Sunday, January 9, 2011

Under the Overpass - Mike Yankoski

A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America

And what a journey it was for Mike and Sam (his partner). This book was fascinating and motivating! It is the story of how Mike and Sam, both college students at the time, decided to temporarily give up their possessions (with the exception of some meager clothes, an old battered guitar and a $3 sleeping bag) and live on the streets in 6 different cities in America. I am amazed that first of all, in our material possession driven world (and especially for a young adult), that one person (let alone 2) would have the desire to take on such a "project". I think that this is atypical, crazy and simply unheard of. This kind of sacrifice seems so out-of-synch with our culture that it must be a "God thing". Remember, God doesn't have any interest in possessions. He doesn't have any interest in our careers, our paychecks, our transcripts, our "stuff". God is interested in our hearts. These guys felt the calling in their hearts to "Be the Christian they say they are". So they decided to live as closely as they could to the life of a homeless person so that they could better relate to people who are suffering and in need of not only physical (and sometimes mental) help - but spiritual help.

This book gripped my attention and pulled at my heart strings. I have always had a longing to help those less fortunate than myself. Ok, I haven't had a longing to help those less fortunate - God has that longing for me to help. I'm a greedy girl who wants to buy, buy, buy and keep, keep, keep. But God has bigger plans for my life. This book confirmed that. I laughed. I cried. I anxiously turned pages to read the next account of their journey. I prayed about how God might use this book to change my life and my world view, and He has.

My two favorite characters that they befriend are Doug and Rings. Their stories hit close to home and gives me hope for people that I love. I am sure that God can work even in the darkest of circumstances to turn a person's life around. There is hope as long as there is conviction of sin. 

I found myself praying not only for myself, but for the people I was reading about in this book. As I read the stories of how their lives intersected those of Mike and Sam, I felt my heart swelling, as if they were my own friends and family.

I have to say that I was also very convicted about how "the church" treated Mike and Sam (and presumably other homeless people that they may encounter). With the exception of a few fantastic examples of godly men and women portraying Christ to a world need....the church in general was a huge disappointment. From putting chains & locks on gates and declaring the church property was only for "church business" to actually telling homeless (very hungry) people to leave because there is an important breakfast that is happening that morning. As members of Christ's body - are we too distracted with how lovely we look to pay attention and have compassion for those who don't smell good? How would Y.O.U act if a smelly, hungry, raggedy person came and sat in a pew next to you at church? How would I act is the better question? I am only responsible for myself.

I was also very relieved that Mike has warned people who may be feeling convicted how to wisely go about helping the homeless in their area. He included not going out alone, helping during the daylight hours, hooking up with a local group that can help give you opportunities to help. The streets are dangerous and as Christians, God calls us to be vigilant, but wise.

What a fantastic book. I recommend this to anyone who knows how to read. But, be prepared for it to change the way you spend your life. It has mine.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

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