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NYC Relief Helps Joe See the Light Despite Rough Past: “All the Friends I Grew Up with Are Now Dead”


By Juan Galloway

At New York City Relief, our theme for 2020 is “Seeing a Brighter Future.” With all of the negativity and pessimism that exists around the plight of the homeless, we see a brighter future for our friends living on the streets. Recently, I met a man named Joe who helped me to see that even clearer.

I met Joe while on an outreach in the city of Paterson, New Jersey. He told me of a past that was riddled with crime, incarceration, homelessness, and addiction. His family disowned him because of his chronic bad behavior. Tragically, his mother passed away and that was the turning point in Joe’s life—he knew that he was made for more and decided to make a change. Today, Joe has been clean from drugs for ten years. He works a full-time job and has his own apartment. The joy of his life is his 14-year-old daughter, whom he adores.

It was a long and rough road for Joe. If you had known him during the dark part of his journey, you might not have had much hope for change. In fact, Joe told me, “All the friends I grew up with are now dead.” This man really beat the odds. Even though he used to be strung out on heroin and crack, he knew God could help. Unfortunately, this street-hardened man was actually afraid to go to church, because he couldn’t bear for people to see him in his broken state. The shame he carried was crushing.

My eyes were opened to the fear with which people living on the streets struggle. They hold a fear of people looking down on them and condemning their state of being. It is an incredible burden that drives many into isolation. Joe came to visit the Relief Co-op outreach located at The Good Shepherd Mission because that was a place he could be himself without being judged. He had been in the mission’s rehabilitation program in the past and knew this was a place he would always be accepted.

I told Joe that his story was powerful and could give hope to many that real change is possible. He helped give me eyes of faith for others still struggling. We prayed together and both wept a few tears as the Holy Spirit touched both of us. I spoke words of encouragement over him the way I would want someone to do for me.

It’s so easy to make snap judgements about people struggling with homelessness, but Jesus is pretty clear when he says,

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”–Matthew 7:1-5 NLT

How are your “heart eyes” doing? Do you need some help for God to remove the log from your eye so that you can see people the way he does? If you want 2020 vision, let me make a suggestion, get closer to the subject you are looking at. Ask them their name and get to know them. There is a lot more beneath the surface than you could ever imagine.

A great way to improve your vision is by serving on an outreach with New York City Relief. Share a cup of hot chocolate, rub shoulders with those who are close to God’s heart and watch judgements just melt away as you connect at a heart level.

Juan Galloway is President/CEO of New York City Relief, a mobile outreach to those struggling with homelessness. Go to newyorkcityrelief.org to volunteer or partner financially so that more people like Joe can see a brighter future.