Beards In Action: The BGM Outreach Experience!

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Some of you may or may not know that “The Proprietor” of Bearded Gospel Men does not run this website and Facebook page as a full-time job.  My “real job” is as a Youth With A Mission (‘YWAM’) missionary.  YWAM is an international, ecumenical Christian missionary and humanitarian aid organization that is represented all over the world and involved in hundreds of expressions of outreach and ministry.  I am connected with YWAM in Modesto, California (www.ywammodesto.org). We are a small team dedicated to building meaningful friendships with the street community, with the Church and with Jesus, while introducing everyone to each other.

You may have read the story I wrote about my good friend Arley, who passed away this summer.  (If you haven’t, you can read that here.)  The shortest version of the story is that Arley was just another drunk in the park when I first met him, but through the long, slow work of friendship and the Holy Spirit, his life was dramatically changed.  Not only did he become a dear, close friend, but he also began to reach out in kindness and love to others.  He could easily identify with their feelings of hopelessness, because he had lived there himself. He knew what despair felt like, but he also knew what it felt like to find hope, and to find the love of a Saviour.

My friend Bob is another example of someone who’s life was dramatically changed by the power of friendship. Bob made the miraculous journey from living in profound isolation and two bottles of Jack Daniels a day, to being a joy-filled man in love with God and his local church community.  I mention Bob because of how we met him.

South Ninth Street is an extremely neglected part of town where there are several “residential motels” (not unlike the motel portrayed on the show Breaking Bad). On Ninth Street, addiction, mental illness and despair are common. We as YWAM Modesto fell in love with this place. Since we couldn’t afford to rent out a building on Ninth Street to run a drop-in centre, we came up with the ‘Ninth Street Café’: an outdoor, impromptu café we started hosting each week. We found a nice, wide-open spot on the sidewalk next to the bus stop, set up some tables and chairs, and began serving coffee and donuts right there on the street. For years now, people have come down to hang out with us and be refreshed through smiles and friendship.

Several years ago, a group of Canadians were with us. They were from my home church in Ontario, and they were here for a week of outreach to the residents of South Ninth Street. When we have a team with us like this, we like to host special events for the people of Ninth Street, events that we couldn’t necessarily pull off with just our own small crew. That week, we hosted a big barbecue, serving burgers and cold drinks to whoever came by. Bob, who was living at one of the motels, came by that day. He was so moved by what we were doing that he went out and bought ice cream for everybody. One of the Canadians struck up a conversation with him, and they talked for hours. This was the first time I’d met him.

Later, after the Canadian team had returned home, Bob lost his job. We began to see him more often at the “Ninth Street Café”, and we began to develop a meaningful friendship with him. He began to share more of his life with us, and we began to share more of our lives with him. I found out that he absolutely loved fishing, but that it had been years since he went because of his current circumstances. So one day we went fishing together. Simple things like this slowly became what was, in the end, a life changing friendship for all of us. To make a long story short, Bob came to open his heart to friendship and to God, and eventually went to a 30 day recovery program.  He has been clean and sober for 3 1/2 years now, and is an active and integral part of a local church community. (Actually, he’s currently one of my roommates at the house where I’m living!)

I share Bob’s story because I want you to know that being part of a short-term outreach team really can completely change someone’s life, including your own. When a team comes to serve with us here in Modesto, they are coming alongside an ongoing ministry. We do not do “in-and-out” events. A team that comes to work with us is helping us to develop further and deeper relationships with the people we seek to serve in an ongoing basis.

So here’s where you come in. Imagine a team like that, serving alongside our ministry, made up completely of gloriously bearded gospel men!  The possibilities are truly wondrous to ponder!  With that in mind, you are cordially invited to be part of the very first official Bearded Gospel Men “Beards In Action” outreach team!

We’re hoping to get a group together to come here to Modesto in late March or the first week of April.  Yes, that’s  soon, but it would seem to be our available “window” as YWAM Modesto to host such a team.

The team would be hosted here in Modesto for five days to a week (probably over a weekend, so as to cut down on the ‘days off’ required to come out), and work alongside our team in ministry to the street community of Modesto.

We’ve hosted a lot of teams here over the years, and it’s always an extremely fun and rewarding time of making connections and friendships with the street community, as well as each other, while learning about the nature of poverty and homelessness in America and what the average person can do to help. If you’ve not had a lot of experience with reaching out to the poor, it’s a great way to get your feet wet, so to speak. If you’ve had plenty of experience in that area, it’s a chance to experience it in a different context.

We try to make everything completely relationship based.  This is not an “evangelistic” outreach (though you’ll have ample opportunity to share your life and your faith with people), nor is it merely a work/project based outreach (though you’ll have the opportunity to bless people in very practical ways).  It’s a week to make friendships and connections, and to be changed by them as a result.

Also, there’s a lot of food.  Taco trucks, man.  They’ll change your life. I guarantee it!

The week also includes a “day out”, either to San Francisco or Yosemite National Park or another nearby and awesome California location.  If we can work out the timing, it’s even possible that we could participate in a beard competition night in San Francisco or Sacramento.  Now that could be a lot of fun!

We’re hoping to pull together a small team of between 5 and 10 men.  The cost for the week would be about $300 to $340, which would include housing, groceries for two meals a day and an “out” meal each day.  The rest would go to outreach costs for the YWAM team, including fuel and outreach supplies (i.e. food for a Ninth Street barbecue and any other special events or projects we would do that week, as well as our day out).  How you get here would be up to you.

It really is a very fun and meaningful week to be part of.  And it would be awesome to actually meet some of you guys face to bearded face. As a side note, it has been statistically proven that taking part in one of these teams will vastly improve and even cause the appearance of facial hair! If an experience like this is something you think you would like to be part of, please send us an email at beardedgospelmen@gmail.com and we can begin to work out the details.

Don’t be too quick to say No just because of cost or distance! There are always possibilities for group fundraisers! Take some time to consider it, and if the idea seems to stick with you, then you should probably drop us a line. As Francis of Beardsisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times.  When necessary, use beards!”

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