Christian community, who has questioned his choices, even accused him of sinfully endangering his family.
But Angela, Mike’s wife says she believes, as a family, they are safer than most families who have homes, and the children are more excited about life and Christ than ever before.
Mike and Angela are quick to explain that their lifestyle came in response to a specific call on their lives from God. Yet their choices beg the rest of us to look deeper into our own hearts. Is feeding the homeless the incarnational equivalent of eating with the homeless? If God made His dwelling among us, should we make our dwellings in accordance with the poor? Better yet, have we used “safety for our families” as an excuse to stay safely beyond the human reality of our neighbors living in pain, hunger, and poverty in SE Portland?
“Jesus was a friend to sinners,” Mike said earnestly. “Relationships are how people find love.”
Living with the kind of openness to friendship that the Davis’s have is the wisdom of love. Some might think it foolish. Perhaps it is so foolish that it is a form of true wisdom and an expression of divine love breaking into our world.
You can learn more about Mike and Angela’s ministry, KNOWING ME, by clicking here.