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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Collaboration.

col·lab·o·ra·tion
kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun

the action of working with someone or a group of others  to produce or create something.

May we hold our logos, egos, and tribalism have their place. May we hold them loosely for they too shall pass. May we collaborate for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God ... which endures forever. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for @onedayswages...to listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives 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.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory)

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