Team members minister in a park frequented by individuals experiencing homelessness.

Paradise unmasked

Belle Bottjen | Photo by Kevin Bottjen

Belle Bottjen | Photo by Kevin Bottjen

A Revolution Hawaii team member reflects on her first semester of service.

By Belle Bottjen – 

After spending four months in Hawaii, I see brokenness. Instead of seeing sandy beaches, I see homeless people sleeping on them. Instead of seeing picturesque scenery, I see faces of individuals, not knowing when their next meal will come.

With the first semester of Revolution Hawaii completed and the second just beginning, I realize I am not the person I once was. I’ve seen lives changed for the better and for the worse. I’ve slept on the streets with the broken, and spent the day with what some would consider the upper class.

After seeing both sides of island life, I have concluded that both are equally ugly. On one side you have the poor and homeless wasting away because of addictions, diseases and mental health issues, and on the other side you have the rich living a superficial life, filled with money and meaningless splendor.

One weekend, we slept on the streets to experience a small sample of what homelessness is like, and it was not easy. With only a thin piece of cardboard between us and the concrete, we slept on the sidewalk for two evenings.

For the first time in my life I felt like I didn’t belong to any social category. We weren’t truly homeless because after the weekend we had a home to return to, yet there we were, sleeping out on the streets. As people passed by, I felt their judgment scalding me.

During the day we walked the streets of Chinatown. I sat next to a man and did all I could to comfort him, in what we both thought were his last moments while we waited for the ambulance to come for him. The following Sunday, I saw the same man back on the streets because he had nowhere else to go. That evening I prayed with him so he would find a place to live that would care for him since he could no longer take care of himself. We ended our time together singing “Amazing Grace,” and my heart broke for this man who had tears streaming down his cheeks. I haven’t seen him since, but each night I pray that he is doing well.

In January the second semester of Revolution Hawaii began. As the team walked down the streets of Chinatown after being gone for a month and a half, we were shocked by the emptiness. While we were gone, a law passed prohibiting people from sleeping or sitting on the sidewalks between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Our challenge now is to discover where our homeless friends have gone and how we can get to them, to pray for them and show them that Jesus cares.

I am excited to see what God has in store for me and the team. I can feel God moving and I long to see the streets of Hawaii change. I long to make the streets of Hawaii look much like the streets in England did during the early years of The Salvation Army. I want to empty out the bars and fill up the churches. I want to see people change their lives and turn to Christ. I want to see the people of Hawaii free from the chains of sin.

I want to see a revolution.

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