Heart for the Homeless

(Please listen to Karen’s story by clicking the white play button at the top of this post. You can read the transcript of the story below.)

If I’m talking to you, and you’ve come out of prison, and you’ve been in there for murder, I don’t see you that way. I can’t see you…I can’t comprehend it. It’s not there for me. People say, “Aren’t you afraid?” No, I’m not. I love them. They protect me. They walk with me. I don’t see. I don’t see that. I see. I see greatness. I see greatness. I see greatness! All things pass away, and all things become new. They are a new creation in Christ Jesus and so am I. So am I. So I’m one of them.

I am so honored that God has called me to be the founder and the pastor of The Dallas International Street Church. I’m the most unlikely person that would ever be in this place. Actually, I was a person that didn’t really have much compassion for hurting people. I was also a person that, when I would see somebody standing on the side of the road with a sign that says, “homeless will work for food,” my reaction was, “You just need to get a job. You need to quit doing that right there.” Little did I know that the person on that corner had a story. And that person had the same hopes and dreams and desires that I had.

It was only when the Lord called me, through circumstances in my life, to get to know these people that I was able to have that compassion. Many times we just look at things, look at people like they’re addicts, or they’re bums, or they’re hopeless, or they’re this or that. And we don’t even know their story. We don’t know their story. We don’t know the pain. We don’t know that they were molested by their father, they had children by their father. We don’t know that they were raped. We don’t know that their mama sent them around to push drugs and bring back the money. We don’t know those things. We don’t know a culture that is raised in poverty; that is raised in a house where drugs are running fluently. I see lives that were raised like five or six standing on the corner are going get the money for their uncle, for the drugs that he was selling. They didn’t know any different. They thought that’s what you were supposed to do. So they raised up to be 18 and they’re off to prison. I see young men coming out of prison that have spent the majority of their life, 15-20 years in prison, since they were 18. They’re coming out 40 and they have no hope. There’s nothing really left to do except go back.

These are the warriors that God is raising up right now because they’re totally unstoppable. I’m so honored to be able to see what God is doing. So I’m a huge Crusader. You know, I want to do something about that because I see the devastation. When I started this ministry in 1997, God had actually called me from ministering in the Dallas County jail where I saw a young lady, her name was Debbie. I’ll never forget Debbie. I got to know Debbie; I got to know her mama. I saw her come in over and over. She had a prostitution and crack cocaine issue for 15 years in the streets of Dallas. Getting to know Debbie, man, she was just like me! She had the same hopes and dreams and desires. But she had this thing that would not leave her alone. And I’m totally, totally convinced, I mean, it was totally demonic. It was totally satanic. These people have been deceived into thinking that there’s no better way for them. So when I saw that, the Lord gave me a vision for an inner city church that would be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And this precious church, where I was, put me on staff as a staff pastor to go to the street. I’d never been to the streets. But I can see where God protected me in a protected environment; because all of a sudden, people were given buses, they were given houses, I mean, that ministry grew to be huge. So I knew, because of that service at the Dallas County Jail, that God showed me that I was to open a church in downtown Dallas, that would be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I just had that vision. So He put it in my spirit, and I couldn’t get rid of it. Five years later, I stepped out, went to downtown Dallas, and rented a building at 420 South Ervay.

I didn’t have any money, my husband had died, and I had two little kids. That very day I called the guy and I said, “How much? How much does it take to get in that building?” God, that day, provided the first and last month’s rent. So I took him [property manager] the money; he didn’t know I didn’t have the second month’s rent. And I’m not saying I’m all that, but when God puts something in your spirit, you are all that. You’re exactly all that. And you know, a lot of times we have youth groups coming through here, and I tell this story, for them to know that it doesn’t matter what it is that God…if He puts his seed (an idea) in your spirit, if He puts that in your spirit, then He’s going to make a way for you to do it! No matter how crazy it looks. So as we’re speaking to young people, just speaking to people, I just let them know that when God puts that deposit in your heart, there’s not anything else you can do. It’s never entered my mind not to do this. Never! Never!

I’m the most unlikely person that would ever be in this place. Actually, I was a person that didn’t really have much compassion for hurting people. 

I had a background in the business world and I was always thinking, because I was always trying to figure out how I was going to pay a second month’s rent. I figured, well, maybe I’ll just get a part time job. But the Lord really spoke to me. He said, “If you will put the same energy into what I’ve called you to do, and forget that part time job, I’ll provide for you.” You know, He’s never missed a beat in 21 years. He’s provided houses. He’s provided vehicles. He’s provided a church. He’s provided a facility for on 34 acres out in Kaufman County for 30 men. He’s provided houses for the women. And the beat goes on. I mean, we see people graduate and we see miracles. We see people delivered from a terrible, terrible lifestyle of drugs, alcohol, mental illness; people are being delivered by the power of God. It’s not anything that anybody does. It’s not any church. It’s nothing. And I really believe this, that God kept the denomination name off this church, because somebody would be trying to take the credit. And nobody knows more than me; it is nothing about me. All I had to do was have the strength to show up. I didn’t know how to do this. No earthly idea. None. I just knew. I knew. I knew. I just knew. I don’t know how I knew; I knew. I just did what He put in front of me and I just loved.

I love, love, love our people. Once they get this; once they get hope, once they know who they are in Christ Jesus, I promise you, they’re that unstoppable army that’s going to be raised up. That Joel 2 army, and I can’t wait. And I’m going to see it. I’m going to live long and strong. I’ll be right out there with them as we go back. Because Jesus said, “Peter, don’t worry about John. Don’t worry about him. But when you are restored, because Satan has come to sift you, he’s come to sift every one of these.” (Luke 22:31-33) And I tell them, “When you’re restored, it’s your job. We’re going to go back and get your brothers and sisters. There are thousands of people living in the streets of Dallas, living under the bridges, living in terrible places, in the cemeteries, all these places. God’s people don’t have to do that. But you know what, they are a testimony to God’s delivering power. He loves them unconditionally. And when they get this and who they are, they are just, they’re unbelievable. They’re beautiful. They have awesome stories.

One of the things I really love about this community, I wouldn’t be laughing if I were them. But they laugh at everything. They can be in the worst circumstances and they are just laughing and telling jokes and just having the greatest time. We have barbecues and stuff on holidays. We go out to Crandall and they’re just barbecuing and they’re having the greatest time. I took about 40 of them, 40 of our people, to Galveston last year. Some of them had never been out of Dallas, let alone see the beach. And it was so awesome to see. We just went there, you know? We went for two days. I mean, that’s all we could do is two days, but it was like it was a week. And it was like a highlight for them. Many times I take everybody out to eat because that’s learning live again. They have to learn to live again. They have to learn to navigate in this world. They have to learn that. you know? But all of it is nothing, except for them to know that they are children of the Most High God. They are made in His image. That they can do all things through Christ who strengthens them. Once they know that, and it takes a long time because they’re so absolutely broken. They are broken. Society says beyond repair. But I know The Repairer and I’m honored, I get to see it. I get to experience it every absolute day. All I do is show people. They’re the witness. “We overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony.” And when you hear their testimonies, they are going to blow you away. Because Jesus Christ is the same today as He was yesterday and He’s the same tomorrow. And He’s in the miracle working business.

I’m telling you He’s raising up an army that is going to be unstoppable. And everybody will know and they will be afraid. Remember when Jesus cast out that demon and all the town’s people wanted Him to leave? Because they don’t know. But the world will know, through them,that He’s powerful. He can fix any problem. He can deliver them. He can set them free.

It’s all about Him.

I don’t know anything else. I don’t have any…I have no wisdom. Nothing, except for Him. If people will just get a grip on who He is and who they are in Him, there’s nothing, nothing that we can’t accomplish. And you’re so right, churches don’t know that today. They forgot it.

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