Ya Know What I'm Say'n by Kris & Keith Bridgman

This book is a must read for anyone interested in ministry of any kind. It is the story of how two people were used by God to comfort so many in Bowling Green, KY.

I don't say that because I wrote the foreword. It is such a high honor to be asked to write a foreword to a book, and frankly, there are no words to express how great an honor it was for me to be asked to write the foreword to this book by Kris and Keith Bridgman. I just love promoting God's work, and this is a true account of God at work.

The Foreword

Within these pages you will find a startling world of raw compassion. Raw because the compassion is unadorned with worries of what other people may think; the actions illustrated here are ingenuous, very much as Jesus would do. I have heard compassion defined as empathy and love at work, and that describes Kriss and Keith Bridgman’s hearts as well as their two ministries. But, the book is larger than just two hearts working hard to reflect the brilliant light of agape in a dark world.

These are life stories that are certainly heart breaking, there are tormented souls, and there are those who choose a different god than the Lord God Almighty to worship. Some of these people know Jesus, and want to let the mind of Christ take charge, but cannot break free of Satan’s sticky web. They wear shackles and chains, imprisoned by their past. What unfolds is the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of the homeless lifestyle.

What Kris has lovingly penned is a result of a real life fast in the vein of Isaiah 58:
6 “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” (ESV)

While Kris and Keith do not bring the homeless to live in their home for reasons that will become obvious as you read this book, they have inspired numerous people to bring help and hope to the homeless of Bowling Green. They pray, they bring food, they lift the yoke of bleakness and despair, they pry open cold hearts by extending the warm fires of God’s love to these homeless people. There is a mighty fast pleasing to God ongoing in this fair city.

A harsh lesson is illustrated in this book as well. Often times we try so hard to live the Christian life in our own strength. We work so hard at eliminating bad habits relying upon our own resources. This is so far from God provided for us, and how He designed for us to live doing the work He planned long before the foundation of the world. Charles Stanley once said God had to teach him he could not live Christ-like twenty-four seven under his own steam. Only when he could trust God enough to do it for him would he ever come close to pleasing God in the way he lived.

Just like an amputee seems to feel the missing arm, or has an itch on a missing leg, so Satan makes a person feel chains and shackles that have been removed by God Himself. They are phantom shackles, but they feel so heavy and so real. When people live oppressed, weary and heavy laden, they must be taught how to live free. This book is a strong testimony for the critical need for discipling God’s children.

You will find no better illustration of this truth than right here in this study. No doubt you will tsk at the old Greg, cheer for the new Greg, weep for Dallas, clap for Theresa, root for Tony, gasp, laugh, and pray for them all.
This is a beautiful portrait of compassionate outreach to hurting people. Read and see the physical illustration of the spiritual promises God lays out in Isaiah 58.

Isaiah 58:8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.' If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, 10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. 11 And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

What could be better than living like that?

Interview with Kris

What have you learned from this experience?

Homelessness is one of those aspects of life that most people simply ignore. More often than not, our attitudes toward those caught within its grasp is one of indifference or complacency believing that they are homeless because they want to be, and there is not much any one person can do to make a difference. When I began to explore the world of the homeless I discovered people with broken hearts, lost hopes, and destroyed dreams. I saw firsthand how addiction to alcohol and/or drugs can diminish a person’s self-worth to the point they simply give up and no longer try to change. I’ve also witnessed incredible strength and perseverance.

Almost all of them are searching for value in their lives, all too often finding it inside a bottle. When I began talking with the people and listening to their stories, an entirely new perspective materialized. These are people with a history who desperately cling to one important good element from their past lives. That is what gives them a semblance of purpose to show to those around them that they do value, so they can find within themselves a small spark of importance.

Many of them claim to know God. Most of them only know him superficially as some kind Helper to get through hard times. Rarely is there any kind of meaningful,  spiritual connection. Almost all of them are searching for the very thing that only God in their lives can provide, they just fail to understand how to reconcile who they are now with what they can become with Christ in their lives. The Blanket Ministry opens doors to share with them the value that only Christ can offer to them.

It is amazing at how many tears are shed during some of the conversations. Emotions locked inside search for release, and when a simple prayer is offered for them, many times even the most hardened will let go of pent up emotional needs and begin to cry. I’ve seen long term alcoholic homeless men encapsulated with a thick crust of distrust have tears pool across their cheeks, and walk away after we have shared with them. The homeless are not devoid of good emotions, they just need some kind of trigger to allow it to surface, and listening with a caring heart combined with a gentle hug or touch will often allow those good emotions to be released. It is during those times that hearts can be changed.

How have you been changed by this experience?
No longer can I look at a homeless person without first understanding that a back story, a history exists for that person. I’ve discovered that regardless of their current situation, there was always something from their past that contributed to them being there. Those histories reveal a great deal about who they are, and why they have allowed themselves to be negatively influenced by their current circumstances. It has helped me understand how to answer the question, Who is my Neighbor? When we begin to understand that our neighbor is everyone, especially those who are hurting, we can then identify how to direct our own lives.

No one person can solve the problem of homelessness and all of its causes. But, it is not so much a matter of solving the problem as it is understanding that the problem exists then being willing to doing something to help. Churches are very good at teaching their congregations all the Ought To scenarios, but they are less effective at teaching and encouraging them How to. I may not be able to travel to other countries to share the love of Christ, but I can sit on a park bench and share Him with those I meet. As worn down and forgotten as the homeless are, they are still precious souls to God. When we stop looking at those we encounter through the tinted glasses of preconceived notions, and begin to see them through the filter of Christ, how can we not be changed?

Where to now?
I’ve learned that when God is in control, He will lead you where He needs you. At this point I’m not sure where He is leading me other than to stay where I am.  The Blanket Ministry has grown from handing out blankets to those we encounter, into a homeless outreach ministry at the bridge that offers not only basic necessities such as blankets, socks, coats, personal hygiene supplies, but also hot meals once a week and food bags. It offers an opportunity to befriend those who may not otherwise have that opportunity. We spend time speaking to and praying for those we meet, and offer encouragement and direction about finding other resources for assistance.

For now I will continue with the Blanket Ministry and Homeless Outreach Ministry until God decides otherwise. We are experiencing amazing stories from the bridge, and I am in the beginning stages of using that as a theme for a follow up book. We are developing trust and friendships with not just the homeless, but many who are simply lonely and have few resources on which to survive. We are establishing bonds, and we are sharing Christ’s love with those we meet. For now, I am convinced this is what God wants me to do.

No comments:

Get widget