Eugene Cho

Homeless does not equate “Less Human.” More than a “transient” person. In loving memory of Don.

It’s sad when a person passes away and hardly anyone notices and when done so, it’s without a name and the simple description as a “transient.” This is my simply attempt to humanize and give dignity to a person that so many loved and respected. Yes, he was homeless…but he was more than “a transient.”

This past week, Quest Church and our ministry, The Bridge Care Center, hosted our annual Thanksgiving Dinner. It’s always good to not just host a one-time meal but to do in the context of ongoing relationship building and advocacy through the BCC made it even more meaningful and special. As I’ve shared before…

Relationship are important:

And when you start dehumanizing the poor, you have no desire to build relationships with them. You have no interest in their stories. You have no interest in relationships. You believe stereotypes that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

When we’re not interested in building genuine mutual relationships, you rob people of their dignity and they become projects and not people. They become statistics and not reflections of our selves. How can you love and serve the poor if you don’t even know the poor?

When you dehumanize the poor, you have no desire or investment in their redemption.

More than a “transient” person

But on the morning of the Thanksgiving meal, we heard some unfortunate news. Initially, I read it through the local neighborhood blogs and then the local papers:

“A man’s body was found Saturday morning in Ballard, but police said there were no signs of foul play.

The dead man was found in Ballard Commons Park across from the Ballard branch library and two blocks from Northwest Market Street. His age wasn’t immediately known, but police said he was a transient who frequented the park.”

It’s sad when a person passes away and hardly anyone notices and when done so, it’s without a name and the simple description as a “transient.” It’s not a criticism of the paper since they had absolutely no knowledge or relationship of this person. This unnamed and “transient” person was a friend of the Bridge Care Center and although I did not know him very well, I explained to our church that a fellow brother in our community had past away.

In loving memory of Don:

Jill, the director of our advocacy center knew him well and grieved over her passing. Rather than the very brief and impersonal couple sentences in the local paper, I wanted to share her words and description of Don as a way to honor him:

Dear Volunteers,

We were blessed to have 75 of our homeless brothers and sisters join us in the Quest basement for a beautiful feast last night. It was great to feel the community and love that was buzzing around the room. I was so thankful to have so many wonderful Quest volunteers who were eager to love and serve.

While yesterday was an opportunity to “rejoice with those who rejoice” it was also a time to “mourn with those who mourn”. I wanted to let you know that I found out yesterday that one of our regular clients of The Bridge passed away yesterday morning. Our friend Don Farquharson was found at Ballard skate park early yesterday morning. It is not a definite as to what the cause of his death was. Byron had been with him during the night and they had been drinking. He was also exposed to the rain that night and it got pretty cold. I had also heard Don had some heart issues, so it really could have been a combination of it all. Whatever the cause, this came as a complete shock to me.

For those of you who remember Don, he was always well put together. He was one of our regular Native American clients. His hair often reminded me of the 80s, with his gray pony tail and buzzed cut up on top. I hardly ever remember his without his glasses and a baseball cap on. He often had a job. He was kind and engaging to his friends and all of the volunteers at the BCC. Don truly will be missed!

While it is never easy to deal with death, I consider it an honor to grieve with the rest of our homeless friends who lost a great friend yesterday. I read of Don’s passing in the Seattle PI, and while I don’t blame them for not knowing him, it’s very hard to read “police said he was a transient who frequented the park.” I am so glad that Don was more than just a transient to us. He was our friend.

Please keep Don’s friends and family (I believe he had 5 kids) in prayer this week!

Rest in peace, Don. I’m sorry that I never got to know you very well.

If you feel compelled to help:

CLOTHING. We need your clothes. Seriously. I want your clothes. I’ll send volunteers to your home to pick them up or you can drop them off at the Bridge or at the Q Cafe. I’ll also take your extra blankets or sleeping bags.

FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS. Yes. Can you consider investing $25, $50, $100, or another amount? You can send in your donations to: Quest Church (c/o Bridge Care Center), 3223 15th Avenue West, Seattle, WA 98119

If you’re a pastor of a local church, I’d like to especially ask you and your congregation to make a donation to The Bridge. 100% of your donation will go directly to fund the three focuses of Advocacy & Referral Services, Computer & Communication, and Clothing Bank.

VOLUNTEER. Please contact jill@seattlequest.org and we’ll get you up and running. Asides from one paid staff, the entire Bridge Care Center is run by volunteers.

But most importantly…

Remember the homeless. “See” them. Acknowledge them. Treat them with dignity. “Homeless” does not equate “less human.”

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5 Responses

  1. great message here, Eugene. You know, it’s funny (or maybe just ironic) but I often remind that about myself when I find myself feeling less human than others b/c I don’t share their successes. I don’t know why I’m so quick to reduce myself so easily, but, sadly I do. And then I remind myself that. On the other hand, I remind myself that when people are in conditions much, much worse than mine. And then I remind myself of that when I’m dealing with little, snotty-nose, bratty kids. It just seems to be an easy reduction to make of ANYONE who somehow feels unworthy of being human or worthy because of their circumstances in that moment. My constant temptation to do this to myself or others has also produced this amazing reverence for everyone b/c of how much I have to work through what the *actual* truths are and what God feels about every single bratty kid or rebellious daughter of his (ahem, me).

  2. Deb says:

    Thanks for this Eugene. May Don rest in peace.

  3. Bruce P. says:

    This is so sad. May Don Farquharson, who was known to God, rest in peace.

    • Martha Rozkydal says:

      We have looked for Don for so long. He was our foster son for many years, and we loved him. He kept in touch with us for a few years and then disappeared.
      He identified us as his family and we welcomed that.
      We tried to find him and later, our daughter, who was a nurse at the Native hospital in Anchorage, helped the family try again to find him. His mother was dying there.
      Donnie was not Tlingit but Yupik or Eskimo as his mother said. She was from Point Lay and his father was Scottish, perhaps from Scotland.
      When Donnie first came to live with us at about age 6, we only knew he was part native. We assumed he was Tlingit since that was the largest group there in Juneau. We taught him that he was and tried to show him as much of the Tlingit culture as we could. We met his mother a year or so later and she told us he was Eskimo. By then I think the idea of being Tlingit was firmly planted in his mind.
      Donnie moved with us to New Jersey when the Coast Guard transferred my husband. Donnie was excited about the move. There were two things he hoped to see when we went to the East Coast. A wolverine and a McDonalds. No McD’s in Juneau in 1971.
      Then we came to the Mat-Su and Donnie was with us well into his teens.

  4. Karen S. says:

    Thank you for honoring Don, and for giving me the chance to remember him as a human being, loved by God.

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People often ask, "How does one stand all that rain in Seattle?" Actually, it doesn't rain that much. I like the rain. Keeps everything "evergreen" and clean. Keeps our air fresh. What's challenging is the gray weather. Give me a few more sunny days. 99 more days to be specific. 
Regardless, still love this city. Checking out Canada in case I need to move up North after the presidential election. Just saying, eh.

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She was a devoted wife until she lost her husband to cancer, mother to three daughters, and later became a pastor. She became a follower of Christ as an adult and as such, led her her family to Christ. In her late 50s, she obeyed God's calling to go to seminary and be a leader in the church. She graduated #1 in her class and reminded us that it's never too late to follow a new dream or calling.

As she'll soon celebrate her 80th birthday, I'm especially grateful for the ways that she poured into and prayed over Minhee and her other children.  Even though she's officially retired, I'm inspired that the concept of retirement is not in her vocabulary.  She continues to serve the local church, evangelize and bear witness to Christ, and goes to the early morning prayer meeting at 5am everyday to pray for our family, our church, and for others. 
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Someday, I hope that when my kids speak of Minhee and I...above all, they would say with integrity that their parents prayed for them and kept pointing them to Christ. On this Mother's Day, I want to take a few words to honor mother.

There’s a moment from a few years ago that will stick with me until the day I die. It’s regarding Sung Wha, my mother.

Minhee and I were at a point of transition, between working at an ethnic Korean church in the northern suburbs of Seattle called Lynnwood and launching Quest in urban Seattle. As I shared earlier, I was in desperate need of a job. I had a mortgage to pay. A pregnant wife. A kid at home. 
Then, praise God, after months without work, I finally landed a job.

My mom was in between jobs at this point in her life. She was in her late fifties, but she had such bad knees and degenerative hips that it was, and is, difficult for her to walk. My mom is like a human barometer—when a storm is coming and when it rains, her hips throb. Although my parents lived in San Francisco, she was visiting us in Seattle to encourage us in this difficult season.

As I prepared to go to work one early morning, I walked downstairs to put on my jacket and shoes, and forgot that my mother woke up early every morning to pray. In fact, she had been praying for months that I would find a job. “Eugene, where are you going?” she said when she saw me.

I hadn’t told my mother the news that I had just recently been hired for the janitorial gig at Barnes and Noble. I chose not to because I thought she and my father would be devastated. I didn’t want them to think that after laboring, sacrificing, and doing so much for us over all those years that their son had failed them.

But I couldn’t lie to her, so eventually I told my mom that I got a job and was going to work. “Great! What job? What are you doing?” “Um, I’m working at Barnes and Noble as their custodian,” I said finally.

Without asking another question, my mother got up from the dining table where she had been reading her Bible and praying. She slowly walked slowly toward me.

She approached me, then walked past me without saying a word, and I realized she was headed toward the closet. She opened the closet door, put on her jacket, turned around and said to me (in Korean), “Eugene, let’s go together. I will help you.” This is my mother.

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