[EDITOR’S NOTEThe following is a Letter to the Editor, written and submitted by a verified resident. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of South King Media, nor its staff.]

Dear Burien Community,

There have been several people who have asked for me to share our experience hosting the Sunnydale Village in partnership with Burien Community Support Coalition. There are lots of opinions being shared and I wanted you to hear from the supporting church. We can’t speak for the wider neighborhood or the camp residents and staff; I will simply share our part of the story.

When our leadership team chose to say yes to hosting a sanctioned encampment, it came with many unknowns. Sure, things like this have been run successfully across Seattle for more than twenty years, but how would that look in Burien, in our neighborhood, with a brand new coalition? What difference could we make in an ever-growing crisis?

This past Sunday, the passage of Scripture we read from the Bible was out of the gospel account of Matthew 14, where Jesus miraculously fed more than 5,000 people who had come to hear Him teach.  In that story, it talks about how as evening approached, Jesus’ disciples noted the remoteness of the area and the growing need of the crowds to find something to eat.  There wasn’t food available nearby, and the surrounding villages would not be able to handle the crowds in need of a meal.

In Matthew 14:15, it says

That evening the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”

Jesus’ disciples saw the need of this crowd and made a compassionate observation.  Somebody should provide for this need and Jesus’ disciples assumed the crowds should handle it themselves.  But Jesus said something unexpected in response.

In Matthew 14:16, it says

But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.”

You can imagine the disbelief of the disciples, how would they provide for such a massive crowd and need?  And yet they choose to play along with Jesus’ request.  

In Matthew 14:17, it says

“But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered.

They had just a little. Certainly not enough to feed everyone, maybe not even their group.  Yet Jesus did something unexpected with their little. He took what they had to offer, and ultimately a miraculous feeding occurred. Everyone ate to their fill and there was enough left over for each disciple to get a doggy bag. 

What I shared with our congregation is that we were presented with a need. There were vulnerable folks in our community who were being swept with no place to go. And what we sensed Jesus saying to us, is “You feed them.” We don’t have much, we aren’t a large congregation, but we have a back parking lot with some outlets and a water spigot. So we stepped out in faith, welcomed residents and coalition staff on our property, and did our best to share what we had.

Are there things we would go back and do differently? Sure. Was it difficult to take the criticism from those who didn’t agree? Yes. If we could go back in time and have the choice to do this again, would we do it? Absolutely. 

I recognize a Bible story may not carry much weight for many, but we did what we sensed God was inviting us into, and like the miraculous feed we experienced blessings we could not have seen coming:

  • The residents of Sunnydale Village were courteous, grateful, and gracious with our property. My family, who lives on the church property directly next door to the camp, were never once treated with anything less than respect. As was the case with our church congregants and our partner church congregants.
  • We got to hear difficult stories of residents who were homeless for a myriad of circumstances, not just drug abuse or mental illness. We shared meals, were invited to pray for them by name, and enfolded them into our spiritual family.
  • We got to not only hear the difficult stories but also share in the celebration of transformation.  Residents who were sleep-deprived and isolated from community were given a safe place to heal and be connected to much-needed services. Some weaned off of drug addiction and entered detox programs, others were able to get housing and everyday needs met like healthcare, veterinary care for pets, photo ids, and cell phones. 
  • We watched and partnered alongside the Burien Community Support Coalition whose dedicated staff and volunteers worked tirelessly to build this new community resource from the ground up.

A natural question you might be asking is why did we end our agreement if this was such a blessing?

We made a promise to our neighborhood that our 90-day agreement with the Burien Community Support Coalition would be honored. That was our word and we are choosing to stand by that. It was just as difficult of a decision as the “yes” to host was back in November.  

Currently, there is no place for the encampment to go. Residents that we’ve grown to know and love are back in a place of instability.

Our prayer has been and will continue to be that others will see the need (like Jesus’ disciples in that story) and be compelled by love to meet the need. You may not have much to offer, some bread and fish certainly weren’t enough to feed the crowd, but the little was multiplied as it was offered. Caring for the vulnerable in our community will take more than a coalition, more than a single church.

All we ask is for you to see the need with compassion, and ask how Jesus might invite you to help meet that need.

– Pastor Mark Miller
Oasis Home Church

EDITOR’S NOTEDo you have an opinion you’d like to share with our highly engaged local Readers? If so, please email your Letter to the Editor to [email protected] and, pending review and verification that you’re a real human being, we may publish it. Letter writers must provide an address and phone number (NOT for publication but for verification purposes). Read our updated Letter to the Editor policy here.

Since 2007, The B-Town Blog is Burien’s multiple award-winning hyperlocal news/events website dedicated to independent journalism.

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1 Comment

  1. Gee, that was really helpful. The pastor appears to be sincere and he treated us to a Bible lesson.
    No where did he mention the suffering neighbors, drug and alcohol abuse, and a murder. It sounds like the YMCA camp that I attended in my youth.
    The fact is that Burien is being overwhelmed with a drug problem. Certain people, and you know who they are, are trying to force us to deal with a situation that we are not prepared for.
    These people are zealots who won’t compromise and distrust legitimate service irganizations. They are grandstanding and rather than help, they are using human beings as pawns in their ego driven drama.

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