Joy in the Storm

Leaving the streets tonight a guy in his early fifties stopped me as I was going to get in the car “Hey, you’re that guy. I know you.”

Better looking than me and dressed much nicer than I ever dress, I asked if we’d met. He said “yeah, in the line.” He was smiling so beautifully, couldn’t help but step forward, do what I do, shake his hand. Ask when he’d been on the corner.

I was never here. You don’t remember me. It was years ago, in front of the old Union Rescue Mission. You guys saved my life more nights then you could ever know. I got in one of their programs. Got clean. Got sober. Got working. It was a long time ago.”

He was really smiling as he told the story that ended with “You’re still out here. That’s amazing.” And then “Thanks. It’s so good to see you. Really, more times then you could know.”

Moved. But soaked. I thanked him for the kind words and jumped into the car, trying my best to remember him. It would’ve been at least 20 years ago. Possibly even more.

Drove home through the storm. We all were just about dry when we got to the church and the heaven’s opened and we were soaked a second time as we unloaded the trailer and I forgot all about it, until I laid my head down in bed and his smiling face, obvious success, genuine gratitude all flooded over me when I closed my eyes.

It had been a chance encounter that lasted just a few minutes in the rain but to him it had been a lifetime. A life saved. “You guys saved my life more nights then you will ever know.”

His hair and neatly trimmed beard both sported a silver of success and happiness. I was drenched and feeling a few decades more than my age, ready to head home.

People question our work in the heart of the city. There are those who’ve criticized us, saying we’re enabling the chronically homeless. We don’t argue with them. We just keep on doing what we do. Vaclav Havel said some of the things we do just because they make sense. That’s all. There are cold and hungry people in the rain tonight, it just makes sense that we keep on going.

And there are men and women whose lives are forever changed – we celebrate their success – and thank God if we ever had the opportunity to play a small part in their taking the first steps towards healing and home.

So many Sunday nights. This morning my heart is so full I couldn’t sleep. Filled with images of friends slipping out into the cold, wet night and the memory of a man bursting with the opportunity to say thanks. It’s what happens on the streets, The Eternal Miracle sometimes just breaks forth and wakes us up again.

It happened tonight. Wish you’d been standing beside me to hear the story, to share his joy in the storm. Who knows, it might happen again next week. I’d love for you to share it. You’re Invited!

Saint Teresa – Simple Miracles

Mother Teresa letter

With Mother Teresa becoming Saint Teresa tomorrow, the correspondence she had with my mom becomes just a bit more precious. Mom gave me this letter, way back in 1990, when she had been writing her about our new work with the poor on skidrow, Jackets for Jesus. I keep it in my office as a reminder of the wonderful women who’ve lifted our work and me personally up in prayer.

If someone needs miracles in order to be canonized as a saint, Jackets for Jesus has experienced enough across the years to cover Mother Teresa a dozen times over.

Always humbled to think that so many lift us up in prayer. Tomorrow I’ll celebrate a bit as one of Jackets for Jesus very own prayer warriors takes so special a place in the life of the church. She was an amazing example of love to all humanity and if anyone ever deserves so high an honor, it would be her.

Thanks for your loving and prayerful encouragement and support as we took our first steps into the darkness. God speed as your witness continues to lead us into The Light. Give mom a hug for me.

If I had the dough think I’d catch a jet to Rome tonight so I could join the throngs at the Vatican’s celebration tomorrow. Maybe Pastor Ken will buy me a Saint Teresa medal when he’s there!

The Unexpected More

Wiping away tears, he said: “I didn’t think any of them would ever want to talk with me again.”

Middle of the evening a friend on the streets had asked me to take his picture.  He hasn’t been around for a number of months so he’d already filled me in on the loss of a job and getting back to work.  He looked better and said life was improved in every way.

I don’t know where he sleeps.  He may have one of the small room’s downtown or he may have etched himself a “safe spot” somewhere in the city to get a night’s rest, stash his stuff and be able to head to work.  He has a smartphone – probably through one of the free phone programs – so after I snapped his photo I simply attached it to a text and he had it.

Looking at himself.  Clean.  New haircut.  Smiling at me he said: “Wanted something to send my family.  This will be perfect!”  I gave him a thumbs up and headed back to my work.

As the night was winding down – men and women living in varying degrees of urban poverty – having been fed, many getting clothes or shoes, Sunday evening conversation at a close, people began to wander away.  Some stop to say goodbye.  Others take a few minutes to pick up trash while a few wait to close the evening in prayer.  My friend, looking at the picture of himself on his phone, stood next to his bicycle and waved for me to come to him, he said he had something he wanted to tell me.

He jumped right to the point of the story: “I never knew anything about facebook, the internet, or any of that stuff until about five months ago.  When I first got on facebook it was little more than an empty box with a question.  It asked: ‘What’s on your mind?’

Like a journal I started writing everything; how I lost my family, ended up on skid row, how much I loved and missed them, how it was all my fault.  I just poured it all out thinking I was the only one who’d ever see it.  I didn’t know other people could see your name, read what you were writing, look for you…”

His family, like so many others who’ve lost someone into poverty and feel like they’ve come to the end of hope and help, had been searching the internet, spending time on facebook, holding out the last shred of hope that he must be somewhere – maybe he was on facebook – somehow, impossibly, maybe they could find him.

They found his personal journal.  The words he thought no one would ever read.  His apology to the universe.  The words he wished he’d find the hope and opportunity to someday tell those he still loved and carried with him daily in his heart.  They read it all… and asked to be his friend.

They’re in the process of reconciliation.  He said; “I can’t believe it, they said they miss and love me – they want to see me.  I can’t wait to send them this picture.”  He was crying.  How could he not?  He’d sent out his heart, without hope, to the universe and it responded with hope, love and an invitation to family and home.  He still belonged.

We hugged.  Quietly, silently, I marveled at the life God allows me to live and I gave thanks.  He’s too good.

Every Sunday night doesn’t have this story – but every Sunday has a story – a miracle – a knock you out of your socks kind of “Chicken Soup for The Soul” moment that you can experience but you have to open up your heart, your life, your time, even your finances to the vast expanse of the unexplored and unexpected “more” that awaits us when we love and serve.  It can happen every day.  It’s what we were created for.

My time this week has been made a bit fuller by the image of family, carefully sharing with family, spreading it across fb, in texts, in emails a simple photo that I took of a friend.  It’s a miracle in their homes.  Like a sacred document, holy text, a masterpiece – the photos been printed and printed and printed again, through tears, with love as they put it in a frame, a wallet, on the refrigerator – where they stop – search out every detail – suck in the reality, he’s alive.  Dad’s alive!  My son’s alive!  My brother’s alive!  The years that once felt like the dark cavern of death once again hold hope, the stone has rolled away, He’s Alive!

People ask why we go to the streets on Sunday nights.  Miracles live there.  We get to share the adventure.  To give our lives.  I’m always amazed that we’re ever broke.  I read this story – and I’m living it – and I want to send money!  Who doesn’t want to restore hope, feed the hungry and bring new wealth to the wasteland of urban poverty in the heart of our city?  We can be the miracle!  The answer to the prayer that every family prays when their loved one is missing.  We can be that first step towards home… and sometimes we get to hear all about it.  We did last Sunday night.

His picture’s a little celebration on my phone.  I’d share it, but I haven’t asked his permission, maybe I will this Sunday night.  We’re going back to the streets.  It’s been so very many Sundays, even still, after all these decades, it’s only Tuesday, and already I’m excited.  It would be such an honor to surrender part of this joyous work into your hands.  To spend whatever remains of my life with you on Sunday night.  And if not side by side on the streets – with Jodi in the kitchen – in prayer throughout the week – in your personal financial support.  We belong together.  You’re needed, now, more than ever.  You’re Invited!

for changing lives,

Eric M. Denton

Jackets for Jesus

Watch “An Invitation to Healing” on YouTube

My friend Amari shares his story and then prays for you.   Don’t miss your blessing.

Christmas Party on the Streets

December 20th, Sunday Night – YOU’RE INVITED!

Christmas Party on the streets with Jackets for Jesus!

The party on the streets is this Sunday night. You’re Invited!  Last Year’s Challenges WILL NOT STOP US!  Pray that all goes well.

You’re doing so much to make this an incredible Christmas on the streets for hundreds of people living in urban poverty.  Thank You!

Backpacks are still available for pickup at Central Community.  If you have extra jackets, gifts, etc… bring it with you and we’ll stuff it in remaining backpacks.

Suggestions For Filling Christmas Backpacks For The Homeless

Food Items:
Water bottle, Snacks (Raisins, nuts, candy, dried fruit, crackers), hot chocolate, cookies, gift certificates to McDonalds/Starbucks etc.
Clothing Items:
Jacket (even a good used one is fantastic), Sweatshirt, T-shirt, underwear, new white socks, jacket, rain poncho, warm hat, gloves.
Personal Care Items:
Toothbrush, toothpaste, mints, gum, lotion, soap, shampoo, wash cloth, hand towel, comb or brush, floss, toilet paper.
Miscellaneous Items:
Bible, stationary, stamps, Radio or MP3 player, books, magazines, watch, first aide kit, phone cards/calling cards, a Christmas card, etc.

Gift Cards have been highly requested this year.  Small amounts for fast food, Kinkos, Staples, etc…

Think of what you would like/want if you were homeless and living on the streets. Feel free to use your imagination!

Filled backpacks can be returned to Jackets For Jesus, at Central Community, no later than Sunday, December 2oth at 5:00PM.  Alternative drop off is our meeting pointMcDonald’s just off Peck Rd exit and the 60 fwy (1185 Durfee Ave., South El Monte, CA, google map at link)  – we’ll leave in a caravan from there to the streets at approximately 9:30pm.

Backpacks can be dropped off with us at the McDonalds between 9-9:30pm, even if you’re unable to join us on the streets.  All packs must be in the LARGE TRUCK before we leave McDonalds.

We’ve rented the parking lot on the corner of 3rd and Main St, downtown, for parking convenience and security of the truck.  Plan on parking with us.  All of our work this year will come out of the parking lot.backpacks 2

Thanks so much.  Looking forward to a fantastic evening together.

Merry Christmas!


Giving Thanks on the Streets

a long and meandering journey into Thanksgiving. Christmas is coming. Backpacks at the ready. You’re Invited!

answered prayer

He stepped out of the crowd and asked “Can I help?”  Early 30’s, warm and friendly, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt.  Extending his hand in friendship he said: “My name is Sam.”  Within minutes Jodi had him in gloves, standing beside her at the table, serving in joy.

Sometimes we forget to acknowledge it when God answers prayer.  20 minutes earlier our small team of just 5 people had prayed that we would be enough to accomplish the task.  We weren’t.  So God sent Sam.

We close our evenings in a team prayer at our original Main St location – where an 8 story building of condos and retail is now going up.  Holding hands again, as is my tradition, I asked who would like to pray – for some reason it just seemed right that Sam spoke up.  Nothing eloquent, but from the heart, he thanked God for loving us, for letting us love others, for being good to us… it was as if God was in our midst.  We hugged around the circle and Sam wandered back to wherever he’d wandered in from in the first place.  An answer to prayer.

Sunday nights on the streets often face the expected obstacles of working with crowds of the urban poor and displaced of society.  They’re also filled with miracles and wonder – sometimes they have a name – this week it was Sam.  Wish you could’ve met him.  So many times on the streets I feel as if I’ve been with God.  It happened last week.  It might happen this Sunday night.  One thing I’m certain of, He’s waiting on us to ask – so He can answer.

Thanksgiving and Christmas – the most difficult time of the year to live in poverty – and our most expensive times to continue our work, are out ahead of us.  God is going to be with us.  He’s going to answer prayers in unexpected ways.  We’re going to experience His presence and be moved.  You’re needed, now, more than ever.  Amazingly, You’re Invited!  Don’t let the miracle of the coming season slip away without giving yourself to it completely.  I look forward to sharing the circle with you this Sunday night.

for changing lives,