Phil Schultz loves to tell exciting, dramatic stories. In part, that has to be because his own story is exciting and dramatic. Raised in a German-Irish family in Philadelphia, his father died of cancer when he was 6 years old. His mother and several members of their large multi-generational family battled alcohol and drug addiction. He began selling marijuana at age 8 but heard the true story of a changed life from an older brother who came home one day and said that he had given his life to Jesus Christ. It would take many years and many hard experiences – including being struck by lightening, being a firsthand witness to death and being homeless – but Phil finally relented to God’s endless pursuit. After his conversion, Phil responded to God’s calling by serving people who are homeless for nearly 20 years. Phil serves as the Executive Director for the Louisville Rescue Mission – formerly known as Jefferson Street Baptist Center. Phil spoke with LTN about the causes of homelessness, what people can do to help and why he desperately needs people to do a homeless ministry internship with LTN.
Tell me about homelessness in Louisville. What causes it? Are there common factors that bring someone to your door step?
[pullquote type=”left”]One student recently asked me if we can provide a parenting class as he does not know how to be a father.[/pullquote]Often, some form of childhood abuse – sexual, physical, or emotional. This, in combination with delinquent parents, will often set someone on the path of self destruction. Several of my homeless provider peers will tell you it is a combination of mental issues and struggling in school. This has not been my experience as many of our students are highly intelligent and the rest struggled early in life and never caught up. Therefore, the issue is not their ability to learn, but no one helping them during those early development years. One student recently asked me if we can provide a parenting class as he does not know how to be a father. It has been my experience that poor relationship skills and addiction issues all stem from early childhood abuse and not having a stable parent.
You have multiple masters degrees and a pretty broad professional network. Why spend so many years working in the world of homelessness?
[pullquote type=”right”]Anyone, including someone who is homeless, is capable of being used by God and doing great things for Him. I come to “work” each day looking for “anyone”.[/pullquote]For me, it goes back to the call of God. He spoke to me very clearly in the Summer of 1991 and I dedicated the remainder of my life to serving Him in the context of full-time ministry. It would be hard for me to go back to the business sector where there is only one goal in mind – making money. Investing in people and watching Jesus transform hearts and minds keeps me motivated. Anyone, including someone who is homeless, is capable of being used by God and doing great things for Him. I come to “work” each day looking for “anyone”.
What makes this rescue mission unique?
To my knowledge, no one offers a structured Christian program like ours. When our LifeChange program is fully implemented – staffing shortage currently prevents us from doing so – I believe we will have one of the better recovery programs in the United States. I have yet to see a program as comprehensive as the LifeChange program. Spiritual, academic, emotional and physical components of life are all addressed. Carefully measured goals and bench marks keeps the students focused and prevents drift.
I’ve heard you say before that people shouldn’t be too quick to celebrate a middle-aged man getting a minimum-wage job. What types of jobs do you want your graduates to be pursuing?
Our students typically lack education – including the completion of high school. This often results in manual labor jobs. Life on the street is very hard and – when combined with their aging bodies – limits their ability to perform hard [manual labor] work which makes maintaining employment difficult. It is my conviction that a relationship with Jesus Christ and achieving academic goals are the anecdote to recidivism. I want our students in leadership roles. For example, one our graduates has returned to being a welder that now leads other welders. This is exactly what we are praying for!
Why does JSBC need LTN Team Members? What will someone experience if they serve at JSBC?
We are desperately understaffed and – quite honestly – we would have to discontinue or reduce our services without volunteers and LTN Team Members.
Photo: LTN Team Members spending time with a LRM resident.
What will someone experience as an LTN Team Member if they serve at LRM?
[pullquote type=”left”]You will learn how to engage the poor biblically.[/pullquote]They can expect to experience three things. First, they will experience meaningful ministry. LTN Team Members play a significant role in our overall goal of reaching the poor and homeless of Louisville with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Serving here matters. It is not always fun and glorious, but it is always fulfilling and rewarding.
Second, they will experience real relationships. This type of ministry tends to attract deeply committed Christians. It is a joy to serve along staff, volunteers and LTN Team Members who share a similar passion for our Lord. Our LTN Team Members will often remain friends long after their service at the Louisville Rescue Mission.
Finally, they will experience what we call urban understanding. The homeless need a hand-up, not a hand-out. You will learn how to engage the poor biblically. The Gospel without caring for the physical man is sin. Caring for the physical man without sharing the Gospel is also sin. We strive to bring a biblical balance.
What would happen if rescue missions like LRM did not exist?
[pullquote type=”right”]Our goal is not just finding a job and securing adequate living conditions. We want them to be transformed by the power of Jesus Christ.[/pullquote]To be fair and balanced, the wealthy struggle with many of the same issues as the homeless (relationships, coping with death, alcohol, etc.), but it is the physical needs of the homeless that our Lord uses to drive them to us. Unlike Housing First, our goal is not just finding a job and securing adequate living conditions. We want them to be transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. This results in having a faith community, restoring broken relationships, and finding meaning/purpose for living. Two men around 80 years old were debating in Central Park in NYC. One man was a committed atheist/communist and the other a preacher. A homeless man with an old coat hobbled past them both. The communist asserted, “Communism can put a new coat on that old man”. The old preacher smiled and said, “Jesus can put a new man in that old coat!” That’s what we do at the Louisville Rescue Mission.
Louisville Rescue Mission is looking for 4-8 men and women to serve. The needs include administrative assistance, Day Shelter assistance, preparing meals, assisting in classes with residents, mentoring, leading volunteer groups and more. The Day Shelter is open to both men and women daily until noon. There is a special need for female Team Members to assist with the Women’s Day Shelter that takes place each afternoon. APPLY TODAY!