[Note: This is the prepared text for a speech given at the Portland UCG Spokesmen’s Club on March 13, 2016.]
How many of you in here have ever heard of a country singer-songwriter named Jimmy Wayne? About a decade ago he had a few popular songs on the country music charts like “Stay Gone,” “I Love You This Much” and “Do You Believe Me Now?” A few years ago, he walked from Nashville, Tennessee, where he lives , to Phoenix, Arizona, to raise awareness of the difficulty that homeless teens face as they approach the age of 18, where they are “aged out” of the foster care system, and generally left to fend for themselves without a great deal of encouragement and resources to do so. What was Jimmy Wayne aiming for in his walk for homeless youth? Why did he walk halfway across the United States? What does it mean for us as Christians today?
What was the goal of Jimmy’s walk? In his walk from halfway across the country, which Jimmy Wayne called “Meet Me Halfway,” the country singer-songwriter had several goals. One of those goals was to raise awareness of the difficult plight of homeless teens and young adults, many of whom come from disastrously bad family backgrounds, who struggle with finding education, and who at the age of 18 have tended to fall off the radar as far as the larger society is concerned, many of them ending up in jail, being exploited through prostitution or other means, or ending up unmourned in early graves. Yet the world is not all that aware of the people who dwell at its margins. Additionally, besides raising awareness, Wayne has been lobbying for the lengthening of period where teens can benefit from foster care from 18 to 21, so that young adults have at least some time to prepare for the responsibilities of adulthood without being thrown into the world as soon as they turn 18.
Why would Jimmy care so much about the plight of homeless young people, as a moderately successful country singer? As it happens, Jimmy had been homeless himself as a teenager, being abandoned several times by his mother, whose unstable home life was filled with a revolving door of men as well as drug and alcohol abuse. Left to fend for himself and handed off to a series of increasingly unwilling relatives, young Jimmy drifted through a world of difficulty, and petty crime, until an elderly couple in small town North Carolina took a chance on him and encouraged him to find education as well as cultivate his musical abilities and to serve as adoptive parents. As a result of this encouragement, Jimmy was able to rise above the statistics of homeless youth and live a successful life. Yet he never forgot where he came from, and the difficulty of his own walk, and so it is only to be expected that he should have empathy for those who are now where Jimmy once was when he was younger.
What does this mean for us as Christians today? How many of you have ever been homeless or have faced the threat of homelessness? Besides the threat of literal homelessness, in a sense all of us who are Christians are homeless. Let us turn to Hebrews 11:13-16. Hebrews 11:13-16 reads as follows: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” Later on in this same chapter, in verses thirty-seven through forty, the author of Hebrews continues: “They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.” In short, as believers we too are pilgrims and strangers on the earth , whose homeland has not yet arrived, filled with a longing for a home we have yet to see, a kingdom that has not yet come.
We have seen that country singer Jimmy Wayne used the experiences of his own dysfunctional childhood as the fuel for empathy and concern for others in the same situation as he once was, using his celebrity as a means of speaking for those whose voices are often unheard, and whose lives do not often reach the attention of most people who go about their lives in relative comfort. We too, as believers, are people whose true homes are not yet to be found on this earth, and so we all ought to have a sense of compassion for others who have great difficulty finding a place here on earth in this present society. What are we going to do with our knowledge and awareness of the fact that we do not belong here, and that we are aliens and pilgrims and strangers on the face of this earth? How will we use our own alienation and strangeness as the fuel for our compassion and empathy for a broken world longing for shelter and comfort amidst the storms of life, comfort and shelter that can ultimately be found only in the Kingdom of God?
 See, for example:
 See, for example: