Pastor Eric Johns (2nd from left) has spent one week every year for the last 13 years living homeless and raising support to help the poor.
On any given night there are between 4,000-7,000 homeless on the streets of Buffalo. Eric Johns by his own choice is one of them every Thanksgiving for the last 13 years. The week of Thanksgiving, from Monday through Saturday he puts aside his earthly comforts and lives on the streets, sleeps under bridges and finds food at various shelters helping to
raise awareness for homelessness as well as raising support for Boxes of Love, an annual outreach that feeds and brings Christmas joy to over 3,000 families in the region. Johns, who pastors The Buffalo Dream Center, a inner city church that meets at The Buffalo Christian Center says he got the idea for Boxes of Love while driving his ministry van around downtown and asking God how he could help inner city youth enjoy the Christmas season even though many can’t afford it. It was then that he knew that God spoke to him to live homeless, something that he didn’t know would attract almost every media outlet in Buffalo to cover the story causing awareness for what Johns was doing on behalf of the poor of Buffalo to spread near and far. The amount of coverage for his ministry would help put Johns in the center of the conversation around reaching Buffalo for Christ and now Boxes of Love is one of the largest cross denominational inner city and suburban church outreaches in the area. “I think it is important to draw attention to not just homeless people but people in need. When we have something and we can help I believe it is our duty and responsibility to do something,” said Johns who explained that ministry is about seeing a need and filling the need.
Johns said shortly after completing his week on the streets that it was the generosity of strangers that touched his heart this year and blessed Johns and his team which included Pastor Pat Fleming of Amherst Church of the Nazarene. Some would recognize Johns from the news stories, some wouldn’t but either way Johns is happy getting the word out and seeing people respond. New this year for Johns was spending a (rainy) night in Niagara Falls, NY calling attention to problems facing not only Buffalo but also our neighbor to the north.
The ministry now is focusing on their distribution center on Seneca Street in the Larkin District where Boxes of Love are being sent all over the community. The outreach attracts a network of churches with 15 distribution locations sharing the love of Christ and helping smaller churches reach out to their neighborhoods bringing hope and good news that Jesus saves.