Friday, February 23, 2007

Under the Burnside Bridge

Through my speech class I was provided a venue in which to have the captivated audience of 30 of my peers. God put it on my heart to be sincere in my speech topics. Not simply to take the path of least resistance to get the grade, but make an attempt to impact there lives, reveal how God is working genuinely in my life, and ultimately to glorify Him. The experience greatly opened my eyes to the inherently exciting nature of glorifying God through means that are not, in the words of our world, "shoving Jesus down their throat".

It first must be said, that many of my peers know I am Christian. And for those who didn't, I was also able to hand out fliers advertising the "Blanket Drive for the Homeless" that Campus Crusade for Christ is sponsoring on campus. There was no doubt of who I was and what I believed, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.

With no further ado, here is a chopped/edited/reformatted version of my speech for your reading ease:

The city of Portland has the 4th most homeless people in the nation.

Over 20,000.

There are countless numbers of shelters that serve peoples basic necessities such as food and clothing. One of these homeless shelter I have had the opportunity to volunteer at the last couples months is called Bridgetown Ministries. They serve the homeless and needy in a number of ways, but the one I am most familiar with is they set up underneath the Burnside Bridge every Friday night, also known as Nightstrike. It is here under the Burnside bridge that along with providing such necessities as food and clothing; we wash peoples feet.

Now I know many of you probably have a repulsion to feet, and I hear ya, I think they are disgusting. But really, this is very much a cultural mindset that has been ingrained into the western mind.

For a long time in the west, feet were the most neglected part of our body. Civilization and weather caused us to wrap them in leather or fur, and clad them in plastic or rubber. Out of sight and out of mind. it was not until the last few decades that foot care and feet in general have started to receive more attention.

For centuries Eastern cultures treated the feet as objects of health and beauty. Chinese acupuncture doctors over four thousand years ago treated bodily ailments through nerve endings on the soles and feet. Ancient writings from India and Egyptian papyrus scrolls contain foot massage techniques to heal various bodily ailments.

Yet it is only today that podiatrists are coming into great demand in America, and with good reason. Problems with our feet can be the first sign of more serious medical conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, and nerve and circulatory disorders. Years of wear and tear can be hard on our feet. So can disease, poor circulation, improperly trimmed toenails, and wearing shoes that don't fit properly.

But any number of specific complications can plague ones foot, such as fungal and bacterial conditions, dry skin, corns and calluses, warts, bunions, ingrown toenails, hammertoe, and spurs. Poor foot care can also lead to problems throughout your body in that bacteria can creep into the blood stream through small cuts or abrasion in the skin that are not visible to the eye.

All this being said, washing ones feet cleans more then just the physical aspect of their body. In the case of many of the people who come underneath the Burnside Bridge on the cold wet Portland Friday nights, they have scars emotionally or physically that run very deep. It is because of this never-ending list of heartbreaking stories - stories of hate, betrayal, greed, addiction, and war - that they are on the street. It in this situation in life, when they need love and compassion the most, that society often times casts them aside or literally steps over them not even acknowledging their existence.

They are stripped of their humanity.

But by receiving a simple foot washing they are returned a sense of dignity.

By receiving a simple foot washing one can feel human again.

They leave not only walking on feet, but with a heart that feels refreshed and cleansed.

David Knepprath


joannamews said...

Wanna know what I learned while out here in Wisconsin? That Portland is the coccaine capitol of the world almost. I guess you can get it for super cheap everywhere. I saw it on a MSNBC reports thing. Pretty exciting. And Tacoma is the Meth capitol of the world. *sigh* my two homes...

David Knepprath said...

Ya, I did know about that. Something to be proud of eh? Good to know we are making a name for ourselves in the rest of the nation. :)

Margaret said...

Thanks for this, David. We're volunteers at NCompass (a ministry for the homeless on 2nd and 4th Sundays). Just offering lunch and clothes to people under the Burnside Bridge, too, so I know what you're talking about here. The best part for me yesterday was talking with a couple of the homeless families and, after hearing their stories, praying together. When we prayed, I felt incredibly close to them and to Jesus. "When two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them." That's what church should be like! Bless you.