Saturday, October 30, 2010

Going Home

Last week I struggled to open the door of our Breakthrough Mens' Center. The wind was whipping. I was hungry and it was cold. I managed to open the door and was immediately engulfed by warmth and the most wonderful smell of food. I’m not sure what was going on in the kitchen, but it smelled like Charlene had been cooking all morning, like thanksgiving dinner was in the oven. There was even the hint of brownies baking.

You know the feeling. It’s the feeling of being home. It’s warm and inviting and you know someone is creating something in the kitchen that is going to make your day very special.

I couldn’t help but think about the men huddled in the gathering place. Thirty of them had spent the night at Breakthrough and seventy more had come in from the cold, like I had. They may have slept in an abandoned building or in the park or doubled up on a friend’s floor. I knew this day they would experience the warmth of good food, friendship and support. It’s not the same as having your own place with your own stove and kitchen, but, today, they would know that they were loved and cared for. Today, they would know they were special. I knew the same thing was happening down the street at our women’s center.

Of course, the mission of Breakthrough goes beyond food. We surround our guests with supportive services that will hopefully, some day, get them into their own homes. But for now, at Breakthrough, they know they are special. They have found a home, a place to belong where people know their name.

As the temperatures drop and you enter your own home, reflect upon what it would be like to not have that experience of going home.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

The post below was originally posted by Tony Escobar on his Front Porch Theologian Blog on October 13th. Tony is Director of Community Relations at Breakthrough. It's the story behind the story of the video shoot for the Breakthrough benefit.

The most incredible things happen all the time when you are caught up in the kingdom of God. Have you ever noticed that?

Breakthrough's Annual Benefit is next week. And for this year's event, we are presenting a series of vignettes that illustrate the stories of guests from each program who have experienced transformation at Breakthrough, and who have in turn given back as a result.

So yesterday I was working with my man Donald, our video producer (I know, fancy, right?), to shoot the footage that would accompany the story I will be telling about my friend Andre. But before I continue, this will slightly be a spoiler warning, but I have to tell you this amazing story that happens within a story, because this is not stuff that you can make up. Maybe it will picque your interest enough to attend our Benefit next week!

Andre arrives, and Donald and I are explaining to him the kind of footage that we will be shooting of him. One part of the story involves Andre carrying a sick man back to his home from Breakthrough. So Donald and I tell Andre that we will be getting some shots of him reenacting that. Andre, of course, is up for it, no matter who he carries. He's a strong guy and is ready for about 10-15 takes, easy. But I look at Donald and ask him blankly..."Have we found someone for him to carry?" Donald says, "No." I say, "I should probably get someone, huh?" Donald says, "Yeah."

So I go and find a gentleman from our men's program to volunteer for the shoot who more or less fit the orignal man's profile (Think kind of like those cut-in doubles on the Windows 7 commercials).

Then we go outside, and we start doing a couple takes. And suddenly, during the third or fourth take, this voice on my left says, "Yeah, that's the guy who saved my life. Just like that. He carried me home."

I look over and there's an older gentleman standing next to me, pointing at Andre. "That guy is a Godsend. I don't know what I would have done without him. He carried me just like that."

At that moment, Andre and our double return to the camera. "Hey, that's the guy right there!" points Andre. "That's Mr. Johnson. That's the man I carried." And they warmly reunite and greet each other with a handshake and a hug.

Meanwhile, the double says, "That's the real guy? Even better! You don't need me anymore, right?"

Donald and I look at each other a little dumbfounded and don't really know what to say or do? Was this really happening? Should we put the real guy in the shoot? How is it that he is even here right now? Is he even healthy enough for it?

I give Donald a what-should-we-do look. "It's up to you, man," he replies.

Turning to the man, I ask, "Well, what do you think, do you want to be in your own story? Are you well enough to do a few takes?"

"Oh yeah," he says. "That guy saved my life. Of course, I'll do anything!"

So the double takes off, and we start shooting the story with the real characters. And surprisingly, Mr. Johnson does a fantastic job. To our delight, a natural for dramatic theater!

But midway, something else extraordinary happens. A group of about 4 other older gentlemen are walking down the street, who happen to be Mr. Johnson's friends. They recognize him, and they stop and interrupt the shoot because apparently their buddy is a movie star now! But then they realize what's happening and say, "Oh, this is the guy who carried you home that one day?" And Mr. Johnson glowingly introduces them to Andre and says again, "Yeah, this is the guy who saved my life. Thank God!"

We just let the camera roll.

What I haven't shared yet is that the major hook in Andre's story is about being at the right place at the right time, right where God needs you.

I'm telling you. You can't make this stuff up. Stories like this happen all the time at places like Breakthrough. If you want to hear more stories like this, you really should come to this Benefit Dinner.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

On the Radio with Ted Elm

Below is the audio of my October 4th interview with Ted Elm on WWJC-Duluth's Northland Notebook program. We talked about my book.