Love Our City

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In 2001, Wayne and Carolyn Walker began serving the unsheltered homeless community in Dallas. In 2009, they officially launched OurCalling. Over the last 23 years, their ministry has grown to serve 10,000 people each year. In this week’s Watermark News, Wayne and Carolyn reflect on how the Lord transformed their hearts to love like Christ.

Carolyn: “One of my sisters led me to the Lord when I was about five years old. Then, in about second grade, I felt a very strong calling to be involved in missions in the future. I think I was just always hardwired to love and care for vulnerable people.

“When I moved from a private school to a public high school, I accidentally sat at the ‘bad kid table’ and befriended them all. From my little Christian bubble, I’d never been exposed to people who experienced broken homes, drug and alcohol abuse, or sexual abuse. These kids came from very broken homes with severe trauma in their childhoods. I quickly thought it was my responsibility to keep them safe and alive. But this became all-consuming to me. I realized I couldn’t protect and save everybody, and that was so scary to know the state of their home lives and not be able to help them. As I grew older, I learned and developed healthy boundaries as I grew and matured in my faith. Still, my passion for caring for others never ceased.”

Wayne: “I had a traumatic brain injury when I was 14, and so I don’t remember most of my childhood. But over the years, through counseling, I've gotten a lot of it back. My parents, who were first-generation believers, led me to Christ when I was 7, and then they became foster parents when I was 10. Over the years, I was exposed to a significant amount of trauma. A childhood introduction to porn started a dark path of sexual sins. I battled significant depression and anxiety and attempted suicide before I was sixteen. But thankfully, in college, the Lord grabbed my heart through a student ministry organization, Cru.”

C: “It is beautiful to look back and realize that Wayne and I committed each of our lives fully and completely to Christ at the same time in college. The Lord was bringing us both to a point where we were one hundred percent desperately dependent on Him before we met each other.”

W: “After getting married and while attending Dallas Theological Seminary, Carolyn and I had our sights and plans on international missions. However, the Lord had different plans and flipped our script. We quickly learned that we didn’t need to use a passport and travel across the world to find people who were broken and needed Jesus. There are hurting and needy people in our own city.

“While there were a few homeless shelters at the time, there weren’t many ways to care for people outside of them. So, we started doing outreach on the streets. I began leading Bible studies under bridges and behind liquor stores, and discipling men. We found a community all around us in desperate need of Jesus, just like us.”

C: “When we started working with people experiencing homelessness, it was such a seamless shift from our childhood years. We consistently are meeting people who are hurting, who’ve been abandoned, and who want to be known. I love introducing people to Jesus. I am very, very passionate about people learning and truly believing that God loves them just as they are.

“I know I cannot breathe without Jesus. I can’t do anything without Him, and in that, I’ve experienced a lot of freedom. It doesn’t matter what my circumstances are. If I’m walking through a minefield or a field of daisies, my eyes are on Him. I believe He has me where I am to do what I can and to tell people what the Lord has done for me.”

W: “I think the summary of our story is that God graciously allowed us to be exposed to hurting people in order to break our hearts for what breaks His. Because of Christ and what He did for us, we can walk beside someone who is hurting to listen and love them where they are.

“God loves us, and He has a plan for each and every one of us. The joy Carolyn and I get to do every day with OurCalling is to communicate God’s love for people.

“We bring nothing to the table; we contribute nothing to be saved, and we have no strength on our own to do this work. We must keep that in mind with our ministry at OurCalling. Our strength comes from the Lord. We have scars and burnout history that remind us of when we tried to do this work in our own capacity. We’ve learned that the moment we try to rely on our own wisdom or experience, everything will fall apart.

“It is easy to get overwhelmed, even when we ourselves grew up with trauma, abuse, suicide, addiction, and mental health struggles. Yes, people need mental healthcare, physical healthcare, trauma support, and housing - and they also need Jesus. Without Jesus, there is no hope.”