Interview With Homeless Caregiver: God's Unconditional Love Is the Motivation

The homeless on the street
The homeless on the street (photo: Pixabay)
By Phoebe SunMarch 25th, 2024

After more than ten years of street ministry, a Christian man surnamed Liu still feels grateful. "I once wandered the streets, and God placed a burden for this community in my heart after I come out of that low point."

Liu, in his forties, has big eyes and a lean figure. He speaks in a northern accent, with a firm and powerful voice. He has been serving the homeless for over 10 years. The regular work involves visiting the homeless on the streets and under bridges, providing them with food, clean clothes, and essential medicines.

The ministry receives assistance from many Christians, including helping collect clean clothes and food as well as support in other ways. With a grateful heart, he mentioned a Christian couple who own a sushi restaurant and provide sushi for him to distribute to the homeless twice a month, free of charge.

To care for the physically weak and seriously ill homeless individuals who need rehabilitation, Liu and staff workers have rented a two-bedroom apartment in the suburbs, with a monthly rent of over 1,000 yuan.

This apartment is also open to vagrants every Friday morning. They can come to take a shower to wear clean clothes and eat a hot meal. 

At 11 am on a Friday, Liu arrived at the apartment as usual. He said that it was expected to be more than a dozen people coming that day. He expressed some concern, saying that two severely disabled homeless men need assistance to climb up, yet they still come every week. 

When he opened the door, a smell wafted out—a mixture of the aroma of stewed dishes, the scent of ointments, the taste of bath products, and the odor of sweat.

Once inside, Liu greeted those who had arrived first, asking what they were doing lately and if they had taken a bath. Several people mentioned they had opportunities to do temporary labor, such as physical work.

One person, wearing a yellow jacket with disheveled hair, asked Liu, "Can I do debt collection work? They offer a base salary and commission." He responded, "No one wants to be in debt. With debt stress in the economic downturn, many people commit suicide. How do you feel after making those debt collection calls?" The man in the yellow jacket replied, "I feel unethical." Liu continued, "Then let's have some integrity. If it makes you uneasy, we shouldn't do it." Later, when he stood up, it was noticed that he had a severe disability.

Liu thought of something they could do, such as making handicrafts and selling them at street stalls.

After a brief conversation, lunch was prepared, with a mealtime prayer from Liu. After lunch, Liu noticed that the man in a wheelchair didn't look well and, upon inquiry, he learned that he was experiencing pain. So, he helped him to the bedroom to rest. Each of the two bedrooms had a bunk bed. 

Next was the time for Bible study. Despite the difficult circumstances, Liu urged them to focus more on internal growth and imitate Christ's love, as the kingdom of love was their true home. "People may think your life is worthless, but you can comfort others as God has comfort you. Experiencing hardships, you can understand the sufferings of others better, just like Christ, who became flesh to empathize with our hardships. Christ has chosen you to share your redemption stories."  

He said to them, "Come often for a wash, and you can even go to the nearby KFC after cleaning up. Without money, you can also ask for a cup of water and sit down to read the Bible."

After the Bible study, several people, who hadn't showered, came to have a bath, taking clean clothes and some necessities. A young girl, at 22, said she had been brought by one of the homeless men, hoping to find a job as a cashier. Her ID card was lost, so she was waiting to get a replacement.

There was a man with wet hair whom Liu had known for several years. Liu had provided him with bail money to find a job, but he didn't stick with it and chose to return to a life of street wandering.

Liu mentioned that most of the homeless people end up on the streets due to hardships and lack of help. Some had their belongings stolen or lost their ID cards while traveling for work. Some became homeless due to unemployment or strained family relationships. Without receiving help in times of need, they became homeless.

When asked about how those he had cared for over the years had fared, Liu shared that most had returned to normal life, and some had even gotten married.

In his ministry, he also encountered challenges. Among the homeless population, most women ended up on the streets due to mental health issues. It was difficult to care for such individuals, and some staff workers attempted to care for them but eventually gave up. It was all they could do to distribute food and clothing when they encountered them, and it is difficulty to help them reintegrate into society.

Additionally, some people, despite receiving help, would still criticize his street ministry. Encountering such people on the streets, he still bought them food, unable to bear seeing them hungry.

- Translated by Abigail Wu

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