Dear Inner Circle,

Over a decade ago I was volunteering with a group that assisted fathers who had lost access to their children. This work wasn’t for the faint-hearted. The line between heartbreak and elation was often an incredibly fine one as our custody system is complex and doesn’t deal with nuance well. The long process took such a toll that many fathers reached a point of absolute desperation. Most of our efforts in this area tended to focus on simply keeping these fathers alive. Lisa and I did what we could, and through this group, met many brave men who were doing all they could to stay in their children’s lives.

One guy we met was living alone in his car, yet still managing to go to work every day. He was a proud father to his family and did all he could to help provide a stable home for his children. Eventually the car life proved too much for him and he accepted our offer of a roof over his head for a while. He soon became a part of our family and we all fell in love with him. He lived with us for a few years until he eventually reconciled with the mother of his children in what seemed to be an unlikely but great ending.

Father and son holding hands
Sadly, I met him in our Kings Cross centre last week looking dejected. He was back in his car again. He knew he needed help but was too afraid to ask. We need to re-think the language we use around homelessness. This fellow was reluctant to ask for or accept help because he kept saying, “I am not homeless”. He was homeless but what he meant was that he didn’t do drugs and had none of the other issues we associate with homelessness. We reassured him that it was ok just to be able to accept assistance. Within 24 hours we had put him up for the night and had found him some stable long-term accommodation. What seemed to be impossible was soon enough changed. A dark, dejected and defeated man now has a skip in his step once more. 

How often we meet people on the edge; some condemn themselves with relentless judgement. Some think the only relief comes in some form of escape, generally with the help of some chemical substance. The intersection where love and self-hate meet can be a dangerous intersection but it’s where we choose to live; it’s where the Wayside vision is born. Some fall by the Wayside literally at the right moment. There are some who are surprised that their own voice of judgement and declarations of failure are not the final word. There are some who respond to the respect and love they find here, so that the simplest acts of kindness really do lead to new life. We don’t see water changed to wine often but we see our fair share of winos changed into responsible fathers and good partners. It is miracle enough for us and keeps us inspired to fulfill our vision of “Love over hate”.

Thanks for being a part of the Inner Circle,

Jon

Jon Owen
Pastor & CEO
Wayside Chapel

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