Last week, near the anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, I re-posted a video from a ministry on the island. It tells the powerful story of Baby Mackenson. After watching the video, my Dad made this comment: “Not sure exactly what to say; one thought keeps going through my mind – someday it would be a privilege to abandon our stuff and live in a t-shirt and jeans, serving the needs like this; don’t know how those folks do it, but would like to learn.”
That thought – to abandon our stuff and live in a t-shirt and jeans – is much like the catalyst for the book “Under the Overpass.” Mike Yankoski and his traveling partner, Sam Purvis, make the commitment to abandon the safety and security of the life they knew to live homeless in six different American cities. To immerse themselves into that world, they took no credit cards or cell phones and only a backpack with the bare necessities, a sleeping bag and a guitar to make money so they could travel and survive.
The goals they had for this experience were to understand homelessness, to see how the church responds to this need and to learn to live in dependence on God.
The book brings to life the reality of living day-to-day on the streets. Things that I don’t think about on a regular basis – where to get a drink if I’m thirsty, how I’m going to eat for the next day, where can I go to the bathroom – are daily challenges when a person is homeless. Mike shares how he and Sam tackled those issues and shared powerful stories of people they met and how the church did and did not offer assistance in their plight.
As I read through the stories from the different cities, I continually wondered what I would do in each situation. When someone approached me who was strung out on drugs, would I engage them in conversation? When Sunday morning came around and I wasn’t dressed the right way for worship and I smelled because I couldn’t shower, would I still go in? Under the Overpass puts names and even faces to those who live on the street and brings the reality of those people’s needs into our comfortable existence.
At the end of the book, the author shares how his experience has changed his perspective on so many things that before he took for granted. After reading this book, it will change the way the reader looks at those on the street. Recently I had to make a brief stop in downtown Cincinnati and I found myself looking at the scenes around me in a different light. Where would someone go to get food who had none? How would a person on the streets find warmth if he had no place to go? Would I be willing to help someone or would my reaction be similar to what Mike and Sam saw many times on the street – turning my gaze and pretending the need wasn’t there?
I think the biggest question the reader has to wrestle with is this: what does God want to say to me after reading this book? Under the Overpass brings the reader face to face with the reality of those who have no place to go and what it is like to live that kind of life.
(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. To learn more about Mike and Sam’s experience, visit the Under the Overpass website. Click here to get more information about the book and read an excerpt.)
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