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(It’s about 3AM)

I haven’t been off of the streets a full 24 hours yet, but for some reason I miss them (yes, the streets). Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Only thing is…I’m not making it up.

2013-12-23 19.49.03-2While out there, I felt safe, embraced, a sense of community, and protected.

In fact, If I can be completely transparent–being among many of my homeless friends who started to consider me as family caused me to do something I have not been able to do in years–TRUST (If you have been through hell relationally, you can relate).

I found it extremely easy to let my guard down without being reserved, having fear, being introverted, or even defensive.

The first day I arrived, I did not have anything: No blankets. No toothpaste. No jacket. No brush. Not change of clothes. No money. No direction. Nothing. The only thing I did have was my cell for protection (and storytelling). You can read my posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

However, my homeless friends provided me with everything! When I walked up on the hill at tent-city (under I-20 75/85), I was approached by three brothers and a sister.

“I’m here to stay with you all, and I don’t have anything. I want to experience what you experience and share with the world on your behalf. I want to give you a voice… I said.

Immediately, I was greeted, given instructions, and each of my homeless friends rallied together supplies so I would make it through the nights of 30 & 40 degree weather. They gave me a blankets, socks, food, and sat and talked with me for hours about how they ended up under the bridge.

We shed tears, laughed, sang, and talked about God all day and most of the night. They showed me the ropes (how to live, where to go, and what to do) Immediately, my walls came down. I began to trust! Why? Here’s three quick reasons

1) They accepted me as their family. Not only did my homeless friends help me to survive, they called me “family,” and displayed it with their actions. I have had relationships in “regular” society for years, and have not heard those words or experienced that type of genuine love in years.

2) They opened up their community to me. I have been in affluent spaces, in diverse spaces, in uppity spaces, but the community I felt among them was like none other. It was a closeness that can’t be described with words. They shared everything they had with me (and they had nothing). Without them, I wouldn’t have completed my journey…

3) They opened up to me. They shared their most personal stories with me, talked about their faith in God, and listened to many stories of mine. It was the best experience. Sometimes, not only is it hard to get people to open up in normal society, but it is even more difficult to get people to listen to you. They did both…

Also, they shared, “no minister, or person has ever dared to wear our shoes and live with us… We have people come and leave all the time, but not stay and experience….Because you are doing this…you have our respect.” they all said.

I don’t know why it was so easy to believe them and trust them, but it was… And, not only did they keep their word–they protected/encouraged me until I made it through.

The first day it rained, was cold, and I survived with resources given to me by my homeless friends. I kept thinking to myself,

“This is the part of society that is looked at strange, but has the most heart. I have met people with “means” in normal society with much status, but would not sacrifice the way they did (and they have nothing).”

Not only were my stereotypes destroyed, but I was educated, had on their shoes, and my heart broke with even more compassion for our brothers and sisters without homes in Atlanta (and the nation).

I wish I could go back and rescue many of the people who I established relationships with…

I wish I could give some of them jobs…

I wish I could take them off of the streets and give many of them second chances…

I wish I had an army of people who would unite with #lovebeyondwalls to make this happen…

From the first day forward (for the rest of my life), I made a declaration and promise to God to raise tons and tons and tons and tons of awareness to help my “new” family and other homeless people in this country. That’s why I am going to go hard to build this organization. There are many social ills plaguing our society, and #lovebeyondwalls is needed in those places.

The first day, not only did I encourage them, but they changed me. They cause me to learn how to trust again!!!!

Below are a few pictures of items that were given to me the first night I slept under the bridge:

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Terence Lester

Author Terence Lester

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Join the discussion 12 Comments

  • Wow Terence, awesome! I can only imagine the depth of reflection (and decompression) you’re in right now. Thanks for giving us this view into the POWER and RICHNESS of homeless community. To put it bluntly – we should be shame! We have so much, we are so educated, we proclaim so much “Jesus” – but we are far from living up to the responsibility of “to whom much is given, much is required.” Love, trust, being our brothers’ keeper, a listening ear without judgment – we’ve got some work to do! Thanks for sharing these lessons. God bless your work :-).

    • Terence Lester says:

      Thank you for your kind words, encouragement, and support. We have got to do better (especially those of us who say we believe). Thank you for your honesty and transparency too. God bless your work(s) as well. Terence

  • Sequoia Murphy says:

    Thank you so much for being a voice for those that a lot of us (me included) ignore. I was once one of those that would give whenever I encountered someone in need. But after so many bad experiences I stop. I had a feeling that they wouldn’t appreciate my help so why give it. But after talking and listening to the people that stayed with you (for that little time) I realize how crazy my thinking has been. Those young men really touched me. My plan now is to do as much as I can once a month for those in need. This was a blessing for everyone involved you, them, and people like me that encountered them because of you. Thank you Terence for waking me up.

    • Terence Lester says:

      Thank you for your support, and encouragement. That’s awesome! We need more people like you doing something once a month. Terence

  • Takiya Collins says:

    I just want to tell you brother that I appreciate so very much what you did! I read every post and watched Every video clip. I was deeply inspired and convicted at the same time. What you did is what Jesus did. He ministered to the outcast. He went to where they were. Your courage to go beyond the walls really spoke to the lack of evangelism I do Ion my life. It caused me to re-evaluate what’s really important. Thank you for doing this. You touched many lives. I pray Gods blessing over you, your family and your ministry.

    Takiya Collins

  • Name says:

    What you are doing is nothing short of amazing and inspiring.
    What a blessing you are to so many people and what an amazing testimony you will have to give. God is going to bless u in abundance and people will forever remember your name. Thanks for bringing a voice to the voiceless. I pray you God speed.

  • Alona says:

    I have been following u since u started this journey and all I can say is Amen! I have been selfish for a long time in wat I dnt hsve and instead embracing wat I do have. I plan to mskr 2014 a different year, because of u and the journey u went on I have a different mind set….theirs always someone worst off than u….I just want to say thank you!

    • Terence Lester says:

      No. Thank you for you encouragement and support. I believe in you and am praying for God’s best for your life. Terence

  • Arlene says:

    your story is truly inspirational, I followed your story from start to finish. I pledge to be involved in your movement. Awe-inspiring

    • Terence Lester says:

      Hey, Thank you for following, spreading the word, and being involved. I look forward to working with you. Terence

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