Here are some reflections on some posts I need to catch up on before Holy Week. Below I reflect on some visits to Church Under The Bridge, more adventures with Robert, and meeting philanthropist Baker Duncan.
In the post “Help” from 2012, I write about a Haven for Hope staff member named Annie. I wonder if she still works there? She was such a compassionate person who worked with those living in the shelter. Years later, I have now gotten to know many social workers, case managers, and street outreach workers who are just like Annie and go above and beyond to serve our clients. Two of those people are Morgan and Brittney who work at our Corazon Day Center and help with street outreach. I am lucky to work with people like Morgan and Brittney at Corazon and watch them transform lives each and everyday with their love, grit, dedication, and compassion. They make me a better boss and more importantly make me a better human. They absorb a lot of trauma, work with difficult clients, (a lot like Robert who I write about below), yet never give up on the person no matter how long it takes!
Morgan was named Street Outreach Worker of the Year in 2020 by SARAH along with some other amazing leaders. You can watch what they and other great workers do here or in the shorter video below: They kick ass!
Below I also write about Church Under The Bridge (Now also called “Communities Under the Bridge”) is San Antonio’s Church for the Homeless Community. They reach out with the love of Jesus, giving Hope through preaching, singing, and teaching the Word of God and offering training, free meals, and clothing to satisfy both the Spiritual and physical needs of the congregation. We love what they do for so many of our friends!
The day about Robert was another very memorable moment. We were getting close and I was beginning to see the seriousness of his alcoholism and danger he posed to himself. According to American Addiction Centers, “Homelessness and addiction often occur simultaneously, and, unfortunately, many people struggling with both issues are unable to get the help they need. Substance abuse can develop due to the stressors associated with homelessness. On the other hand, addiction can also contribute to home loss.1 Additionally, many homeless people suffer from addiction as well as other co-occurring psychiatric disorders, which can further complicate their living situations.”
“Help” Posted on
There is a staff member at the outdoor shelter named Annie, who does a fantastic job working with the homeless citizens in the facility . (The shelter employs police officers, staff, and other assistants to help run the campus.) However, it is the civilian dressed staff that handle most of the interaction once inside the gated area. They care for personal needs, listen to concerns, help with first time intake, and organize programs such as the laundry, volunteer hours, and meals.
Some of the staff treat their job just like many people treat their jobs anywhere…they show up, they do just enough work to get by, try not to mess up, and fly under the radar.
Annie is different…she usually works the graveyard shift in the outdoor shelter, which is from dinner to early in the morning. She arrives in time to make people go to bed, worrying about and handling all the things that happen late at night…fights, sickness, rain…you name it…it happens! (Doesn’t seem to be the best time for a work schedule!) Instead of just sitting back and just barely working through the late night hours, Annie goes above and beyond the call of duty.
For example, a few nights ago she took great care in helping an elderly man find a place to stay indoors, giving him a blanket, and locating a mat to sleep on. It seems simple…but this type of personal care is harder to pull off than one would think at a place like this. She could have passed it off to a volunteer or another homeless citizen…but she slowly worked with the man to get him safely situated for the night. It was no easy task. The man walked slow…real slow…seemed confused about the environment…and was difficult to talk with…this did not bother her. She was patient…calm…kind…and willing to serve the least of these. After all her work, the man finally got situated and fell asleep. You could tell by the smile on her face that she was relieved, and that he had chosen to follow her lead. Due to her extra effort, this man’s sleep was better because of the care she gave to a random stranger. I see her do something like this every night. I like it because its hidden in the small things…
She is one of the few staff that personally says hello to many of the homeless citizens every night. She checks on our comfort level, she laughs with us, jokes with us…and lives life along side us. Not above us or below us. But along side us. Never treating us like second rate citizens.
I love watching her work. I hope everyone cares that much about their own job and the people they serve. She challenges me to be a better minister.
A few year ago, I saw a video on ABC News about how many people easily neglect homeless people in need on the street. It was very revealing. Good help is hard to find these days due to our own distractions and personal motivations. The story reminds me of the parable, “The Good Samaritan,” the one Jesus told his followers in Luke 10:25-37. (Watch the video below.)
The Lord’s story reminds me of why I love people like Annie. She loves others before herself.
What would you do?
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
C.U.B.: Posted on
When I was attending Baylor University in Waco, Texas, I attended a church that met under the I-35 Bridge called, “Church Under the Bridge” led by Pastor Jimmy Dorrell. It was a fantastic service. It was about 1/3 homeless; 1/3 college students; and 1/3 others (travelers, adults, and other families.) It was a beautiful image of God every Sunday morning. I could not get enough of that place when I lived in Waco…it’s the only church where I saw Jesus Christ lived out every Sunday morning.
Come to find out… San Antonio has a similar version of this type of church. It’s also called Church Under the Bridge. However, instead of meeting under an actual bridge…they meet in a new building off Crockett St. near a bridge…but that is hard to fit into a church name.
CUB San Antonio has a church service every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 6pm. They provide a meal afterward…but don’t test them…you have to attend the worship service to get the meal. However, the meal and the worship service are both excellent…so that’s not a problem. (They also have a 12 step program that meets on Monday at 6pm, choir practice that meets Wednesdays at 6pm, and bible study that meets on Fridays at 6pm…I really love the simplicity.) If you show up at 6pm….something is happening!
I attended CUB’s Thursday night service with a good friend named Emily Morrow. Emily works with the missionary branch of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (no…the name is not an oxymoron) and has taken good care of this homeless man when stuck in many situations over the last 2 weeks. (Thanks, Emily!)
On Thursday night, after the praise team led us in worship, the preacher spoke about the conversion of Saul into the Apostle Paul (Acts 9). It’s a powerful story, and one that seems to connect with many in the congregation. The premise of his sermon was that we are all like Saul and in need of radical conversion. Saul was a persecutor of Christians…but God still had the ability to turn his life around (with the help from Ananias) and use it for Christ’s glory. If God can change Saul’s life, God can turn anyone’s life around…no matter what their past consists of…drugs…violence…jail…etc. God has the power to radically change your life.
I personally like Ananias in this story…and he is usually not given a lot of credit…
“In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision,“Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Can you imagine being Ananias? Think about it…having to go into the house where Saul was staying and befriend him after all the horrible things he had done to Christians in the past…it’s crazy. Absolutely crazy! Ananias’ mom would not be happy about God’s assignment…seems a little dangerous. I might have backed out. Whatever, I love that man for having the courage to follow God’s calling in his life! I think it’s really neat that Ananias also brought food! He would fit in nicely at Church Under the Bridge.
This one action of faith changed the world. After Ananias followed God’s lead… Saul was baptized and he transformed into Paul. Needless to say…Paul did some amazing things for Christ and His Church over the next few years. Just read 2/3 of the New Testament to find out!
After the service was over we attended the dinner. Today’s meal was provided by the good folks at Laurel Heights UMC. They served tortellini vegetable soup, sandwiches, cookies, fruit, and tea. It was really good. They also provided seconds. I am beginning to like seconds.
I was surprised to see so many people from the outdoor shelter there during the service. The church is near downtown but not necessarily close to the outdoor area. About 80% of the 200 people there were from the sleeping area where I have been staying. Both places serve evening meals…but this church offers one more thing…
The Love of Jesus Christ
And apparently always at 6pm.
Pizza & Vodka: Posted on
I went to Church Under the Bridge again ( in San Antonio, Tx) this past Sunday night for their 6pm worship service and meal.
Sunday nights are special at CUB because they serve homemade pizza after the worship service for the homeless members. That’s right—HOMEMADE PIZZA. Every Sunday evening a church or youth group makes and cooks around 80 pizzas in CUB’s own pizza oven. (THE CHURCH BOUGHT A PIZZA OVEN…I love that.) The group gets their ingredients from Little Caesars Pizza but they make the pizza there on the spot. Now, they could just have Little Caesars make the pizzas and save tons of time and energy…but they choose to do it hard way…the personal way…the loving way. Homemade!
Most churches I know don’t even cook for themselves anymore when they gather to eat….much less when they are serving other people. They just take the easy way out and cater from a company or restaurant. What happened to homemade, cooked meals at churches… they need to make a comeback!
I don’t know why this impressed me so much…but it did. Now I know why this night was the talk of the shelter when I arrived a few weeks ago. It’s really fun and personal. A great testimony to how we should serve other people.
I have become good friends with a man named Robert. I met him at CUB. He goes back and forth between the shelter and the shack where he sleeps. The other day Robert helped me with a task that needed two people to complete. His help was really appreciated. So I took him over to a friends house and gave him a nice place to shower and get clean. (I wish the YMCA still allowed people in need to take showers after hours…it would be a perfect place!…kind of like the old song says…It’s fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A….You can get yourself clean you can have a good meal…You can do whatever you feel…) He was enjoying the shower so much he started to smoke a cigarette and sing in the shower. I think the song was Hey, Good Looking…” We had to put out the cig…but it was good to see him so happy! I think he wondered why I passed on the shower…but he just shrugged it off.
Robert is an alcoholic. He’s been one since 17. He is now 56. Later in the day, I saw Robert again. I guess he had gotten hold of some vodka (hidden in his bag) and slipped it into his coffee thermos. I didn’t know. As we were walking down the street, he started to lose control. I began to realize he had been drinking. As we kept walking, he quickly became frustrated…started to stumble…and then fell into the street and passed out. I just froze. Then I went to him (along with another person from the streets) and helped him up. He wanted none of it. He yelled, screamed…and refused the help. He didn’t even know who I was…and he did not want us there. After getting him up, we had to leave him there. In the rain. Sitting right in a puddle. The other man said. “Robert…I love you…but I am not your mama. It’s your choice.”
After a few minutes we came back. This time, he remembered who we were. We got him up and helped him safely home to shelter. It was an experience…but one that is all too common.
I have never seen anyone turn that angry that quickly. I did not get angry back at Robert… because I knew it was not him yelling at me…it was the vodka. Alcohol is a huge problem on the streets. It has destroyed more than just livers.. It has destroyed relationships, jobs, and people’s drive to succeed.
It’s a crazy problem…one that lives in the stereotype of many homeless men and women…but it’s not too far off from common reality.
After just a few weeks on the street, I have begun to see alcohol in a different light.
Last night was also the first night of NO RAIN…after days and days of rain. I can’t tell you how difficult it is to manage your stuff when it’s raining and you are homeless—- especially if you are drunk on vodka. Everything gets wet. Your clothes, your bag, your shoes….everything. Even if there is cover for the night, your sleeping bag gets wet when you have to go back outside in the morning. So I was glad to sleep out under the stars and experience sunshine again.
The good news…things quickly dry under the sun.
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed. To you, O LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy: “What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness? Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help.” You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
He gets angry once in a while, but across a lifetime there is only love. The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter. When things were going great I crowed, “I’ve got it made. I’m God’s favorite. He made me king of the mountain.” Then you looked the other way and I fell to pieces. I called out to you, God; I laid my case before you: “Can you sell me for a profit when I’m dead? auction me off at a cemetery yard sale? When I’m ‘dust to dust’ my songs and stories of you won’t sell. So listen! and be kind! Help me out of this!” You did it: you changed wild lament into whirling dance; You ripped off my black mourning band and decked me with wildflowers.
Lunch & Earplugs: Posted on
The other day a good friend from my home church, Grace Crossings Community Church of Christ, introduced me to a man in San Antonio that was interested in my journey and personal ministry. Once the connection was made, the gentleman wanted to take me out to lunch…but not just a regular lunch…lunch at the Palms. How could I decline?!
However, this man was more than just a man who eats at the Palms…he is a dedicated disciple of Jesus Christ and loves to mentor young men with specific callings in ministry. Over this man’s career he has overseen his church’s diocese, managed a boys boarding school, led the board of directors of a top tier University, and led church camps. He accomplished all this while running his own very successful investment firm. (I’m sure he also has many other projects.) He’s an amazing man. He’s 3 times my age and still has more energy and dedication in his little finger than I have in my entire body!
It was good to meet him, hear his spiritual journey, and learn from his encouraging words. Even though he’s a Yale grad…he loves Duke and thought it was a hoot that a Duke grad would choose to be homeless! I wanted to tell him that Duke students become homeless while they camp out for weeks just to go to Duke basketball games. I guess it’s in our blood.
He encouraged me to set my goals for my ministry and never be afraid to dream BIG…even if it goes against the grain of the norm, my church, or culture. He said he was not into people with small goals…only big ones. I love people who live that way! Go big or go home. That was his creed.
The food was great and the company was even better.
Later that day I made it back to the shelter…and it was raining. Actually, it was raining a lot.
After entering the gates, I had the choice to sleep inside on the gym floor or stay outside and get wet. I chose the gym floor…but I would regret it this time around. Being wet would have been better…
When we were allowed to cram into the gym, I had to quickly find my spot. I found one by a corner near a group of men who seemed to be friends. After they fell asleep, I learned why they were friends….all of them snored…and snored LOUDLY! It was worse than the trains outside! I have never heard some of the sounds that resignated from their noses.
It was bad…my head was pounding…and I could not fall asleep. Hour one went by…then 2, 3, 4…until I remembered I had earplugs somewhere in my bag. I got them in Guatemala when I was staying with another infamous snorer…Paul Hoodless! (Thanks for the plugs Paul!) So I reached in my bag and soon realized they were covered in dirt. I debated what I would do in my mind…live with the snoring or cram dirty earplugs in my ears. I chose the plugs. It worked like a charm. I slept soundly for about an hour before the staff woke us up at 5am to clear us out for breakfast. I walked back into the rain. I should have just stayed outside…because I ended up sleeping under a tarp in the rain to make up for lost sleep. It was a learning experience. Rain is a difficult situation when your homeless.
The same day I ate at the Palms, I found myself sleeping in a muggy gym next to the Snoring Tabernacle Choir with dirty earplugs in my ears. It was definitely an interesting day!
However, I had been blessed by the company of a great follower of Christ, who was willing to help a brother out and encourage him on this crazy journey.
Addison Baker Duncan was born on December 29, 1927, in Waco, Texas to Addison Baker Duncan and Frances Higginbotham Duncan. He had two younger brothers, Malcolm P. Duncan of Waco, and Rufus Duncan who passed away in 1998, and one sister, Laura Duncan Trim of Albuquerque, NM.
Baker attended Woodberry Forest School in Virginia and graduated from Yale University and earned his Master’s Degree from the University of Texas at Austin.
On January 31, 1953, Baker married Sally Prescott Witt of San Antonio, and they settled in Houston, where Baker was employed by Rotan Mosle & Moreland from 1953-1961, and the first two of three sons were born; Addison Baker Duncan III and Richard Witt Duncan. Baker eagerly answered the call to be Headmaster at his old alma mater, Woodberry Forest in 1962. Baker was Headmaster from 1961–1970, and a third son, Andrew Prescott Duncan, rounded out the family. During his tenure at Woodberry, Baker started a building campaign to improve and increase campus buildings and infrastructure, increased the school’s endowment and hired a premier faculty. Baker consulted Sally on her wishes when it was time to leave Woodberry Forest, and they returned to San Antonio in 1970 with their family.
Baker re-joined Rotan Mosle Inc. as Office Manager, where he remained until 1978, when he founded Duncan-Smith Company, where he remained to the present day. Over the years Baker was asked to fill numerous offices, including:
Trustee, Trinity University 1976 – 2000
Trustee, Ray Ellison Grandchildren’s Trust
Director, Southwest Research Institute 1973-2016
Chairman, The San Antonio Museum Association 1975 – 1981
Chairman, Development Board, The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas 1998 – 2004
Chairman, Academic Committee, University of Texas Centennial Commission 1993
Chairman, Chancellor’s Council, The University of Texas System 1982
Leader of Faith Alive Weekends, Episcopal churches throughout the country
Superintendent of the Sunday School, The Colorado Chautauqua Association 1975 – 2012
Ever driven by his projects and causes, Baker was a leader in San Antonio, belonging to the Order of the Alamo, The Argyle, The San Antonio Country Club and St. David’s Episcopal Church. He was also the chairman of Duncan Park in Ward, Colorado, a property of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas, and a passionate participant in the development of Pioneer Village in Gonzales, TX. Outgoing and gregarious, he loved entertaining friends and business associates at his favorite booth at the Palm in downtown San Antonio or at one of his clubs. Baker was a member of The Philosophical Society of Texas, serving as Chairman in 2000.
Baker is survived by his wife of 65 years, Sally; three sons and their spouses, Baker III and Susan, Richard and Rose, and Andy and Laurel; ten grandchildren, Sadie, Addison, Adam, Witt, Avery, Nigel, Asher, Lucy, Natalie and Alexander; and three great-grandchildren, Larkin, Ethan and Baker V; his brother, Malcolm Duncan of Waco; his sister, Laura Trim and her husband Jerrold of Albuquerque, NM; and numerous nieces and nephews.