When I was 23 years old it was in the mundane routine of my ordinary day that I was driving to work when I spotted Mr. Clifford sitting on the curb of 2nd Avenue.
Mr. Clifford was a stout elderly African American man and he was homeless. His buggy was filled with stuff. Every day on my way to work I would see Mr. Clifford sitting in that same spot on that same street at almost the same time each morning. I could only see him so long before I knew I had to do something.
When I was a business executive I had a client who owned every McDonalds in the city. I visited his corporate office and asked if he could give me some free lunch coupons. He gave me a huge stack.
Later that day I saw Mr. Clifford sitting on the curb of that same street, just a few miles down from where I see him each morning. I pulled over got out of my car and gently, and quite nervously approached Mr. Clifford. I had never done this before.
I asked Mr. Clifford if I could give him some McDonald’s coupons. Never looking up he nodded his head yes. I held them out but he did not reach back. So I asked if I could lay them on the curb beside him. Again, he nodded his head. Not leaving well enough alone, I asked Mr. Clifford if I could sit with him for a few minutes. He nodded his head.
I introduced myself. For the first time, he spoke, “Clifford is my name.”
“Glad to meet you, Clifford.”
Silently I sat. I did not know what else to say. So there we were, me and Clifford, sitting quietly on the curb off 2nd Avenue. I don’t know how long we were there. After a while I stood up, held out my hand and said, “It was nice to meet you, Clifford.”
Reaching out to shake my hand he nodded his head.
“I hope you enjoy the coupons Clifford, and I hope to see you again,” I said.
He nodded his head.
I left. But that day, I was never the same. That day marked the beginning of many days where I would never again not turn a blind eye to homelessness and poverty. From that very day I began driving around the city every Sunday night armed with fast food coupons looking for people who were homeless.
It was in my mundane routine of ordinary days that I discovered that homelessness had a name, a nodding head and hand shake. It was in my mundane routine of ordinary days that God nudged my heart and on that day something happened inside of me that stirs me to this very day. 8,395 days went by in my young life before God moved that way. When He did my life changed. And 4,015 days later my life shifted once again.
At first it was a day like any other, except instead of going straight to the coffee shop I stopped by my office at the church building. As I was getting ready to leave a tired man came through the doors. He was homeless, along with his wife, daughter and grandchild. They were sleeping in a van. He only asked for a one night’s stay in a motel. But I believe Jesus can do better than one night, and if He can so can His people. And that is what I told this man. And that is what we did, and with no catch or conditions. Jesus did good because He is good and as His followers we needed to do the same.
Over the course of over a year our church walked in deep meaningful relationship with this family of four from homelessness to housed, unemployed to employed, hopeless to hope filled. After the man and his wife decided to follow Jesus they wanted to renew their wedding vows as they did their lives, so we had the pleasure of sharing in that too. It was through a relationship with them our church learned how to extend gracious hospitality. At first we used to think we helped them see Jesus, but looking back it was they who helped us see Jesus.
After 11 years of walking with people from homelessness to self-sufficiency I knew there had to be a healthier and more relational way to do this than what I had done in the past. It was in a relationship with that family, radically embraced by the faithful people of Williamsburg Christian Church, that I began implementing a highly relational yet organized way of being the kind of community of friends this family needed and wanted. It was also when I began working out what would later become the 3e Restoration Floor Plan curriculum. This was the beginning of what we now call “The 3e Restoration Process.”
Soon after I met David Benedict (now a dear friend). He and a couple of others had started an inter-faith collaborative called Greater Williamsburg Outreach Mission, a.k.a. G.W.O.M. They were a collaborative of almost 18 faith communities coming together to fight homelessness in Greater Williamsburg. Up to this point I was considering launching a separate non-profit as a ministry of WCC, but apparently God still had work to do. After several talks with David and others with G.W.O.M., I was invited to share what WCC had been doing to help move some of our friends from homelessness to self-sufficiency within the context of relational community and God’s sufficiency. God was stirring a movement through G.W.O.M. and He had invited us to join Him.
After many meetings with the beautiful people of G.W.O.M. they decided to pilot the 3e Restoration Process in order to teach other churches and faith communities how to live into it. So we did, and it was a holy adventure where new friendships were made, clarity of vision and process was formed, and eventually, where 3e Restoration Incorporated was born.
And now this 501c3 non-profit organization exists to partner with faith communities to encourage, equip, and empower them to walk in relationship with a “Friends/Families in Need” to help them transition from homelessness to self-sufficiency through community and God’s sufficiency. We are led by a passionate, godly and extremely smart Executive Director in Tammy Harden. Our curriculum and training is anchored by a talented and passionate Director of Training in Blake Miller. We have trained 9 church leaders from 7 different churches to help lead their churches into breaking the cycle of homelessness through gracious hospitality and systemic change one friend or family at a time. And another round of training labs are set for January. We are partnered with Colonial Community Corrections reentry program for homeless ex-offenders. We are in discussions to begin a pilot with Williamsburg James City County schools to walk with a family living through homelessness toward self-sufficiently within the context of relational community. We want to see the development of supportive housing and a residential respite home to assist homeless men and women leaving the hospital in need of temporary or terminal care. We want to encourage, equip and empower those living through homelessness with mental illness and intellectual disabilities so they can live a meaningful and productive life of dignity and worth. And we hope to see all of this supported and surrounded by local faith communities equipped, empowered and encouraged to walk with these friends living through homelessness and hopelessness to housed and hopefulness.
Tonight I have the honor of seeing what God began when I was 23 come to a place I never dreamed. 3e Restoration Inc will host it’s first ever fundraising banquet. We will tell stories of hope and beauty, of friendship and hospitality, of love and grace.
I praise God for it all and thank Him for allowing us to participate in His work of restoring the lives of the lonely and left-out. Little did I know at the age of 23 that He was doing the same to me.
Please pray for us tonight and from time to time each day after. If you feel compelled and want to join us in what we are doing in another way, please give to this movement God is stirring here.