Claire figured out she wanted to love hippies and tell them about Jesus when she was a teenager.
When she was 12, there was a woman who brought hippies to her church in the Haight District of San Francisco. Claire thought the hippies were really cool, and then found out they didn’t know Jesus. This woman seemed like Mother Teresa to Claire, and she knew she wanted to be like that. As she watched this woman’s deep relationship with these marginalized people, and compared it to the way other people would interact with them, Claire saw how important longevity—sticking with people for a long time—was for creating transformative ministry relationships. By the time she was 15 or 16, Claire was able to put into words what she wanted to do with her life: she wanted to see the hippies in Haight-Ashbury find hope.
Her family moved out of town, but she would come back every summer to work with a ministry group in the Haight. They were on fire—almost all of their staff were coming out of homelessness and had just met Jesus. But the burnout rate in the ministry there was significant.
While in college, Claire started researching burnout in ministry, and it was pretty dire. From what she could see, practically everyone doing the kind of work she wanted to do would eventually lose momentum and quit. At that point Claire had coffee with John Hayes, the founder of InnerCHANGE, CRM’s order among the poor. He told her she should join. He also said, “I promise if you come, I won’t burn you out.” Claire was shocked. She didn’t think it was possible.
But she jumped in for a summer with InnerCHANGE, and learned what sustainability actually meant in ministry. That summer her mentor was constantly asking her questions like, “Are you resting? Are you taking your sabbath? How was your time with Jesus?” And she saw the difference these healthy rhythms could make.
At that time InnerCHANGE had a team in San Francisco, where she wanted to be, but they weren’t working with hippies. Claire told the team leader, “I love the InnerCHANGE model. But I love hippies.” He told her she could work with the people she felt called to. So she joined InnerCHANGE and helped to start a new ministry.
Today Claire works with hippies, gutter punks, train hoppers, and home-bums. The team she leads has pancakes in the park with homeless friends every week, a Bible study where these friends are finding Jesus and exploding into leadership, and transitional housing where the team shares space with friends from the streets. One girl, who was 13 and homeless when Claire met her, is now 22 and just about to complete a DTS with Youth With a Mission!
Claire chose CRM because of what she calls the “spiritual covering”. Part of this is CRM’s Staff Care and Development Team who will assist when things get difficult. In addition, she has the accountability and encouragement of lots of other people who know exactly what she’s facing and understand what she’s doing. They help her stay focused on her goals: to make disciples and radically transform lives among her friends on the street. She says, “If I’m not doing that, then I need to change!”
Last year Claire witnessed some shocking violence on the job. It was traumatic stuff, and as team leader, she had to be watching out for all the other people who were affected by it, not just herself. Four or five other major difficult events happened that same month, and she was reduced to simply surviving, trying to hold things together. A CRM therapist did some work with Claire, and her nightmares went away. And in the fall her supervisor asked Claire take a minimum six-week break. After three weeks of rest, she went into a solitude time. Claire describes how God brought her face to face with all the feelings she had pushed down, and each day she dealt with what was coming up and found healing. The day before going back to San Francisco, Claire realized she had turned a corner. She was actually missing her life there. It was clear she was ready to reengage.
Since that break, things are going better than ever. They finally have the large team Claire has been hoping and praying for, and she is really excited about what is happening in the lives of their friends. And she’s in it for the long haul. She says, “The support and healthy rhythms I’ve gained through CRM are keeping me in it.” Claire is doing what she’s felt called to do her whole life: loving hippies and helping them find hope in Jesus. And she’s keeping her hope and joy too.