Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? (NIV)
Riddell longed to renew his own spirituality in obedience to God’s call through the prophet Isaiah. His response was a commitment to 30 days of homelessness to draw attention to the plight of the “hurting, dying, empty, and lost” in his community.
Riddell serves as Lead Pastor of Shelter Community Church of the Nazarene in Dayton. He believes his action will bring attention to another Ohio nonprofit: New Family Tree, a ministry to foster children who have “aged out” of foster care but who have nowhere else to go and often wind up homeless. As Pastor Riddell explains, “Sixty percent of kids aging out of foster care go homeless. New Family Tree is a ministry that provides housing for these kids, who have emancipated from foster care.”
Riddell chronicled his 30 days on a video blog. He provides suggestions for support and help from those who want to participate. His commitment has garnered national attention. The local Dayton Daily News covered the story, as did national media. The Huffington Post, ABC News, K-Love/Air One radio, CNN, and Headline News all ran stories covering Riddell’s mission to bring attention to the needy of our society.
The national attention was nothing compared to the phenomenal outcomes of Riddell’s obedience: eight 18–23-year-olds who were homeless are receiving sponsors, finding jobs, applying for college, and receiving diplomas; three have accepted Christ into their lives; 40,000 people have visited Riddell’s blog; over $15,000 has been raised for New Family Tree. Riddell has had the opportunity to share his story and God’s story with several local and national media outlets; and TV crews showed up for Riddell’s first Sunday back in church.
Isaiah 58:9-10 reads:
If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. (NIV)
Riddell believes his church is experiencing the lifting of God now that they have been obedient to his call, “God has blessed us by ministering to these newfound friends we have met. Our work with those that want help is ongoing. Now, we must help them out of their plight and into more functional living while continuing to disciple them in the faith.”