Yes? No? Erin Myhre, a senior in college, did.
Here’s her story:
For my last spring break of college, I wanted to serve somewhere interesting where I could gain perspective, learn more about God’s character, and experience something new. I am a biology pre-med major and I will be applying to a physician assistant program this summer, and I hope to use my medical training to bring spiritual and physical healing to the underserved populations of the United States. I contacted several homeless ministries, and Mel Trotter graciously offered to work out an intern-for-a-week deal. I took a Greyhound bus from my school a couple of hours away and spent the week of March 7 staying in MTM’s women’s shelter and interning in the public inebriate clinic. I grew up in Portland, OR and homeless people have never been scary or unfamiliar to me. I’ve always made an effort to say hi or offer a meal, and growing up I enjoyed periodically serving at local shelters and ministries, but before my stay in the women’s shelter I had no idea what it actually felt like to be homeless.
I was not in Grand Rapids to have fun, but to get a small glimpse of homelessness. My roommates in the women’s shelter were wonderful and the ladies were welcoming (though they thought I was crazy for choosing to stay there), and through conversations I realized how incredibly privileged and blessed I am. I also realized how isolating it must feel to be homeless. When I looked out the window and saw families out for a day on the town, I felt separated, like I was in a completely different level of society. One day during a meal, I felt very self-conscious and inferior compared to the family serving the food, simply because they were giving and I was receiving. They had no reason to think that I was anything but a regular shelter guest, and I wanted to go strike up a conversation so I could slip in the fact the I wasn’t really homeless. But I kept my mouth shut, and let myself feel the difference.
Even though we don’t technically have class distinctions in the United States like in other countries, I find it quite disheartening that there is such a clear line between “them” and “us”—a line I did not understand until I was on the other side. During my time in the PI clinic, I saw many intoxicated men, often the same ones day after day. But when they started to sober up, I got to know them and they got to know me. I was able to develop initial relationships with them, and even though we are at very different places in life and our time to get to know each other was short, class separations were irrelevant because they, just like me, are people who love and hurt and need a Savior. I went out to lunch downtown with a friend after a few days at the shelter and clinic, and as we walked and drove around I saw several men that I knew or recognized from the PI clinic. It was heartbreaking because I knew them. I saw them every day. And they live on the streets. They’re not just poor forgotten homeless people. They’re dads, brothers, and husbands, with names.
Wherever I live from now on, I’m going to invest myself somewhere where I can get to know the homeless on a personal level. I never want to forget the perspective that I gained during my spring break, and I am so grateful to Mel Trotter for allowing me to stay in the shelter and work in the clinic. I also want to remember that even among the brokenness, God can bring redemption and hope. I pray that I never forget this experience, and never forget His healing power. I pray that I can be rooted and grounded in His Word so I can be His hands and feet, and be a light to everyone I interact with, wherever I may be.
AMEN. Thank you, Erin, for your work at Mel Trotter Ministries. We pray God’s richest blessings on you, as you seek and serve Him in this great, big world of ours.