I have been asked the same question dozens and dozens of times lately by ministers from all around the United States, “How does HMA work”. To be fair most of these ministers want an answer that fits into a time frame of about 60 seconds to up around 15 minutes max. To which I chuckle. Now I understand that most of these ministers were raised in an environment where you are supposed to start out preaching the youth stuff and then your pastor will get you some gigs within his sphere of influence and nobody will target you or try to tear you down if you hit on all the right fellowship points while you are preaching and if you are really “lucky”, (sorry), “blessed” enough then perhaps you will get to date or even marry the daughter of a minster that has even greater influence than your pastor and then finally, if all has gone well to this point, your studies and abilities and anointing is ready to take over your ministry. And if it doesn’t work out that way then you are probably not going to have a real good pastorate gig so you might want to look into being a missionary of some sort and say that God has “dealt with you” or you can just get a paying job. If this sounds a little harsh I’m sorry. And please don’t take me the wrong way. I think all most all of these guys are real and sincere. It’s just that HMA doesn’t function on the same plane. It is almost humorous to me that we get so much attention, but I’ll tell you why I think we get all the attention that we do. We are all about SOULS and absolute biblical truths. That way it doesn’t matter who stays or who goes or who marries who, the mission continues. I believe that it is interesting to people that we live and work by our motto, “Think outside the box but inside the Bible”. It does sound interesting doesn’t it? J
Well it just so happens that today I had an incident that has become quite common around here and I felt like if I could tell this story that it just might help some understand a little more just what HMA is all about. Several months ago a young man got off of the bus on Sunday morning and came into the sanctuary and sat down in the back with several of the other homeless people that came. A few of the saints got around and shook his hand and tried to make him welcome before the service started. He seemed very shy and almost beat down. He sat through the service and when the preacher gave the altar call he came forward. He knelt and prayed for several minutes and left tears on the altar when he went back to his seat. We gave him a hot meal and a fresh change of clothes. He thanked some and got back on the bus headed for down town Tulsa. He came and repeated this scenario two or three more times before I finally got around to talking with him. I prayed with him and gave him my card and told him that if he needed something to let me know and we would be praying for him. (Then we really did). Over the next couple of weeks he called me a few times and I responded by taking him some shoes, some deodorant, giving him a ride to an appointment, etc. Finally one day he asked about how our volunteer/discipleship program worked. The next day he became a client of HMA.
The first thing that we did was pull some strings and get him into a shelter where he could get sleep, showers and meals. Then one of our staff members began to pick him up every morning and take him to our thrift store so that he could work. We made sure every day that he had food, clothes and hygiene items. He worked at the mission all day every day and went to church with us four times a week. We talked all day about his past, consequences, truth, God and eternity. After several weeks of this it was time for the next step. He was working very hard for us but we knew we couldn’t give him money so we began to help him put his life back together with the extra money that he would have been earning. We got in contact with his family, jumped through all the hoops of getting him a lot of the important papers that he had lost. His birth certificate, state ID, etc. We even checked with the IRS and found out that they owed him 1,200 dollars in back tax refunds. We filed for it and it should be here any day now.
Finally one day he asked if I could help him get a job and get a place of his own and try to put this chapter of his life behind him. After much prayer and discussion with staff members, we decided that he had been in church for quite awhile, been praying good and had been clean long enough to go on to the next step. I went and talked to a friend of the ministry that owns a restaurant here in town. I remembered that our client, (let’s call him Fred), said that he had worked in restaurants before. Our friend gave Fred a job cleaning the kitchen and doing odd jobs around the restaurant. With some of the money that Fred made in the beginning, he got a motel room to get away from the shelter for awhile. My son, (who is on staff at HMA), and I continued to give Fred rides to and from work every day and whenever he wasn’t at work he was at the mission. An area minister, (who also happens to be on staff with us), picked Fred up at the motel and took him to church whenever I wasn’t around or busy with other ministry activities. Fred had some trouble at the motel, (not entirely his fault), and ended up moving back to the shelter and we had to have a meeting with him and get some things straightened back out, but, THE PURPOSE OF THE ENTIRE MEETING WAS TO SEE HOW WE COULD KEEP FRED FROM LOOSING ALL THAT HE HAD GAINED IN GOD! Not to blame or accuse, or give speeches or prove who was right or wrong. Praise the Lord we did work it out and he did stay on track.
For the last few weeks Fred has been working 5 or 6 days a week at the restaurant and 1 or 2 days a week at the mission. He attends services at a couple different ministries but I have noticed that he hasn’t been praying as much. He has sort of taken on the attitude that he is part of the mechanism now. He’s “on staff” and he stays a little more concerned with who went outside and for how long or how rough the vans and buses are running, than he does the preaching and the praying. (Are you getting this?) Fred still stays at the shelter because he is saving his money to get a place. Because theft is rampant at the shelter, Fred asked me if I would take care of his money for him so he can get a place with it. I have been saving his money for him for a few weeks. Yesterday he had a day off and was going to go into town with some friends from the shelter. I advised him against it but he was persistent and so I gave him 100 dollars of his money, which is what he asked for. I advised him with a few more warnings and I prayed over him, then he left. He was supposed to be at work last night and he never showed up for work. I knew that I could find him but I just went home and went to bed.
This morning he text me from a number I didn’t know saying that it was him and that he was on his way to my office to get the rest of his money. I met him at my office. He had several of his “friends” with him and I had several hundred dollars of his money. I sat down with him. It was obvious that he had been drinking all night and was still about a ¼ messed up. He said he was sorry. I told him that I believed him. He said that he just couldn’t keep fighting his addictions and that the best thing for him to do was leave HMA. I knew that he just wanted the money and that his friends were just running around with him at my office because he had told them that he had a lot of money. We had about a 30 minute talk and he kept saying that he just was giving up and that I wouldn’t have to worry about him anymore. I knew that if I gave him the rest of his money that they would go blow it on booze, drugs and who knows what all and then Fred would come crying back and ask for help and we WOULD help him but we would have to start all over again. So I finally told him. (Paraphrased but very close) “Fred, you got two choices. You can go with these punks and keep your life in the same old rut and be miserable and know that you let everybody down again including God or you can straighten up and try to be a man for once and admit you messed up, ask forgiveness, beg for your job and just keep trying to do your best and trusting that the Lord is going to help you. If you stay here we are going to tighten up the rules on you and watch you closer and love you and pray for you but if you leave here you will be nothing but miserable and if you go just remember it is without my blessing and I told you that it wouldn’t work out. If you ever want to come back just let me know, but it won’t be on your terms. We WILL help you but it will be the Bible way”. He motioned like he was going to go about fifteen different times and his friends were noticeably irritated and ready to leave. About the tenth time that he said he was going to leave I realized that this was my chance to make my stand. I said, “I got a lot to do today Fred, you need to make up your mind.” He said, “I’m leaving.” I said, “Well….go.” He, very sweetly and humbly said, “I need my money.” I said, “NO.” His mouth fell open and his eyes darted to mine in horror. He talked, yelled, cried, got mad, calmed down, tried to twist the story all around and make me feel guilty, he plead and begged and I just said, “No. I am a man of God and this is the Lord’s ministry. You asked me to hold that money for you to get you a place to live and I said I would. You duped me yesterday and it won’t happen again. You are not going to use this ministry as a way to launder money for junkies and street tramps. This is your money and I have never touched a dime of it and I never will but it will sit right here until it can be used in your favor or until it turns to dust and your 1,200.00 will go back to the IRS unclaimed. I would be the biggest idiot that you have ever met in your life if I handed over several hundred dollars to you right now to go get in that vehicle with those punks. I wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight if I did it but don’t worry because I am not going to do it.” Fred and his buddies looked me up and down several times. He began to cry and plead for the money. I said, “Do what you got to do. But I am not giving you the money.” We stood there just staring at each other for a long time. Finally I walked back into my office and started working.
After several minutes he came in bawling. “I’m sorry Brother Todd, please help me!” (Hard to tell how sincere he was). I told him that I wanted to help him. He told me that those guys were going to stay out there because they came for money. He asked me if I could give them some of his money so that they would go away and then he would stay here and try again. I told him that I couldn’t give them some of his money because I already stated that I would save that money to get him a place. “Then what do I do?” he whimpered. (Now maybe I could help Fred). In my mind I had already devised a bit of a plan. I said, “I’ll tell you what. I can’t give them your money and I can’t give them the churches money so I will go over there and offer them some of MY money (for gas lol) so that they can leave. Then, you will owe me that much money and you have to work it off…for me…today.” “I don’t know if I’m in much shape to work today”, he said. “Then you are in a pretty rough spot aren’t you?” I replied. He took one more look at his buddies and said, “I’ll do it.”
I walked over to the folks that were expecting a few hundred bucks to party on and let them know that I was giving them 30 dollars for gas money to get back home on or I could call the police. They took it and left. I sent Fred out to mow my lawn and shovel some dirt so that he could sweat off what was left of his intoxication and think through all of the consequences of his decisions these last 48 hours or so. When he came back from mowing and shoveling he was a new man. He hugged me. No, I mean he really hugged me. He cried and thanked me. He repented and we prayed again. He picked up the phone and called the restaurant and told on himself and begged for mercy and his job. He received both. He told me that he was supposed to report back to work at 3pm this afternoon. We took him to work which is where he is right now.
Now, for all of you people that would see Fred on the streets and give him five bucks out of the love of your heart, you might as well spit on him. All you are doing is aiding and abetting his addictions as well as reinforcing his belief that Christians are gullible. And for those of you that wouldn’t give him any money or do anything else for him for that matter…Why not? WHY AREN’T YOU REACHING OUT, WHY AREN’T YOU TRYING TO HELP, WHY DOESN’T YOUR CHURCH HAVE A PROGRAM OR IF THEY CAN’T FOR SOME REASON, WHY AREN’T THEY SUPPORTING THOSE THAT DO, WHY AREN’T YOU SUPPORTING THOSE THAT DO??? Don’t worry about me; I have heard every excuse in the book. “We live in the country, we don’t understand about people like that, we have been burned too many times, we don’t know who to give to, there are so many fakes out there…blah blah blah. I got one thing to tell you…Tell it to Jesus! And while I’m this far out on this limb, (don’t worry, it’s a sturdy limb), If you are one of those kinds of people that would try to help Fred, once….maybe twice. In other words, you are one of those limited mercy guys. You believe in abbreviated grace. And you would have worked with him just like we did. Until he stabbed you in the back, slapped you in the face, put you in a tough spot and then you would have told him what you think of him, kept his money or threw it at him and called the cops on him and his buddies….carnally speaking, I must admit that I understand all of that…but it’s not of Christ. And that’s the only reason why HMA exists. We don’t play church and we don’t play with people’s lives. We work hard to set up entire cultures of atmospheres and daily living systems that if people really want help they can get it. Jobs, services, meals, friends, conversations, prayers, life, family, community, truth, correction, tough love, multiple chances, rides, tears, laughter, honesty….I hope perhaps I have given you a slight peek into HMA. God bless you and pray for Fred.
Your humble servant,
Rev. D. Todd Sloggett