Category Archives: Personal

Thaddeus Hambrick (Pony)

Being homeless is hard.  We all know this.

Not knowing where your next meal will come from is hard.  Not having security about where you’ll sleep at night is hard.  Not having a roof over your head is hard.  Not being able to provide for yourself is hard.  Not having a network of family and friends to help you out is hard.  Being looked at as the bane of society is hard.  Not having a change of clothes (especially socks) is hard.  Having to poop in public and not be able to properly wipe is hard.  Not being able to bathe is hard.  Not being able to go to the doctor if you’re sick is hard.

About 11 years ago I met a crack dealer named Pony.  After we met and began to talk, he told me his real name.  “Thaddeus, like Jesus’s disciple.”  Every time we met for the next 6 months or so he’d remind me of his real name, “Thaddeus, like Jesus’s disciple.”  My friend the crack dealer really wanted me to learn his real name and he helped me remember it because he was named after one of Jesus’s disciples.  Thaddeus and I became friends over the next years.  He met Jesus.  Because he met Jesus, he stopped dealing crack.  Because he stopped dealing crack, he became homeless.  And because he stopped dealing crack, the people he used to work for started trying to kill him.  They ran him over with a car 3 times.  They shot him 5 times.  On the same day.  My friend, Thaddeus lived.  Thank God.

Thaddeus helped me understand something that’s harder than all the rest though.  A life of homelessness isn’t just hard because of all the insecurities and need that every day carries.  A life of homelessness is a life of anonymity.  No one knows you and no one cares.  You just don’t matter to the world.  That’s the hardest part of being homeless.

Many homeless people live and die in the shadows.  Their bodies are found frozen in abandoned elevator shafts or bloated behind dumpsters in alleys.  There’s no funeral.  There’s no headstone.  There’s no mourning.  There’s no obituary and no one to notify.  They’re just gone.  And before they die, years before they die, they know this is the end that awaits them.  Because it’s every day.

I met Thaddeus on July 7th, 2007.  We became friends and I’d see him almost every week.  I saw him on December 19th, 2009 a few weeks after he’d been run over and shot.  I thought it was the last time I’d see him.  He was so frail and still had 5 bullets lodged in his body.  And when I didn’t see him in the following weeks and months, I thought he’d died and I’d never know for sure.  Then, across town 6 years later on August 17th, 2015, we ran into each other again.  He’d gotten a job and was no longer homeless.  He was doing well. “Jesus has been good to me, Mike!”  I was overwhelmed with joy to see my friend again and to know he was alright.  I ran to him and hugged him.  However, on this day 2 years ago, February 15th, 2015, my friend Thaddeus Hambrick died.

But Thaddeus didn’t die in anonymity.  I will always remember my friend, Thaddeus.  Like the disciple.  His picture’s on my wall.  His memory burned into mine.  Your strength, endurance and humility inspired me, Thaddeus.  I’ve used your story of coming to and following Jesus as an example for many.  I’ll never forget you.  I will see you again, my friend.

A BBQed Prayer

Sometimes I write prayers…

Dear Jesus,
Thank you for this day. Thank you for bringing the sun up this morning. Thank you for waking us up this morning. Thank you for sharing this beautiful day you’ve made with us. Thank you for loving us enough to come down from heaven and be with us. Thank you for forgiving us for the terrible things we have done and keep doing out of our struggle and brokenness and unwilling selfishness. Thank you for choosing to reach out to us with your loving arms and welcoming us into your great embrace every day. Thank you for this food you’ve made and given to us. Thank you for the hunger pangs in our bellies right now that remind us of how much we need the food that you’ve given us. Thank you for adopting all of us who turn to you as sons and daughters. Thank you for creating around us, right here, right now, today and every Saturday and often throughout our days and weeks and lonely nights a loving family of adopted brothers and sisters. Together we get to be your sons and daughters. Your treasured little kids. Thank you Lord for adopting me, for forgiving me, for taking me in and making something beautiful out of the mess I’ve created with they life you’ve given me. Thank you Lord for your love.
Let it be so. Amen.

Calling, Sacrifice, Reward

Every calling is a gift. Every gift requires sacrifice. Every sacrifice brings a reward. Every reward is only gained by giving the gift, making the sacrifice, chasing the calling that God has given. The greater the calling, the greater the gift. The greater the sacrifice, the greater the reward. The greater the reward, the more worth every ounce of sacrifice it took to get there.

God the Father paid the ultimate sacrifice. He asked His Son to make a sacrifice for every one of us. His Son begged to get out of it. But God did not give in. Despite His Son begging so intensely as to sweat tears of blood, God stayed the course and directed His Son to go through agony for a time.

There is nothing that could relieve or lighten the agony of sacrifice that had to be endured. Jesus came from heaven and was born into a cave amongst peasants. He worked hard as a carpenter’s son for 30 years. Then, for three years he roamed homeless teaching and healing people. People were constantly trying to kill him from his birth throughout his ministry life. Jesus did not merely suffer three days. He gave up heaven to come here. Every day was painful sacrifice, culminating in the ultimate death. But the calling on Jesus from God was never about the sacrifice of pain, toil or death. The calling was to bring HEALING to all people, reaching them with the love of the Father.

Every person has a calling. The greater the person, the greater the calling. The greater the calling, the greater the sacrifice. We’re not promised for life to be easy. We’re promised difficulty. But we’re promised that God has a plan and will, eventually, use every bit of sacrifice along the way for His good purposes. We often cannot see or fathom any good that could possibly come of the pain of sacrifice along the way. But it happens every time.

My favorite quote from Mother Theresa is: “I know God will never give me more than I can handle, but sometimes I wish He didn’t trust me so much.”

The strength of Jesus or any of us is not displayed by us not struggling, not begging for relief, not asking questions and demanding answers, not questioning if this is all worth it or necessary. No. The strength of Jesus and every one of us comes from feeling and struggling through all of that and somehow pressing on. We may sometimes only move forward in a crawl, we may sometimes miss a step, we may sometimes not see the next step in front of us, but to keep plodding onward. This is the display of courage and strength.

The picture of Jesus’s strength isn’t in His resurrection. The picture of His strength is in walking forward on Palm Sunday, walking forward into Gethsemane, walking forward carrying His cross through the streets to Galgotha, all the while knowing what’s to come and the horrible sacrifice it will be. He struggled, He cried, He begged for it to not happen, but He did it anyway. His mom watched in horror as her oldest child went through agony. His brothers, friends and disciples watched in horror. They were torn apart, heartbroken, terrified for his life and their own. Jesus begged for relief for himself and those he loved. But the calling was greater than the sacrifice. The sacrifice always hurts us and those we love. But the calling is worth the sacrifice. The calling is always worth the sacrifice. That’s the promise of Hope we have from Him.

Pray this for/with me if you think of it… Let it be true (amen).

“Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.”
Psalm 143:8 NIV


A coat returned and recognized

2 great stories from one of yesterday’s CommuniD BBQs:
1. I loaned my coat to a drunk girl trying to keep warm by the grill at the Ann Arbor BBQ. She then left unknowingly stealing my coat. A homeless man had overheard her talking to someone else and had an idea where she might’ve gone. So he left the BBQ, found her (and my coat), got my coat back from her (she no longer needed it) and brought it back to me. So awesome on so many levels!

2. Another homeless man came to the BBQ for the first time. After a few minutes he looked at one of the banners with our logo that says “Everybody’s Welcome” and said, aren’t these in Detroit too? I said, “Yeah they are. Have you been to them there?” He said, “No, but I saw you guys on the news and wanted to check it out. On the CBS morning news. Was that you? I knew you looked familiar. This is a great thing!”

The best 4 bucks

On Saturday a homeless man came by one of the CommuniD BBQs. He asked not for food, but to be able to help on the grill for a few, then he had to go. Help he did and then he left. 
A couple hours later he returned offering to buy a hamburger. I told him he can’t buy them, they’re free. He asked if I’d take a tip. I said no, but we accept donations. He pulled out his wallet and had $5 in singles. He handed me $4 and said, “I just need to keep one for myself. I thank God for what you guys are doing. Praise Jesus.”

Reminds me of this story: Mark 12:41-44 NIV

A homeless man’s prayer

I just finished an interview with CBS channel 62 at the new Elevate Detroit CommuniD BBQ park. I’ve got a cold. So on Facebook this morning I asked for prayers during the interview. While there a homeless man came and sat on one of the benches and said, “Hallelujah, thank you Lord for sitting on this bench.”

As I was leaving I waved at him and he waved back. I walked over to say hi. As I came close I could hear him talking, but couldn’t understand everything he was saying. Then he waved me off and said, “I can’t talk right now, I’m praying for you.”

My friends, you haven’t lived until you walk up and overhear a homeless man privately praying for protection and provision for you!

God is so amazing!

Thank you, Lord! I needed that today.

Bus fare

Last Saturday, at Elevate Detroit’s Detroit CommuniD BBQ, I spent the afternoon with a friend of mine. His name is Mike. Mike is extremely poor and almost homeless. I haven’t known Mike for long. We’ve been friends for only the last 2 months. In that time, I’ve learned he’s a father, grandpa and great grandpa. He and his wife are also followers of Jesus.

Mike asked me for bus fare. He said he needed $1.25 and that he’d “pay me back next week.” I happened to have 5 quarters in my car so I gave it to him. Mike’s wife asked me separately if I could bring him some new socks sometime.

Over the past week I posted on Facebook asking for donations for socks. Someone generously donated $50! So I went to Wal-Mart and bought as many socks as $50 would buy. We distributed all, but one package to people at today’s BBQ. I kept one package to give to Mike if I saw him.

About half way through Mike’s wife came over and said, “Mike is home today because he hurt himself, but he asked me to come and tell you he has something for you. Stop by and see him before you go.”

I went to Mike’s door at the end of the BBQ. I was greeted with a hearty hug and $2. (He had to remind me I’d given him any money.) I then handed him the package of socks (which he didn’t know his wife has asked for). What a fantastic thing!!

This is how we give through CommuniD BBQs! Not handouts to poor strangers or passersby… Sharing with friends as we’re able. There is such beauty in generosity! And as beautiful and awesome as it is for the relatively comfortable to share… It’s so much more beautiful when the poor are allowed to share too!!

Memorial Day

Today, I remember especially my old next door neighbor, Nick Kline. I believe he was an airplane mechanic in WWII. As a little kid, he always invited me over into his garage and taught me all kinds of things about mechanics and wood working. And he patiently listened to me talk about nothing for hours.  Here’s to my good friend and neighbor, Nick… Who was about 70 years older than I was.

Today I remember especially my grandpa Schmitt. He was a medic/medical transport in the Korean War. The stories he had to share are so amazing. He was an incredible, incorrigible man and I admire him. He was a great hunter and fisherman. He loved the outdoors. I love him.


(My grandpa and I several years ago at Christmas.)

Telling God What He Should Do

For a few days I keep thinking of how I think things should go in my life, I keep thinking (somewhat seriously, somewhat tongue in cheek), “If God would just do what I think he should do, all of this could be so worth it and so much better.” But I’m then reminded that, the only time I believe that, is when I don’t trust him.

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”

Proverbs 16:9 NIV