Photo courtesy of Steve Kimes.
I’m honored to feature an interview with my friend, Steve Kimes. Steve is the Pastor of Anawim Christian Community. I first heard about him from Ken Lloyd. A few years later, I am now enjoying getting to know him. Steve is on the front lines of ministry to people living in poverty, without shelter, or adequate food and clothing. This interview provides a glimpse into his story. You may learn much more by visiting his website, www.nowheretolayhishead.org.
Glen: How did you get started with your ministry?
Steve: My wife and I had prepared for years to work with the poor in Bangladesh, but those plans fell through. We remained here in Portland, and I became ministerially frustrated—I just wanted to do something, to share what God had been teaching me. No clear teaching opportunities existed, so I sat at a borrowed computer, wrote out a few tracts, printed them out and I handed them out… in front of churches. They were tracts encouraging love, the surrender of possessions and helping the poor. After a morning of being yelled at by church members, I took an aside to pray and mentioned to God, “You know, I’ve been encouraging people to serve the poor, but I’m not doing it myself. How about if we invite a homeless person to dinner once in a while and get to know some local poor folks?” God must have listened because that evening my wife and I met Edgar, a local homeless man. We invited him to dinner the next night and he gladly took down our address and phone number. That night, at 2am, we received a phone call from a local bar that Edgar was passed out at the bar and the only address he had on him was ours. We reluctantly agreed to have a taxi drop him off at our two bedroom apartment. He passed out and yelled, in his sleep all night. The next day, we gave him some food and welcomed him to come back for dinner. Which he did. The next night, too. And the next. Then he brought a friend. Later, another. Pretty soon we had as many as ten people eating dinner in our apartment and we spent a couple years feeding folks and listening to their stories.
Glen: Who are a few of your primary influences?
Steve: It’s a cliché to say that my main influence is Jesus, but it’s true. Not the Jesus at the right hand of God, but the Jesus of the gospels, who preached the Sermon on the Mount, fed the hungry and healed the sick. It takes a whole life just to figure out how much we still have to grow to be near to Jesus. Other important influences are Keith Green, the spiritually-edgy musician and Francis of Assisi. But the most influential person on my wife has been my wife, Diane. It was her idea to invite people into our home, to serve the poor and to live out peace in gentleness. More often than not, the best things I have done were just following her example.
Glen: Wow. Keith Green and St Francis (via John Michael Talbot) both were strong influences on me in my youth and early adulthood, so your response strongly resonates with me. Of course, I agree with you about the primary influence of Jesus. This is true for me as well. By the way, what is Anawim?
Steve: The word “anawim” is a Hebrew term that means “the poor who seek the Lord for deliverance”. It is used frequently in the psalms and proverbs about people who are desperate and rejected by society and cries out to God for protection or justice. Our church is called “Anawim” because we are a bunch of homeless and mentally ill and poor folks who have no one to cling to but the Lord. Society has already rejected most of us, and we are the kind of people who the police will approach because we look suspicious. But we are not looking for our salvation to come from the police or from food stamps. God is the greatest power in the universe and He says that He looks to the poor and desperate. We are willing to have Him help us, and to wait on Him for our food, our protection, our shelter and our very lives.
Glen: How can individual Christians and the church best educate themselves about homelessness and poverty, especially here in the Portland area?
Steve: A local church in our area decided to do exactly that and they did the very best thing they could do—they got to know homeless people. Instead of spending a lot of money on studies or giving things that might not be necessary, they went to places where the homeless hung out and started to hang out with them. They asked questions and listened to stories and prayed with people. After a bit, they discovered some need that they could provide and they just began to do that. We need to understand that the chronic homeless have gone through remarkable changes and they see society and church in a very different way than most church people do. It takes time and patience to just listen and to earn respect before we think we can “solve” their problems. We can’t solve anyone’s problems. We can be friends, however, and walk alongside the homeless person on the path God has given them.
Glen: You and I recently spoke about the needs of frontline leaders who minister among the poor and homeless. What is the greatest need that leaders are facing and what encouragement do you have for them?
Steve: There are more people who are ministering to the poor than ever before. However, we are often isolated and poor ourselves and very much anawim. We aren’t understood by other church folks, who think we are fanatics or possibly socialists. I wish we would take time to encourage one another. Honestly, Glen, I love your idea of like-minded folks getting together to support one another. We all really need that.
Glen: I look forward to collaborating with you to make that happen in the near future! Is there any question you wish I would have asked? What is that question and what is your response?
Steve: Actually, I know that you are just using this as an opportunity to see if I can read your mind. I know the question you were dying to ask: “Your hat is truly magnificent. Where did you get it?” I appreciate your fine taste in fashion. Unfortunately, my wife bought this hat for me years ago, and I don’t know where she got it. Perhaps you could ask her.
Glen: I must admit that I experienced a mild case of hat envy while we conversed. How did you know? :) Anyway, how can people get involved in helping Anawim?
Steve: I would love for people to partner with us. We’d love donations of food or clothes and it’s great to have some folks help out for a day, but we are really looking for people who want to get to know our local poor folks, get involved with their lives and help in whatever small ways they can. If anyone would like to help us in any of these ways, they can email me at email@example.com If anyone would like to know more about Anawim, they can check out our website at http://www.NowhereToLayHisHead.org
Thanks, Glen, for having me on your blog. It’s much roomier than I thought it would be…
Glen: It is my honor! Your responses are helpful and encouraging. Thank you for taking the time to converse with me. See you soon!
Now then, I invite readers to ask questions or interact with us in the comments section. But let’s not spend too much time here. There is much to be done in the name of Jesus to help our friends who are hungry and struggling trying to survive outdoors. Let’s make that our priority in terms of time and resources.