I will never forget the day that I first heard about Jordon Bartosz. At the time we lived in a very small mountain town, and we were getting ready to move into a new place. One day about a week before the move, David came home from working at the school and said, “I met the kid who is going to be our neighbor. You are going to love him.” And he was right. Jordon helped us move all of our stuff in on moving day, and then he was in our home at one point or another pretty much every single day after that, for the next seven years. I could seriously write a hundred blog posts about the ways that Jordon has enriched our life, not the least of which being the fact that he loved and influenced our children, and that he also taught us the correct way to experience tea.
But this post is not about Jordon. He has actually agreed to be a guest-blogger today and talk about something most excellent. I have so much respect for him and I am honored to have him in this space. Here is what he has to say:
Bridgetown Inc. is a non-profit organization founded ten years ago in Portland, OR. It started when two guys felt the calling to make a change in Portland. Despite the countless missions and shelters in Portland, the Homeless population there was still missing something. They needed more than just a roof over their heads and a meal on their plate, they needed relationships. The two men brought a small bucket down under the Burnside bridge and asked the first person to walk by if they could wash their feet. Since then Bridgetown has grown and developed over the years into something truly amazing. Now on any given week you can find anywhere between 150 and 200 people living in community under the Burnside bridge.
I have been working with Bridgetown for just over two years now, more specifically their Night Strike environment, which helps with the needs of the homeless. Every Thursday night we meet at a church, just blocks from the Bridge. We start the night with a small worship session and an encouraging talk with the volunteers at the church. We then go over rules and station orientations for under the bridge.
We have about a dozen different stations under the bridge set up for our guests, the homeless. One very important station, and the first one they ever did, is the foot washing station. We have warm water, soap and dry socks for the guests. This station is particularly important for two reasons: It is a beautiful example of what Jesus did for his disciples, and a humbling experience for anyone who volunteers for it. Portland is a very wet city with all the rainfall, so keeping our guests’ feet clean and dry is very important for preventing illness and keeping their feet from literally starting to rot.
We also have the dignity station. This is one of my favorites, and one I led for almost a year. At this station we have supplies for guests to feel dignified – things such as soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste and tooth brushes. It has also become a place for the guests to receive manicures from our volunteers. Guests will come and sit there the whole night and just talk with a volunteer who clips and paints their nails for them.
We also provide haircuts, clothing, dog food and a nice home cooked meal for our guests. We have recently started a mobile medical clinic under the bridge and once a month a shower trailer is provided by Shower to the People.
Another great station is the host/hostess station. Volunteers for this station are to be the host of our guests – bringing them food and drinks if they cannot wait in line, as well as retrieving other supplies for them. Volunteers are encouraged to grab some food themselves and sit with a guest and talk and interact with them. Walking around Night Strike you will see people playing card games and board games together, people laughing, crying, praying for each other and every so often some singing and dancing, especially around the holidays.
Night strike does not stop there. We have two other stations that are not under the bridge. First, we have our prayer walks. Volunteers dedicate the first hour or so of their service to walking around downtown Portland and praying over the city. The staff at Night Strike is dedicated to doing this each week, no matter what. If only 20 volunteers show up for the night we may cut out a few stations, but we always keep at least one prayer walk. We know there is power in prayer.
The other station outside of the bridge is what we call Walkabouts. This is where we essentially take what we do under the bridge out to the people who won’t come to the bridge. We send volunteers out into the city with socks, sandwiches, coffee and a few dignity supplies. Their goal is not to just give out everything they have and get back to the bridge, but to use those supplies as tools to start a conversation with a guest and get to know them. Who knows? Maybe they will see them again under the bridge next week.
At Night Strike we feel that it is very important for our guests to see our volunteers fully living out their faith. We do not preach at our guests, and we don’t have them participate in a group prayer before eating. I have found that when I talk about the Bible with guests under the bridge, they will know more about the Bible and twice as many verses as I do. They have heard a ton of sermons. But I have also found that it can be very destructive if they are preached at every day yet never see it lived out, especially since so many of our guests have lived a life of broken promises on the street. We just want to start a conversation with them.
We see all of the stations under the bridge as tools for just that. Ways for our volunteers to start a conversation with our guests and be more than just a talking head, but to be an ear to listen and a shoulder to lean on. The best part of Night strike is when you have been coming week after week you build relationships with the guests and become a friend to them. And then, maybe after weeks of listening and being a servant to them, you will get to tell them your story and why you care and why you are living the way you are.
If you would like to learn more about Night Strike or donate to this incredible ministry, visit: http://bridgetowninc.org/environments/nightstrike/
See you tomorrow!