Intro: This week I am featuring an interview with Dalla O’Day on outreach to homeless people. (Read Part 1: “Homeless Ministry: Flowers for Jesus.”)
I’ve known Dalla for over a decade and her contagious love for people exemplifies the type of love Christ calls the church to uphold. Dalla graduated from Moody Bible Institute with a degree in Discipleship in 2005 and has served with several church and parachurch homeless ministries. Currently, she volunteers in her church band and missions committee, and is about to embark on leadership for her church in the areas of education/training for evangelism in practical life circumstances. In addition, she corresponds with prison inmates who have spiritual questions.
Do you have any favorite Bible verses or songs that you’ve liked to share with homeless people?
Psalm 139, Psalm 103:12, John 3:16, the Romans Road, Genesis 3:15, Hebrews 11, and many others. It mostly depends on the conversation. I memorize Scripture (or at least references!) so that I can be ready with passages that may pertain to any topic we may discuss. I don't always manage, but the Lord has blessed my efforts greatly over the years, and I can only think of a few times when I couldn't find the passage I was trying to bring to mind.
How has ministering to homeless people and/or other marginalized groups helped deepen your relationship with the Lord?
The more time I get to spend with people not like me, the more I see Jesus as work. He loves people of all shapes, sizes, colors, dispositions, living circumstances, religions/faiths and any other "label" created by man that I could toss into this list. And the more I've seen Jesus' love for others, the more I've seen His love for me, and His desire for me to fully abandon myself to Him as He did for me.
Maturation, I'm sure, also helps with this deepening. But as the years have passed, and as I've spent time with men and women in prison, on the streets or children in orphanages in Guatemala, my relationship with Jesus has simply become more intimate.
Scripture means so much more when I see it come alive, as it were, living out the gospel to the same people Jesus walked with and loved. Women who've sold themselves, men who've drunken themselves into oblivion as far as the world is concerned, little children abandoned by their parents...these are the people Jesus gave Himself for. I'm far from truly understanding Him and His heart, but at least as I get to know His friends, I've gotten to know Him better, love Him more, and yearn more and more to be like Him, instead of being simply a "good person."
Have you ever found yourself encouraged by someone you were talking to, and if yes, how so?
There have been many, but the first person who stands out in my mind was a middle-aged African American lady named Elvira. During my senior year at Moody, when I went out with Flowers for Jesus, I usually found Elvira sitting on the ledge outside of the Walgreens at Chicago and Michigan.
We'd chat for a little while, but then she always wanted to sing hymns. Within a month of knowing her, I starting bringing out my hymnal so that we could sing together more easily. She didn't have a great voice, but she had a passion for Jesus that I will always remember.
She carefully selected songs to sing that reflected love to Christ and selfless living. She commented on each, with how they had impacted her and how they had shown in her own life that the more she loved others around her, the more she saw Jesus in her day-to-day life. Often while we were together, others would come and harass us. She ignored them and kept singing or sharing a story from her life with Christ in which He had shown Himself to her in a mighty way.
If a woman who had been homeless for 30 years could continually see Jesus shining in her life, how could I complain? How could I wonder about His faithfulness in my own?
Note: Stay tuned! Friday we'll hear some of Dalla's tips for homeless ministry!