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Living on the Streets: Eli Elliott’s story

A special testimony by Eli Elliott, BPC sophomore

First published in The Christian Index, CollegeWise edition, 10-08-08

Eli Elliott
Eli Elliott

"In February of this year, by seeing others ministering and through prayer, scripture, and confirmation from others, God told me to live on the streets with very little money ($10.00), two books, a journal, and the clothes that I had on so that I could 100 percent rely on Him to take care of me. No phone, no safety net to fall on if God didn't come though. Sometimes I think that we as Christians say to God, “I'm going here Lord, so could You show up, please,” instead of “I don't know what to do, but to follow You and trust that You will take care of me wherever You lead me.” 

In April, God opened the doors for me to do it this summer, beginning June 1, in downtown Atlanta. The closer June got, though, the more nervous I was. I thought to myself sometimes, “Have I lost it? Am I crazy? Who in their right mind would do this?” (2 Cor 5:13) I talked with a few people in Atlanta who worked with homeless people there. I lived at a ministry center called City of Refuge for five days before I set out. I met a group of people that taught me where to and where not to go. I can't imagine how my parents felt. I know that I would rather go somewhere dangerous than to send one that I loved. Although they did not like it, I knew they had my back, because they knew that that was God’s will.

The first few days at the City of Refuge were not very hard, but as soon as one of the workers took me to downtown Atlanta to drop me off, I didn’t want to get out. When I did, I sat at the Marta train station in Five Points for an hour or so. I had enough change to get a train pass so I got on the train and rode around Atlanta for about six hours. I was thinking, reading, and writing the whole time. When I got off the train I went to nearby Piedmont Park. I was scared at this point because I didn't know where my next meal was coming from or if I could even sleep in the park. Should I try to hide? Should I stay in the open? Grass or concrete? Needless to say I did not sleep very well that first night. I did meet another homeless guy who helped me find food. People were in the park all hours of the night. Some would make fun of me and tell me how sorry I am. Some would curse me. Some were scared of me. I stayed in the park for three nights. It is about three hours from food by walking.

I moved closer to where the food was on the fourth day. I met two guys named Mike and John at Safehouse (Safehouse feeds every night). I ended up staying with them for the rest of the time. I slept in the doorway of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in the middle of downtown. People would still mess with me at night, but I learned to sleep through some of it. If you ever have to choose, concrete is much better then grass because of the bugs.

The police would wake us up every day around 5:30 a.m., and on Mondays and Fridays at 4:30 a.m. for some strange reason. I had nowhere to go until 7 a.m. when I waited in line for breakfast that a lady handed out before she started work. She didn't work for an organization, she just gave, but there was a catch: I had to give her a hug before she gave me food. That is who I remember more so than the large places that fed. After eating breakfast, I went to a public bathroom in a park. Most of the time, I would be there for about 30 minutes to an hour waiting and talking to others. From there, I would go to a library to read and write. The people in the library were nice to me; I just couldn't get caught brushing my teeth or trying to bathe in the bathroom. Most days I would try to find some lunch after spending an hour or two in the library. Finding lunch is an all-day event. It usually takes an hour or two to get to the place that is serving, and when I got there, I had to wait another hour before I could eat. It took four or five hours to get “home” from lunch. At night, I might play cards or chess in the park before going to Safehouse to eat. I waited though a service every night before I could get my meal. When I got done eating, John, Mike, and I would head for the church to claim or spot. Sometimes we were too late and had to sleep a block away (not fun).

"... But far, far worse than any of those things was being alone. I've heard people say that when Christ died on the cross that his physical pain was mild compared to being separated from His father. Now I understand... "
- Eli Elliott

Some people ask me what the hardest part of the summer was. This question is so easy. No bed to sleep in was bad. No home to escape the heat from was miserable. No food to fill my hungry belly was horrible. Not knowing if I was going to be safe was scary. But far, far worse than any of those things was being alone. I've heard people say that when Christ died on the cross that his physical pain was mild compared to being separated from His father. Now I understand that physical pain is nothing compared to being separated from those I love without knowing when or if I would speak to them again. There is no way I will feel the hurt that others on or off the street will feel because I know that I am not alone. I have Christ. I must show others His love so they can be free. When I was out there I could not even cry. I didn't want to pray. But now... now there are tears because I know how many people hurt and I must do something about it.

Another question that I love is this one. Could the people that live on the street get off if they wanted to? I can’t give a straight answer because every situation is different. I can ask this question though, which I think is no different. Can a rich man stop wanting more for himself to get out of being miserable? Can I stop sleeping in and wasting my time watching TV so that I can better myself in many ways? (By “better myself” I mean “do God's will”.) The people on the streets need one thing to “fix” them. That is Christ. Sure, they could get off the street without having Christ live in them, but what does that do? It may make them lukewarm. Their sin is keeping them there just like my sin keeps me from moving closer to my Lord.   

If I had to sum up what I have learned, I would say that I learned to love people with the love of God. God showed me what the people need most. God showed me what the people thought about the Christian Church and about Christians in general. Please take what I am about to say in love. This is the truth. Most of the homeless people liked that the churches fed them, but hated the way they cared for them. To feed the hungry simply because the Bible says to is better then not doing anything, but what the Church (generally speaking) fails to see is that a lot of the time we as Christians may not have the faith to believe that Christ in us can change them. (James 2:17). Basically, we need to be real with people. If we serve even though we don’t want to, then something needs to change. Is ministry always going to be fun? No, but I learned to ask for the thirst to love others with the love of Christ, and now I can't help but want to love others and love serving others. I heard people say this more than once. The people from the churches come out and feed us, but then they pat themselves on the back and go home. I didn't want that to be true, but I started watching the people, and it was true. I tell you this not to bash the ministry of the Church, but so that you may have a glimpse of what kind of job, we, as the body of Christ are doing, and hopefully change in some ways.

My name is Eli Elliott and I am from Piney Grove Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga. and I am a sophomore at Brewton-Parker College, which I love! I plan on going to seminary, and after that hitting the foreign mission field. I plan on writing a book this summer when I get a break from school titled “Blinded by Blessings” about my summer and what God taught me through it."

-BPC-

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The mission of Brewton-Parker College, a Georgia Baptist college, is to develop the whole student through the application of Biblically-centered truth to a liberal arts curriculum in a community of shared Christian values.
 
Brewton-Parker College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate and baccalaureate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Brewton-Parker College.
 
Updated on: April 15, 2010 8:26 PM