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For about a decade while my children were in their teens, we spent each Christmas Day volunteering at a local church that provided a festive dinner for people in our city living at street level, battling addictions, living with mental illness, trying to survive poverty, or just alone on a special holiday. 

Over time, I learned that David was unbelievably kind; he just didn’t have the chance to bathe often. I learned that Victor had trouble letting his guard down; he had faced a lifetime of discrimination because of his ethnicity. I learned that Ross often liked to tell slightly inappropriate jokes; he was just trying to feel part of a community where he could belong. 

I always left those Christmas dinners feeling like I was slowly learning how to have relationships with those living in very different socio-economic circumstances than my family and me. In time, I came to truly miss these guys and their warm friendship around turkey and stuffing.

Kevin Nye has been working to support people experiencing homelessness for many years. From an early age, he felt the pull within his heart and mind to encounter and serve Jesus in the marginalized, stigmatized, homeless, and poor of Los Angeles. Now, having moved to Minneapolis, his work continues and during the pandemic he has published a delightful book based on his years of seeking—as a Christian—to end homelessness, starting with a call to those who follow a homeless Lord.

One of the most helpful aspects of this little book is that it is written for the Christian who sees issues related to homelessness in their community but doesn’t know where to start. Nye provides many personal stories of his own learning journey. He addresses many of the misunderstandings and stigmas that affluent people have about people who are unhoused. And he addresses the complex nature of the issue by devoting separate chapters to related issues in urban planning, policing, mental health, substance abuse, and addiction. 

By the end, Nye argues that there can be joy, community, and social benefits in the lives of the homeless—with Jesus himself the prime example of how the economics around housing aren’t directly tied to one’s standing in the Kingdom of God. 

Nye is careful to avoid coming across as preachy or judgmental or condemning. In reading his book, I found Nye genuinely trying to help me appreciate how homelessness is a creation of our broken social realities and how homelessness is heart-wrenching in its complexity. 

Each chapter provides Christians and church leaders with concrete examples and ideas of how a ministry could begin to serve those whom Jesus calls “the least of these” and those about whom he says in Matthew 25 that when we serve them we are serving him.

Over the season of Advent, I had the chance to listen to three talks by Kevin Nye based on his book. I was impressed with his compassion as well as his realistic understanding of the challenges our society creates for those on the margins. I was inspired by a clear presentation of Jesus as one who is decidedly on the side of the poor and rejected. 

I came away from the book and the talks convinced that more of our churches could be doing more to serve the poor in their communities by building authentic relationships with those we might never otherwise meet—and encountering Jesus in transforming ways all over again as we seek to be faithful disciples, sent by the risen Lord to be the signs and instruments of the Kingdom of God that has come into our midst. (Herald Press)


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