Explore had the opportunity back in October of last year to shed some light on a locally-run, non-profit that serves the homeless population of San Antonio, Taking it to the Streets. The beginning of that article read “Sometimes helping others begins with simply identifying the need. What began with a group of people simply trying to help San Antonio’s homeless in any way they could has since grown to become one of Kendall County’s most well-known and well-supported outreach ministries… Taking it to the Streets has grown from three people feeding the homeless under a bridge into a full ministry operation.”
While this article gave the ministry an opportunity to share the good news of its growth and accomplishment, it unknowingly masked the pains associated with this growth, the heartbreak of the shift from the original vision, and the all-around spiritual attack the leaders of this organization were dealing with.
Hear me say that this article was well-researched and written by an author and dear friend that I respect. The interviews were truthful, and the leaders were striving to hold tight to what they believed to be the vision the Lord had provided for Taking it to the Streets. Unfortunately, the worldly success for the ministry overcame the former Executive Director, Mark Johnson, and the vision was tainted and control was defeated. Many great programs were implemented under his leadership, but the workload outweighed what the ministry could afford, and ultimately it all became logistically impossible. Success and greed can be separated by a very fine line, and once that line was crossed it became wildly evident that changed needed to be made.
Ministry is hard work. You are overworked and underpaid. When you are serving the Lord there is no actual tool to measure success, you just have to plant the seeds He has given you and allow him to cultivate the result. It can be outwardly a bit “un-rewarding” – but the eternal benefits make it all worth it. The Executive Director lost sight of those unseen triumphs and the vision got clouded. The success of the ministry was being determined by the number of zeros on donation checks and the number of attendees at fundraising events.
The growth became overwhelming and the original leaders had already stepped away. Some stuck around because their passion for the homeless allowed rose-colored glasses to hide the discrepancies of the current leadership.
Which brings us back to the beginning…In 2008 three men began a journey to “love the least.” These bold men put their boots on the ground, and brought warm meals to their homeless brothers and sisters in San Antonio. There was no agenda, no budget, and no strategic operating plan…just brothers stretching out their hands to offer humility, love, and dinner. Others caught wind to this organic gesture and wanted to be a part, and some positive growth took place. Volunteers, churches, and new leaders rose up to walk alongside Ti2tS, and they were able to do some great work by providing larger home cooked meals, PB&J-to-go, music to make the fellowship more inviting, haircuts, a fresh pair of socks, and an opportunity to experience Jesus in a non-threatening environment.
After a very tough, but very prayerfully driven decision, the Board of Directors voted to return to the simplistic way they had begun. Feeding the homeless just one night a week (Saturday nights), operating without any paid employees, and eliminating the extras as to be the very best stewards in providing to the homeless. This included relinquishing the Executive Director of his responsibilities and voting in a new leader. Which was hard to do. Kenny Sides and Mike Russell poured hours and hours of prayer over this decision. They sought counsel from respected mentors and got on their knees before the Lord to show them the way.
God spoke clearly to them and their obedience has not been easy, but it has been extremely fruitful. They had to step up to the plate and completely reorganize the structure of the ministry and humble themselves in big ways in order to bring the ministry back to its original purpose. They are working hard to gain back the trust of the community by being 100% transparent about every piece of the ministry’s operations. Their goal is to ensure that Taking it to the Streets continues to minister to the homeless and impoverished of San Antonio by serving meals, distributing clothing and other basic necessities, and building God-honoring relationships with those they serve. The founders of the organization have come back to encourage, support, and serve alongside them. God will remain the forefront of this ministry and the leadership will stop at nothing to make of that. Sometimes worldly success feels good, but there is nothing greater than the rewards associated with obedience to the real guy in charge of Ministry…our Heavenly Father.
Whether you have served with Taking it to the Streets in the past or not, I encourage you to make it a priority. The experience of serving our homeless brothers and sisters is profound. Visit with the leadership, encourage them, commend them for their very hard work, and pray over them.
For more information, visit www.takingittothestreets.com.