The Life-Changing Power of Our Homeless Wash Ministry by DJ Rabe

The Life-Changing Power of Our Homeless Wash Ministry by DJ Rabe

Ever since I surrendered my life to Christ, I have been out working with the homeless on the streets. Over the years, I’ve learned some things. I’ve learned what not to do, what doesn’t work, and what does work.

In 2016, a friend of mine contacted me, a business owner who I used to promote through my marketing company prior to becoming a church pioneer. He said, You know, Im in a huge church. I want to make a significant impact in my community in a tangible way, and I just cant seem to do that where Im at, so Im reaching out to you. I have some resources, and I know you have vision.” We began to talk about what God was doing in our hearts and what happened as a result of that. I shared the work that we were doing in the homeless camps, and he was interested to learn more. We began to explore together what the real needs of the homeless are. Theres a lot of talk out there as how to help the homeless, but until you actually engage with them on a personal level, everythings just an assumption.

We went into the homeless encampments and began to ask the homeless people what their greatest needs were. Everybody that we talked to mentioned getting clean. I found out in my community that there was a man who was giving showers to the homeless in an alley by a nearby church. The church had a feeding program, so it was just a great spot. The homeless came to get food and then a shower. It was rather late when I visited him, but homeless people would come out of the showers clean and very grateful for being able to shower. But one thing I saw was that they were wearing the same clothes that they walked in with. I asked Frank, How long are you out here every night?” He said, Until the last person needs a shower.” I thought, Man, I have never really seen anything like this in my life. This is the most selfless ministry I have ever seen. I said, Do you work, or are you retired?” He said, I work at the airport. I got to be to work at 5 in the morning.” Wow!

When you’re going through the homeless camps, you see a lot of trash on the ground. You see a lot of drug paraphernalia. But you also see a lot of clothes. Once the clothes get wet or once they get dirty, they have no way to clean them. So when I saw a couple of people coming out of that shower putting their clothes back on, I connected the dots with what I saw in the homeless encampments. That’s when we determined we were going to wash clothes for the homeless. We dared to believe God, that He would show us how to do it because there was nobody doing it. We had no idea how to work the plumbing, electricity and all that. But you know, God directed us, and about six months from idea to implementation, we put the truck on the street. That was 2016, and its been out ever since!

If you dont know somebodys name, you dont know their story and there is no way to really know what their need is. You can make assumptions, which is what has gone on in the homeless community. The church, I think, as a whole has just assumed they know how to help them. They have assumed everybodys on drugs. I mean, its bad out there, but not everybody is a drug addict. Some are new to the streets; some are vets. They may never move off the streets. You know, you’ve got to want to get off the streets. So our ministry is not just another resource added to the many resources already out there in the community; it’s a net to pull the lost in.

We use cleanliness to connect people to Christ. We dont just provide a service to the homeless; we connect with people and ask them what their plan is, presenting resources to help them get off the streets. We are not trying to make them more comfortable as they continue to live this way; we are challenging them with solutions to reintegrate into society. That takes eliminating a lot of excuses that they have like:

Im a felon. I cant get a job.”

I dont have any ID because my backpack was stolen.”

“I dont have an address, so I cant get an ID.”

We train our team to eliminate excuses. As a result, we have gained some miraculous testimonies of people being born again, getting housing and jobs, and being delivered from drug addiction.

We had one gentleman battling meth. He would always sit in the alley, no shoes, barely any clothes on, and sores all over him. We tried to engage him week after week, but theres very little conversation that he would participate in. Finally we started to reach out to him at his point of need. We provided him with shoes and warm clothing, not really expecting anything in return. Then he began to open up. A long story short, he was battling a massive addiction. One of our leaders continued reaching out him and eventually gave him rides to church. One day, he completely surrendered his life to Jesus and now is married, has a home, and has a wife.

We had another guy who slept on the park bench. We were wrapping up in the alley, and I knew he was going to freeze to death if he slept there overnight. I woke him up and said, Hey, do you need a ride somewhere?” He was freezing cold, so I got some clothes and gave them to him. He started crying because somebody had stolen his bike that night, so he had no place to go. We were able to get him in the truck and drive him home. When I asked him,Wheres home,” he said it was in the woods. It was literally in the woods! I dropped this guy off on the side of the road so he could go into his “house.” He continued to come to the alley after that. We found out he was a mechanic, a tradesman. You know what we did? We got him work and continue to engage with him.

There’s a life-changing power present in our homeless wash ministry. We discovered a need in our community and met the need, and that has opened the door for us to connect relationally and share the love of Jesus. You can have the same kind of impact in your community! In my next blog, I’ll share how your church can establish a homeless wash ministry, so keep your eyes opened for it’s release!