Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World


Written by: on November 18, 2020

I left them there. It was ‘Norco’ and a younger friend, huddled in the freezing, out-of-the-wet, door-front area of our Market. Jumped into my little Trax and was about to get going but, couldn’t. Pulled up behind an RV that had pulled-in for the night, ran back into the Sanctuary, off-the-alarm for a couple bags of chips, Kinder eggs and fruity snacks, on-the-alarm again, for a run back out to Norco and his friend. Mug-up, hands reaching for anything and, the offering of just a little something to make the night hours a little less brutal.

They had something that is much more of an escape when the cold grips, to numb the pain of fear and, even utter nothingness. Something more than what I can offer. Far more. More than what I know, more than what I possess.

Norco is not my friend though I care about him deeply. He expresses the epitome of hatred and disrespect toward me. Could it be that I’m seeing something in him of my shadow? Shadows are everywhere on the streets, ego too. Even, here hiding and craving acknowledgement in this BlogPost, the shadow and ego of me.

Fairly normal, how I turn this to being ‘about me’. Norco hates me. A view for self-annihilation is to see myself through his eyes; a horrific paradigm I have visited, more than once, to the denigration of my personhood. It’s a humbling place, the house behind the eyes of an individual who hates, when you’re the object of ‘the’ hatred.

Start to finish it was a cold, wet night. I could hear it on the roof and, when my daughter is away, the heat is off in the house. Most days, arriving before 7am, I’m the first to witness the leftovers of an evening’s thorough unraveling. Paraphernalia everywhere, little baggies, vials and syringes, feces in the big bins, urine fuming from cardboard in corners and leftover bodies under eerily-still blankets. These are my closest friends in the world, save one: Norco.

Norco has called me many names; ones that in jail and on the street would require a pristine follow-up for accounting. He has threatened physical harm toward me and others with knives and fists, he has disrespected this home and family in aggressive, relentless protest. Norco keeps coming back and, I love this guy; he is the one furthest out yet, somehow Norco is the one closest in.

There is a darkness out there that many perceive as being host to the lost ones. These ones, the less I know, are the ones closest to the heart of God. Here, the experience of need is greatest therefore, here is where the meeting is most pure. Norco is there. His story is desperate; out of desperation, suffocated by the pressure of perpetual pain (my ego inflates with the alliteration), God is only just beyond the thinnest of space.

He reached out to me that next morning from within his cocoon of smoke1. A weathered hand for a coffee that I didn’t have ready for him. His hand recoiled to a glass pipe and tinfoil. Eventually, not to his timing, a coffee was made ready for him. Also, not to Norco’s timing, he was asked to get up and gather his things together. Through the smoke, we were as voiceless ghosts, left with no response, over and over again. Our stance is without wavering and favorites, ‘zero tolerance to drug use onsite’. The police were called.

Eventually, Norco would have to move. It could be so much easier. Having to move is a call for Norco back into a story that he prefers to not be in, a state of being, a horrible reality, that is truer than meth. He enters in the truth, his actual place in the context of other stories and expectation to respect other lives with a deep-intoning, defiant noise. ‘GOOOOFS, GOOOFS!’

He swears at the buildings, tantrums at the ground; the elements and molecules are recipient to his hatred, the sounds of hell. The soul of Norco is so close to freedom. Everything is thrown, with head bowed and bellows of disagreement tracing from his oppressed silhouette, he walks away. As his young friend walked by, I mentioned to him to ‘be careful of Norco!’ At which the reply was, ‘Do you want me to knock you out? That’s my good friend you’re talking about.’

I believe that the experience of Norco is of one who is so near to God. Could God be just beyond the margins or where we think He is, beyond the margins of where we think We are? God forbid He is where it looks most uncomfortable to us, a place where We may know the least about. Being near to God is not something that can be attained through effort and muscling nor can it be achieved by doing nothing. All that is needed, is need. What happens then? Love happens.

Tough start; like so many more than need to be are. By 8am I felt ready for a nap. I was out last at the end of the day, alarmed the house and walked the curbside toward my Trax. There, huddled on a longboard by the outhouse, looking as one in opposition to the cold, Norco and his young friend. Consider the nearness, thin places and God’s presence perhaps closer to us, just on the other side of those boundaries we deem margins in our lives.



  1. Under the blanket is where the meth smoke can be kept and smoked by one or more people. The smoke is concentrated under the blanket. Often, this is the way that victims of an overdose are found, under the blanket.

About the Author

Chris Pollock

Dad of Molly Polly Pastor at the Mustard Seed Street Church Trail Runner

11 responses to “Norco”

  1. Dylan Branson says:

    “Being near to God is not something that can be attained through effort and muscling nor can it be achieved by doing nothing. All that is needed, is need. What happens then? Love happens.”

    This struck me, Chris. The ability to see Jesus in the ones who so desperately need freedom as the ones for whom Jesus came for. Where this is need, Love is waiting just outside. Just beyond knowing’s edge where we don’t know where our help comes from, and yet we life our eyes to hills waiting for our help and salvation.

  2. Greg Reich says:

    I often wonder what we would see if we could see the spiritual realm as clear and easy as we see the physical realm around us. Would we see demons like cancer clinging to people? Angels with swords standing over those who have cried out to God? Hollywood tries to portray their thoughts on the matter without really understanding. Paul tells us that our struggle isn’t against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers unseen. Could it be that God has given you a gift of site that most of us don’t have? Though Norco sees you as an enemy you see beyond the surface and see his soul. You see the pain and the needs beyond he surface. This my friend is truly a gift. Though a gift, I can’t imagine the weight you must feel as you bear it!

  3. Darcy Hansen says:

    As I read your words, I sensed the heart of Jesus as he encountered Legion. Such mayhem and pain. Freedom came with the casting out of those demons. But those poor pigs. A price must be paid to be free from the demons that haunt. I also was reminded of a poem I read years ago, it is one that haunted me then, as it does now. Because what fills that void? Sometimes even with freedom, the void remains.

    The work you do there is holy and hard, good and true, especially when your ego and heart are exposed and shattered on a daily basis. May you find rest for your weary bones as you keep showing up, for Norco, for others. Indeed, it is a heavy cross to bear, but not one you carry alone. As Jesus was helped, I’m confident he will send help for you along the way.

    Opposite Galilee
    By John Blase | April 16, 2016 | 6
    Our Sunday hope is you never slunk back like a
    dog to its vomit, no turning back, no turning back.
    But you did, didn’t you, after your miracle aged?

    You slipped away as the city snored
    to the garden of tombs you could navigate blindfolded.
    Maybe you even stripped down

    naked as you once ruled in your madness just so your
    skin could lick the stones and grass, this
    homecoming all your sleeping family and friends

    clothed and right minded would never understand.
    Legion went and left quite the hole.
    Oh, by all means good riddance. But what witnesses

    failed to grasp was your collateral loss – those who would listen.
    You went back because you needed the dead.
    There were times, weren’t there, when you sprinted

    for the edge where the swine rushed over?
    But you always stopped short, those stiff voices pleading
    Turn back. Turn back.

  4. John McLarty says:

    Powerful word, Chris. You have such a personal and exhausting ministry. What are the ways that help you stay differentiated while serving the ones God sends to you?

    • Chris Pollock says:

      Debriefing afterwards, to look for God in the midst of seeming utter desolation. A bit of a practise of ‘examen’ it is. Moments of quietness and prayer with the team. Just bowing my head to be with Jesus, silently waiting.

      When this is missed, the pain can be felt building up, along with a sense of lostness.

  5. Jer Swigart says:


    I’m inspired by your vulnerability. You allow your work to move you…to till within you the parts of you that don’t yet look and sound like Jesus. Your words expose your desire to live, love, and lead more like him.

    Great leaders are vulnerable. Thx for modeling this.

  6. Shawn Cramer says:

    Chris, sobering post. How do you stay sane and healthy yourself surrounded by so many pressing needs?

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