He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.”~Mark 4:26-27
Steve grew up in Alabama, spent some time in the military, and then worked as a cross-country truck driver. Somewhere along the way, he got mixed up with drugs. He finally hit bottom in San Bernardino, California, where he lost his job and got involved with gangs for a time. Now he is homeless.
He is one of an estimated 2,000 men, women, and children living in San Bernardino without a place to call home. It is a city where one-third of the 200,000 residents live below the poverty level. The violent crime rate is twice that of California as a whole. Amid accusations of civil corruption, the city filed bankruptcy in 2012. The streets and vacant lots of San Bernardino at night are exactly the kind of place your mother always told you to avoid. It is the kind of place Loma Linda Street Medicine seeks out.
Street Medicine is what it sounds like. We are a team of doctors and students walking around with backpacks and headlamps to find the homeless in shelters or under bridges, in order to provide what care we can. We are trying to address the health care needs of those who would not or cannot access a clinic.
As our student-led outreach program only started in July 2012, we are still figuring out how to do the most good. The first few months involved considerable learning. Sure, we knew statistics about the community, but we did not really know the community in any meaningful way. We needed to know where the people were, their habits, their needs, and how we could best help. We needed a guide. Enter Steve.
Steve took us, with our backpacks and good intentions, and led us. He introduced us to key people and to patients in need. He told us what to look out for and how to stay safe. He told us about his life, his rocky past, and how people survive on the street. He let us ask him all kinds of questions. He calls us when his cell phone has minutes available, and he is often waiting near our route with a smile.
Maybe that is the way of the kingdom of God. We try to bring God with us to a dark and dangerous place, only to realize that He is already there, preparing good things. It was a sign to us that we found Steve, a man who has experienced so much of street life and is more than willing to take us under His wing. And we found him so quickly. It is a indication that our works is headed in the right direction. Although we do not know where the boundaries of His Kingdom are, or how His Kingdom is growing, it is a sign that in this city, marked by corruption, pollution, gangs, and poverty, God is not absent. He is building, even if we do not recognize it.
After all, it is in weakness that His power is made perfect. And it is not true that His grand plan of salvation was fulfilled on a cross? If He is there, in the gutter with a man who has a strange rash, in the dust under the bridge with men passed out drunk, and in the needs of the ancient diabetic woman who carries all her belongings on a walker-how can we stay away? – David Jasperse, LLUSM, family medicine.