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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Giving Up Home for Lent

By day, Gavin Rogers is the youth minister at Houston's, Trinity Baptist Church.

By night — since Ash Wednesday — he has been homeless. When he gets cleaned up and goes to Easter services, he'll have a lot to say.

He has slept in shelters and under highways (photo), hassled by police, even broke up a fight. With a backpack and $10 a day, he lived amid the city's street squalor and camaraderie, on the edge of its addictions and violence.

Last year, Rogers gave up meat for Lent; this year, a roof over his head.

He already empathized with homeless people. But the homeless experience has shaped him in unanticipated ways.

Rogers is 30 and single, raised in the wealthy Houston suburb of The Woodlands. But he blends in well. He wears blue jeans, v-neck T-shirts, a ball cap and his trademark Chucks on his feet. He has told no one his true identify, but four homeless friends figured it out.

In one 12-hour period, Rogers took a woman to the hospital after running off a boyfriend who was beating her, then slept on dirt beneath an overpass with homeless peers, waking up to police officers shouting and shining flashlights in their eyes.

“This is where I'm crazy. I actually told (my pastor) after this happened that I'm not going to do that for a while,” Rogers said. “But I did it the next night. I said, ‘If I'm truly homeless, I wouldn't have a choice.'”

Leaving his comfortable life has deepened his appreciation for the Easter message, he said, that Christ bridges all socio-economic groups with the promise of hope and redemption.

“God calls us to love our neighbor. I agree that means everyone,” Rogers said. “But I also think that means your actual neighbor on your street. It's a lot more personable than we make it out to be.”
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