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Under the Overpass: A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America by Mike Yankoski

February 4, 2011

Book Review: Under the Overpass

Under the Overpass is a true account of the experiences of two American college students living as homeless men on the streets of five of our largest cities. Mike Yankoski and Sam Purvis were professing Christians pursuing their college educations when they began to feel a similar tug regarding living their faith out in a tangible way. Mike was impacted by a sermon where he was challenged to “be the Christian you say you are.”

As Mike listened to the sermon, he realized that every day he walked by homeless men and women who needed him, and other Christians, to live their lives ‘out loud’ and be a witness for Christ. He recounts  it was on that day that a crazy plan began to develop in his mind: To live on the streets just as any other homeless man and discover two things. 1. How the church is responding to the needs of the homeless and 2. To learn what it really means to depend on God for everything.

From this realization, Mike embarks on a unique quest to learn the answers to his questions. With the guidance and counsel of his parents, trusted older men,  and the friendship of like minded Sam Purvis, the two set off to begin their lives of total dependency on the Lord and reach out to the homeless men and women they meet.

The stories are real and sobering, but I think they are appropriate for older teens. Drug and alcohol addiction, violence, and mental illness are common issues the pair encountered. They learn how the homeless use various methods for earning money- usually just enough to  get the next meal. In Mike and Sam’s case, they play their guitars and sing worship songs on street corners.

The people they meet include a spectrum of the homeless. They encounter drug addicted men who have no intentions of ever living a different life, people who made a commitment to Christ at some point in the past, but were never able to bear the fruit of that, veterans who, due to a string of circumstances, lived on the streets even though they had families, and teenage runaways.

The book reveals the stories and reasons people find themselves living on the streets are as varied as the people themselves. In a few cases they found fallen brothers in the Lord who needed to know there was still hope. In some cases they met people who were mentally ill, and they just tried to be a friend in some very strange circumstances.

In all their traveling and experiences, their contact with Christians was rare. It seemed to them the homeless are a forgotten part of America-even forgotten by the church. They encountered many attitudes and assumptions from the ‘regular’ people they met.

The pair maintained their integrity and Christian witness through out their journey. Never partaking in drugs or drink and endeavoring never to lie, even when it blew their ‘cover.’

I would say the major impact of the book is addressing the belief that all homeless people are just lazy or are somehow beyond repair. The homeless take on real names with real lives and real value.

At the end of the book the author gives sound practical advice on how each of us can reach out to the homeless around us.

Flags:

Life on the street is described in a matter of fact style. It is not glorified or embellished. Topics such as drugs, alcohol, mental illness and violence are discussed.

The author gives his opinions on how the church is failing to reach those in the ‘highways and byways.’ I did not feel he was overbearing or critical in his comments, but was honestly communicating what he experienced.

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