Saving Lives Out on the Streets

Your Support Brings Hope to Campers

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  -- Luke 19:10

It’s another scorching, triple-digit day in the summer of 2022, and John 3:16 Mission’s Search and Rescue/Outreach team (SAR) is visiting homeless camps around Tulsa.
One of those camps is located on the eastside of downtown Tulsa near a complex of overpasses surrounded by woods. A line of makeshift dwellings suggests a sizeable camp with at least 10 residents.
Mission Hospitality Coordinator, Ryan McCullough, has been doing SAR for several years.  He approaches the camp with a backpack containing some bottled water and a few light snacks. He hails the camp and announces a visit from John 3:16 Mission outreach. It’s always a good idea not to surprise campers by just showing up, he advises.
Homeless Rescue Tulsa

Camp Life Brutal

Many campers in the area already know Ryan, including an African-American man named Edgar who quickly walks up from a tent to say hello. Edgar is in his early 60s, wiry and muscular but with painful neuropathy in his legs and feet.
“I can hardly feel my feet when I walk,” he says. “They numb. And sometimes they feel prickly, like pins and needles.
Ryan offers him a water and asks a few questions about seeing a doctor and getting help. Edgar says he will be seeing a doctor soon. He is receiving some meager government benefits to help him get by.
Spiritual Support for Stubborn Problem
Edgar asks for prayer and Ryan kneels and prays over Edgar’s legs and feet, asking God to relieve Edgar’s pain and heal his limbs. After praying, Ryan waves to some other campers and asks if they need anything. They do not acknowledge him. It’s time to move on.
There are other camps to visit, including a small one where a woman named Marjorie lives on a narrow strip of grass near the Crosstown Expressway. A torn tarp gives her – and her pitbull – some protection from the ferocious sun. Again, Ryan offers her water and snacks, which she accepts. They pray together and he says he’ll be back to check on her in coming days.
Ryan has seen just about everything in his visits to the camps including drug use, violence and even young children living in the midst of squalor. It hurts to see these things, but it makes him and his team of trained volunteers even more determined to help and show them the love of Christ.


You Bring Hope

The Mission is there for all of them – thanks to you. John 3:16 Mission, of course, cannot force anyone to come to its shelter and participate in its programs, but it can still reach out into the community of homeless campers and let them know someone cares – and that no matter what, Jesus, still loves them and wants the best for them.
Ryan and his team never try to cajole or push people to leave their camps. Instead, they do welfare checks and tell people about what the Mission offers that can change their lives. However, listening is the main thing that Ryan and his team do during visits.
“The main thing that God has shown me in my time doing search and rescue is that my number one tool is my ears. I’ve learned to listen and to really hear these people and what their problems and issues are. If you really listen to them, instead of trying to fulfill your own agenda and deliver your own message, you build up trust with them and from there you can begin to address their true needs.”
Pointing Them to the Redeemer
Ryan says he has learned campers are not really all that different from the rest of us. Yes, we tend to focus on the fact that they are homeless, with few belongings, and struggle with a host of personal and mental health problems, but at the end of the day, we all are flawed creatures in need God’s redeeming grace, no matter how big our homes, wealth or social status.
“If there is one thing we can do, it’s point them to Jesus. And many of them already know Christ. Are they living lives that we necessarily would approve of or are healthy? No, but that is something we can help them out with as long as we are persistent.”