Friday, June 11, 2010
Wayne Walker and ‘Our Calling’
I first met Wayne Walker a number of years ago on the parking lot of the then-city-shelter, The Day Resource Center. It was a Friday night, and, as they did every Friday night, he and his group of fellow church members were serving a delicious hot dinner to around three hundred of Dallas homeless citizens. They’d allowed me to join them to give away some gently used clothing I’d collected.
After dinner and the clothing giveaway, we all joined hands for a prayer circle, as people took turns praying aloud — for help with housing, with mental illness or addiction challenges, with family problems, or intercessory prayer for loved ones not present. Everyone seemed to feel free to pour out their hearts with unfettered honesty, because it was clear that here — among this group that went by the name ‘Our Calling’ — people who were accustomed to being judged harshly in society were accepted and loved for exactly who they were.
It surprised me, because Wayne and his group were prosperous-looking, middle-class folks, many from North Dallas, and I wasn’t accustomed to seeing this kind of unconditional love for my street friends from folks who were ‘housed.’ In the coming months, I too would pour out my heart in prayer in front of this extremely diverse group, would (to my embarrassment) begin to cry in front of them over some private heartache, and would find myself lifted up in love by many hands on my shoulders — some weathered from living outdoors and some smooth.
It didn’t take long to realize: here was Christian Love-In-Action — the way it’s ‘spozed to be’ [to borrow from the title of a book I like a lot.] All my [unjust] stereotypes of North Dallas churches were swept away. These people weren’t doing what they did for ‘flash’: during and after dinner, I’d see them sitting quietly at picnic tables on the parking lot talking caringly to people who were struggling with homelessness, treating them with an equality, lack of condescension and sense of friendship that is rare.
During these years of Friday nights on the Day Resource Center parking lot, we invited then-mayoral-candidate Tom Leppert to come and serve dinner with us, which he graciously did. I watched as Wayne took Mr. Leppert aside and asked him the ‘hard questions’ about homelessness and how he intended to help. I was impressed by Wayne’s candor.
Wayne — a happily-married father of four and a trained theologian — was at that time employed to head up the media department of Dallas Theological Seminary. As I got to know him better over weeks and years, I continued to learn more of (and be moved by) his knowledge and understanding of ‘street culture,’ the very personal relationships he had developed with people living on the streets, and his unbending compassion and advocacy for the struggles and challenges in their lives.
For as long as I’ve known him, Wayne has expressed a deep longing to help and serve full-time among the ‘poorest of the poor’ living on the streets. It is such a joy to see him doing that now and getting the recognition he deserves.
Here’s a recent clip about him and his ministry from Channel 8: