KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A Kansas City area pastor and some members of his congregation will be giving up the comforts of home to live life on the street for 24 hours this weekend.
Their annual tradition is especially timely this year. The Kansas City Rescue Mission remains closed after a water main break Thursday forced dozens of the homeless to find a meal and a safe place to sleep.
The pastor and his group were planning on using the Rescue Mission for one of their meals as they live as the homeless do from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Sunday. Instead, they are now in the same situation as others who are already living on the streets.
For six years Pastor Timmy Gibson and other leaders of Mercy Church spend 24 hours out of their element.
"It kind of puts me elbow to elbow with people that I would never normally engage in any conversation with," Gibson said.
They've learned over the years that their experiment of living homeless is an important lesson in humanity.
"It changed me. I used to walk out of Barnes & Noble on the Plaza, for example, and there's a homeless guy there and he would raise his cup and say 'You got any money?' and I would ignore them, I would act like I didn't see them," Gibson explained. "Now, I don't care where I'm at, I don't care what city I am in. If I see a homeless person I look at them right in the face, I say 'My name is Timmy, what's your name?'"
Packing up doesn't take too long. All he needs is a pair of old jeans, a toothbrush and a sleeping bag. The group of four won't stay in a shelter. Where they end up changes ever year.
"We just look for some place, now of course that it's raining we'll have to look for something with cover. Our first year we slept under a big tree," Gibson said.
The experiences have taught the pastor a lesson he never takes for granted.
"It's the 'I see you, I recognize you, you're not invisible to me, you matter, your life is important,' it is something homeless people don't get," he explained
This is the first year Gibson and the other three members going along will deal with the rain. Their rain gear will only consist of a trash bag.
He will be tweeting his experiences during his time on the street. You can follow him @TimmyKC.