Twenty - Piece Shuffle, The Paperback – Jul 1 2008
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If you haven't heard about Greg Paul yet, maybe now's the time to go to Amazon and buy his books.
Paul's first book, God in the Alley: Being and Seeing Jesus in a Broken World, was published a few years ago and completely wrecked me...in a good way. In it, he shares some heart-wrenching stories about his community in inner city Toronto. Paul is an author/pastor/local rock star who started a ministry called Sanctuary that reaches out to homeless (they prefer "under-housed") and fully housed people under the same roof. He started the community center/church hybrid out of a rock band called Red Rain.
I am fortunate enough to have visited Sanctuary first hand back in February with my fellow justice-seeker, Barry, and some other friends from our church. We got to spend some time walking the cold winter streets of Toronto and seeing how God can work miraculously in seemingly hopeless situations. The stories shared by Greg and members of Sanctuary's community are humbling (an understatement).
In his latest effort, The Twenty Piece Shuffle: Why the Rich and the Poor Need Each Other, Paul transparently shares the incredible stories of Sanctuary ministries and applies them to the fact that everyone--rich and poor alike--needs intimate relationships and a strong sense of purpose and identity in life. These stories are heartbreaking and often troubling, and I'm so glad Paul shared them with us. This book will change your perspective on rich and poor and how God fits into all the suffering in the mess of the world.
If you haven't read either of Paul's offerings yet, I would start with God in the Alley. It's kind of like the intro-level course to Twenty Piece Shuffle.
These books are a great way to engage your heart and your mind in the causes of justice for the poor.
The book tells the fascinating stories of numerous characters from the author’s church community, Sanctuary, which serves the poor and marginalised in downtown Toronto. There are homeless people, drug addicts, sex workers, disabled people, office people and ordinary suburbanites all sharing together in the richly textured community.
Rather than adopting the triumphalist tone of an aid agency, spruiking the number of people served and saved and providing an address to send more donations, the author puts the failures and immense personal costs of street work front and centre. What began as a mission to serve the poor turned into a humbling journey in which the author learned how to accept friendship and ministry from the people he had set out to serve.
There are stories of amazing personal transformation, of people becoming followers of Jesus in the most unlikely ways, but these stories occur towards the end of the book, to avoid the impression that the author might be trying to claim credit for what God has been doing. This book definitely provides a compelling challenge to the prevailing concept of what a “church” should be.