Here is an interview with Michael Yankoski. Michael Yankoski will be our special speaker on November 11, 2007. He will be talking about his time as a homeless person. I am hopeful this will help spark your creativity! Thank you for reading!
Christianbook.com: Why did you and Sam decide to become homeless?
Michael Yankoski: The idea came one morning while I sat in church, mind wandering aimlessly. At the Holy Spirit’s prompting I began to wonder if I was actually living life in a way that was dependent on the Lord, or if I simply enjoyed repeating clichés on Sunday mornings with my friends. If I really believed that Christ was Lord of my life, if I really believed that He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life, then what would it look like to lay everything down for Him and live homeless?
Over the course of 16 months of questioning and prayer, planning and preparation, it became clear that the homeless journey was something the Lord was calling me to. Three months before the scheduled departure, I met Sam, a friend of a friend from Oregon, and we decided to journey together. We hoped to learn more about the lives the homeless lived and if the Church is as active as we should be in desolate places.
Christianbook.com: How long were you homeless?
Michael Yankoski: We were homeless for just over five months, from May 27th 2004 through November 2nd 2004.
Christanbook.com: What cities were you homeless in?
Michael Yankoski: During those five months, we lived in six cities: Denver, Washington D.C., Portland, San Francisco, Phoenix and San Diego.
Christianbook.com: It seems pretty risky, were you ever in danger?
Michael Yankoski: There were several instances in which imminent danger surrounded us. We were on the streets 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, sleeping alongside of convicted felons, drug dealers, and the typical homeless. The threat for dangerous encounters never left us. However, despite living in the midst of the all the potentially difficult and harmful situations, we came out unscathed. Psalm 118:6, “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” came to have a deeper meaning.
Christianbook.com: What are some things God taught you while you were on the streets?
Michael Yankoski: Initially, Sam and I came to understand how much better it is to be journeying, experiencing life, and enduring hardships with someone rather than alone. I couldn’t have survived on the streets if God had not called Sam to be a part of this experience.
Amazing things happen when you can’t depend on yourself but instead must look to Christ for everything. On the streets there were no refrigerators, no showers, no deadbolts, no credit cards, no normalcy. God taught us some of the lesson Paul speaks of in Philippians 4:11-12: “I have learned what it is to be content in any circumstance, whether with everything or with nothing.”
Within that though, the legitimate needs that are endure everyday by the men and women in the homeless community became apparent. More than food, shelter and clothing, which are all important logistical needs, there also exists a tremendous need for interaction, kindness, friendship and relationship.
The Gospel of Christ doesn’t depend on who you are or what point in life you’re at. That’s the whole idea of Unconditional Love. Because Sam and I were often rejected by Christians because of what we looked like or smelled like, we learned of the need for the Church as a whole to grow in the area of “loving others.”
Christianbook.com: What was the most difficult aspect of being on the streets for that long?
Michael Yankoski: Being away from my family, friends, my home church; basically being away from the people I know and love was the most difficult aspect of being on the streets. Obviously it was hard not knowing where we were going to sleep, what we were going to eat, who we were going to come across, or what would happen, but at the same time, there grew such a hunger for friendship and deeper relationships. Thus, in coming home, returning to friends and family held the biggest joys.
But therein lies another difficult aspect: Sam and I got to leave the loneliness and isolation of the streets. So many of the men and women who make up the chronic homeless population that Sam and I became friends with will never know the joy of such a return to friends and family. Most will die alone, on the cold hard streets. That truth is hard to deal with.
Christianbook.com: Do you feel like the church as a whole is adequately involved with the homeless problem?
Michael Yankoski: No, not entirely. I do not feel that we as the church, a body of believers professing love, and peace, and acceptance, and grace, and mercy and forgiveness are enacting these virtues as Christ calls us to. Specifically in the homeless community, the lack of involvement of local Christians I observed at Rescue Missions around the country is frustrating. Additionally, we were often ignored or shunned by Christians because of what we looked and smelled like. That’s not the Living Gospel. There is so much potential for God to work if Christians simply show up in the aching parts of the world, and yet we so often sit by, not living our convictions.
Christianbook.com: How have you changed since coming back from this experience?
Michael Yankoski: I find myself more thankful for the blessings that surround me, food, clean clothes, a car, a refrigerator, a stable life. The illusion of control and ability has been weakened. There were so many points at which Sam and I were simply at the end of ourselves and had to give up, saying ‘Jesus, Thy will be done!” And you know what? He never let us fall. Never left us. Always held us up. God’s provision is such a wonderful antidote to our incessant pride.
Christianbook.com: What is Under the Overpass?
Michael Yankoski: Under the Overpass is a collection of stories and reflections detailing the 5 months Sam and I spent on the streets. Under the Overpass details the birth of the idea to become homeless, the necessary research, the decision to go, the experiences in Denver Washington D.C., Portland, San Francisco, Phoenix, and San Diego, and finally the struggle of coming back into “normal” society. It’s a fun, quick dramatic read that will force the reader to ask questions about themselves, their faith, and the world around them.
Christianbook.com: Why should someone read Under the Overpass?
Michael Yankoski: Under the Overpass is a story about the Lord’s provision when we step out in faith to what He calls us to. It’s about depending more fully on Christ than on yourself, even in the circumstances that seem to be impossible.
What I hope is that after a reader takes this journey with Sam and me, they’ll never look at their God, their faith, their neighbor, or themselves in the same way. I hope they’ll have a new idea of what it means to Live out Loud, and a fresh view of what God wants them to accomplish in their world, right now.