Braking Cycles with Rhona Mahl

Braking Cycles with Rhona Mahl

How do you break the cycle of homelessness with our youth? Rhona Mahl believes you must speak truth and value into their lives.

Hear Rhona talk with Charisma News host Jessilyn about her ministry Braking Cycles and what they are doing to change the youth homeless culture in Portland, Oregon.

26 Minutes • 24 days ago

Episode Notes

Charisma Connection

Guest: Rhona Mahl

How do you break the cycle of homelessness with our youth? Rhona Mahl believes you must speak truth and value into their lives.

Hear Rhona talk with Charisma News host Jessilyn Lancaster about her ministry Braking Cycles and what they are doing to change the youth homeless culture in Portland, Oregon.

Introduction

Jessilyn Lancaster: Today I am here with Rhona Mahl of Braking Cycles. Rhona, tell us a little bit about Braking Cycles.

Rhonda Mahl: Braking Cycles is a faith-based nonprofit working with at-risk youth ages 14 to about 24 years old. Primarily we've worked with homeless, transitional youth and then, over the last few years, we've developed a coffee and bike shop where our youth can come and learn job skills. It’s not just about learning the job skill, but it's actually more about mentoring and learning about who they are in Christ and showing them the tremendous value that is on their lives.

Jessilyn Lancaster: I love it. Now, you have a really cool story about this shop that involves pennies on the floor. Can you tell me something about that?

Rhona Mahl: The penny actually becomes a symbol that we use in relation to the youth that we work with that are literally stepped over on sidewalks. I think many of us have stepped over a penny on the sidewalk and thought nothing of it because we know that it's not worth much in our society. How many people will pick up a penny and go buy something with it? The truth is we step over our kids in the same way, especially in the bigger cities where there's a lot of homeless folks, and this includes children and teenagers. So, what we've done is over several years we’ve had penny drives all over the city of Portland and collected 148,000 pennies. We've literally laid a penny floor in the cafe. What's beautiful about this is that the youth that we work with, we actually were able to hire to come and help lay that floor. So, there's designs all over the floor from flowers to names to scriptures that really display the beauty and creativity that are in these kids. It's really, for us, a metaphorical and physical laying of a new foundation for the young people that we work with.

Jessilyn Lancaster: And the same applies to your name as well. Braking cycles is spelled like bicycle brakes and cycles is also bicycles, but it's also a poverty cycle. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

·         “Braking Cycles is a non-profit established to celebrate what makes Portland most beautiful, raise awareness in what is darkest, and utilize the tools at hand to create a platform of healthy opportunity for the marginalized youth of this great city.”

Rhona Mahl: The truth is, our young people in the city are caught in cycles of destruction in sex trafficking and drug use and hopelessness. So really what we're trying to do is send a message that cycles can be broken through establishing and building healthy relationship. The truth is, these kids come from all over the country. We hear all the time about youth that are given a one-way ticket to Portland, because they've heard that the services here for homeless youth are so robust. I just read an article a couple of weeks ago that said that Oregon is the number one state for youth homelessness. So what happens is these young people get to the streets of Portland, downtown Portland specifically, where there are so many services where they can have their basic needs met from a bed at night to three meals a day. But what happens is they've left their communities and entered into this community and they find community with other young people that are on the streets. So they've come into new families that they call their street families, they've come into a place where they are given a new name, a street name, they're given a purpose on the streets of Portland to the point that they'll lay their very lives down for it. So, what we aim to do, our mission, is really to reach these kids where they're at and show them that their identity and their name is not on the streets of Portland, but it's in God's family. We speak the truth and value over their lives so that they can enter into healthy community. We provide that as we also have four homes, under the umbrella of the organization Transitional Youth, and so we meet kids on the streets and we love on them and serve them and encourage them to move into one of the homes long-term where they can begin learning their value and begin really being able to just know the truth about who they are and then enter into the life that God has for them rather than the one the enemy has for them.

 

·         How to Get Involved with Braking Cycles

 

Jessilyn Lancaster: Amen. I know we've spoken before that you talked about how the Lord takes some of these things like their street names and their street families, and he just exchanges it with His way. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?

Rhona Mahl: I have a philosophy and it's just because of the work that I've done here in the Portland area for the past 20-plus years. It's a little bit about what I just talked about in that I believe we all, as human beings, need four basic things. Number one, we need a name. We want to know that our name matters, that there's value. Number two, we need a family, whether we call it a family or community or tribe or clan, we need a people group to belong to. Number three, we need a purpose within that family. Number four is for that purpose to be so great that we would actually lay our lives down for it. So, what the enemy has come in and done is completely robbed them of those four basic things. What God intended was to give us a name, right? He has given us a new people group. We become part of his family. He adopts us into his family. Number three, he gives us a purpose within that family to the point number four that we would lay our very lives down for it. So, the enemy has come and taken what God's original design is for a name for, a people group, for a purpose to the point we will lay our lives down for it and he's worked it and twisted it and manipulated it and robbed these kids of their very identity. So, they're being lied to. I believe it's our job as the church to speak the truth over our young people about who they are, their name, who their family really is, it's in Christ. What their purpose is that is God-given to the point that, just like Jesus did lay his life down for us, that we would lay our lives down for our brothers.

Jessilyn Lancaster: That's amazing. Now this story is personal to your heart because you were also a homeless youth at one point in time. Can you tell me a little bit about your own testimony?

Rhonda Mahl: Yes, I was actually homeless on the streets of Portland. Even before that, I was born into homelessness, actually in New Orleans. My family was homeless for many years of my life. We actually lived in our car and traveled across the country. My dad was an addict, he was a gambler and an alcoholic and just felt the need to just drive across the country multiple times and didn't have any sense of wanting to establish roots for his children. My mom was an abused woman. So, we spent the first seven years of my life actually in our car, driving from city to city to city. My mom knew that at some point she needed to get away from him and establish roots for her children. So, she he made a plan talking him into to moving to Portland. We visited here apparently at one point and she fell in love with the city and formulated a plan to talk them into moving here and then run. And that's exactly what she did. So, when I was seven years old, we landed in Portland and I don't know how she did it to this day, but she was able to get a job in a little house for me and my siblings and got away from him. When I was 10 years old, my dad left our lives entirely. I never saw him again. He just never came back one day and I never saw him again. Like a lot of children we work with, I was just devastated and feeling hopeless and lost. By the time I was 12, started using drugs. By the time I was 13, I was on the streets of Portland. What's kind of crazy is that the very street that our coffee and bike shop is on is the street where the very first bridge that I slept under is on. I just love how God will weave points of your life into a story that is so meaningful, and it is meaningful to me. So, at 13 years old, I was on the streets and using drugs and very hopeless. I had a death wish. I didn't care whether I lived or died, a lot like the kids we work with today. By the time I was 14, I was pregnant. That is where the Lord met me in such a powerful way. I didn't know who He was. I believed that there was a God that I had no idea what His name was or what the purpose was. But at 14, I was on the streets and I was using drugs and pregnant. I was walking down the street and then just literally went down, I collapsed. I think of it a lot like the Saul to Paul Damascus Road experience because I know I heard the words “this baby isn't going anywhere.” I didn't know where those words came from. I just know that they hit me like a ton of bricks and I could not ignore the fact anymore that I had a child growing inside of me.

God knew exactly what I needed to hear. I have to tell you that that moment. I was instantly sober and instantly in my right mind. I knew that I needed to get off the streets as fast as possible to protect this baby. That began my journey in crying out to God and saying, OK, God, if this is you, if this is what your voice sounds like, then I need help. The Lord did help me in a series of events. I made myself a promise shortly after that after my daughter was born. I knew there were so many more kids out there like me and I needed to go back and help them when I was able. So, I made myself a promise at that very tender age that if this was real, if this was God, and He was going to rescue me, I knew that I had an obligation to come back and help other kids. And so that's what I've devoted my life to.

Jessilyn Lancster: I love how you've honored the Lord like that. How long ago was that? How long does the turnaround then since you made this promise to now you're running this organization?

Rhona Mahl: Well, my daughter is 34. I have a granddaughter by her that I've spent my entire career serving homeless and at-risk youth, teen moms, kids that are being trafficked, kids that are incarcerated, kids that are on drugs. I spent my entire career 20-plus years working with at-risk youth.

Jessilyn Lancaster: That's incredible. You mentioned hearing the Lord's voice. We believe that spiritual warfare is very real and very prevalent. What role does prophecy and understanding this spiritual warfare play as you work with these kids?

Rhona Mahl: It's absolutely crucial because the truth is, I think we can get caught up in the moment of the need. For instance, if there's someone on a street corner, a youth, sitting in a doorway and eating a meal, we get caught up in the moment of that need. Oftentimes meeting that instant need is just a drop in the bucket because we know that we need so much more than a meal to feed ourselves. We need the Word of God, we need the truth. And that's why I say that if a plate of food is actually going to keep the kid on the street another day, then we're actually sometimes feeding into the enemy's plan. So, we have to take a step back and look at the bigger picture and realize that there's powers and principalities and strongholds that are keeping systems in place that are keeping children in place, right in the enemy's web. And when I said that, you know we hear all the time kids being given a one-way ticket to Portland because the services are so robust. services aren't the answer. Jesus is the answer. And so, if all we ever do is meet that basic need and giving a kid and meal or sleeping bag, we are contributing sometimes to the enemy's plan to keep them stuck there. So, we have to take a step back and realize that the enemy is at work in our systems and the question of how can I help is really the wrong question. The question that we as believers, as spirit-filled believers have to ask ourselves is not how can we help. The question we have to ask ourselves is how can we love? The next time we see a kid in a doorway or street corner, instead of saying, how can I help? Then we roll down our window and hand them two dollars and think that we've done something to help, maybe we just contributed to the enemy's plan in keeping them high another day. We have to ask ourselves, how can I love? How we love someone is going to look a lot different than handing $2 out the window. We have to have skin in the game and we have to know that loving them means going back the next day and the next day and the next day because caring for them is not leaving them on that street corner. We would never, ever drive past our own child on a street corner and hand them $2 out the window. I personally would be horrified if that's where my child was and knowing that $2 was keeping them there one more day. So, we have to ask the hard questions. We have to have a completely different conversation.

For the rest of the interview with Rhona Mahl, please click here.

 

Connect with Braking Cycles

·         On Facebook

·         On Twitter

·         Brakingcycles.org

Episode Notes

Charisma Connection

Guest: Rhona Mahl

How do you break the cycle of homelessness with our youth? Rhona Mahl believes you must speak truth and value into their lives.

Hear Rhona talk with Charisma News host Jessilyn Lancaster about her ministry Braking Cycles and what they are doing to change the youth homeless culture in Portland, Oregon.

Introduction

Jessilyn Lancaster: Today I am here with Rhona Mahl of Braking Cycles. Rhona, tell us a little bit about Braking Cycles.

Rhonda Mahl: Braking Cycles is a faith-based nonprofit working with at-risk youth ages 14 to about 24 years old. Primarily we've worked with homeless, transitional youth and then, over the last few years, we've developed a coffee and bike shop where our youth can come and learn job skills. It’s not just about learning the job skill, but it's actually more about mentoring and learning about who they are in Christ and showing them the tremendous value that is on their lives.

Jessilyn Lancaster: I love it. Now, you have a really cool story about this shop that involves pennies on the floor. Can you tell me something about that?

Rhona Mahl: The penny actually becomes a symbol that we use in relation to the youth that we work with that are literally stepped over on sidewalks. I think many of us have stepped over a penny on the sidewalk and thought nothing of it because we know that it's not worth much in our society. How many people will pick up a penny and go buy something with it? The truth is we step over our kids in the same way, especially in the bigger cities where there's a lot of homeless folks, and this includes children and teenagers. So, what we've done is over several years we’ve had penny drives all over the city of Portland and collected 148,000 pennies. We've literally laid a penny floor in the cafe. What's beautiful about this is that the youth that we work with, we actually were able to hire to come and help lay that floor. So, there's designs all over the floor from flowers to names to scriptures that really display the beauty and creativity that are in these kids. It's really, for us, a metaphorical and physical laying of a new foundation for the young people that we work with.

Jessilyn Lancaster: And the same applies to your name as well. Braking cycles is spelled like bicycle brakes and cycles is also bicycles, but it's also a poverty cycle. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

·         “Braking Cycles is a non-profit established to celebrate what makes Portland most beautiful, raise awareness in what is darkest, and utilize the tools at hand to create a platform of healthy opportunity for the marginalized youth of this great city.”

Rhona Mahl: The truth is, our young people in the city are caught in cycles of destruction in sex trafficking and drug use and hopelessness. So really what we're trying to do is send a message that cycles can be broken through establishing and building healthy relationship. The truth is, these kids come from all over the country. We hear all the time about youth that are given a one-way ticket to Portland, because they've heard that the services here for homeless youth are so robust. I just read an article a couple of weeks ago that said that Oregon is the number one state for youth homelessness. So what happens is these young people get to the streets of Portland, downtown Portland specifically, where there are so many services where they can have their basic needs met from a bed at night to three meals a day. But what happens is they've left their communities and entered into this community and they find community with other young people that are on the streets. So they've come into new families that they call their street families, they've come into a place where they are given a new name, a street name, they're given a purpose on the streets of Portland to the point that they'll lay their very lives down for it. So, what we aim to do, our mission, is really to reach these kids where they're at and show them that their identity and their name is not on the streets of Portland, but it's in God's family. We speak the truth and value over their lives so that they can enter into healthy community. We provide that as we also have four homes, under the umbrella of the organization Transitional Youth, and so we meet kids on the streets and we love on them and serve them and encourage them to move into one of the homes long-term where they can begin learning their value and begin really being able to just know the truth about who they are and then enter into the life that God has for them rather than the one the enemy has for them.

 

·         How to Get Involved with Braking Cycles

 

Jessilyn Lancaster: Amen. I know we've spoken before that you talked about how the Lord takes some of these things like their street names and their street families, and he just exchanges it with His way. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?

Rhona Mahl: I have a philosophy and it's just because of the work that I've done here in the Portland area for the past 20-plus years. It's a little bit about what I just talked about in that I believe we all, as human beings, need four basic things. Number one, we need a name. We want to know that our name matters, that there's value. Number two, we need a family, whether we call it a family or community or tribe or clan, we need a people group to belong to. Number three, we need a purpose within that family. Number four is for that purpose to be so great that we would actually lay our lives down for it. So, what the enemy has come in and done is completely robbed them of those four basic things. What God intended was to give us a name, right? He has given us a new people group. We become part of his family. He adopts us into his family. Number three, he gives us a purpose within that family to the point number four that we would lay our very lives down for it. So, the enemy has come and taken what God's original design is for a name for, a people group, for a purpose to the point we will lay our lives down for it and he's worked it and twisted it and manipulated it and robbed these kids of their very identity. So, they're being lied to. I believe it's our job as the church to speak the truth over our young people about who they are, their name, who their family really is, it's in Christ. What their purpose is that is God-given to the point that, just like Jesus did lay his life down for us, that we would lay our lives down for our brothers.

Jessilyn Lancaster: That's amazing. Now this story is personal to your heart because you were also a homeless youth at one point in time. Can you tell me a little bit about your own testimony?

Rhonda Mahl: Yes, I was actually homeless on the streets of Portland. Even before that, I was born into homelessness, actually in New Orleans. My family was homeless for many years of my life. We actually lived in our car and traveled across the country. My dad was an addict, he was a gambler and an alcoholic and just felt the need to just drive across the country multiple times and didn't have any sense of wanting to establish roots for his children. My mom was an abused woman. So, we spent the first seven years of my life actually in our car, driving from city to city to city. My mom knew that at some point she needed to get away from him and establish roots for her children. So, she he made a plan talking him into to moving to Portland. We visited here apparently at one point and she fell in love with the city and formulated a plan to talk them into moving here and then run. And that's exactly what she did. So, when I was seven years old, we landed in Portland and I don't know how she did it to this day, but she was able to get a job in a little house for me and my siblings and got away from him. When I was 10 years old, my dad left our lives entirely. I never saw him again. He just never came back one day and I never saw him again. Like a lot of children we work with, I was just devastated and feeling hopeless and lost. By the time I was 12, started using drugs. By the time I was 13, I was on the streets of Portland. What's kind of crazy is that the very street that our coffee and bike shop is on is the street where the very first bridge that I slept under is on. I just love how God will weave points of your life into a story that is so meaningful, and it is meaningful to me. So, at 13 years old, I was on the streets and using drugs and very hopeless. I had a death wish. I didn't care whether I lived or died, a lot like the kids we work with today. By the time I was 14, I was pregnant. That is where the Lord met me in such a powerful way. I didn't know who He was. I believed that there was a God that I had no idea what His name was or what the purpose was. But at 14, I was on the streets and I was using drugs and pregnant. I was walking down the street and then just literally went down, I collapsed. I think of it a lot like the Saul to Paul Damascus Road experience because I know I heard the words “this baby isn't going anywhere.” I didn't know where those words came from. I just know that they hit me like a ton of bricks and I could not ignore the fact anymore that I had a child growing inside of me.

God knew exactly what I needed to hear. I have to tell you that that moment. I was instantly sober and instantly in my right mind. I knew that I needed to get off the streets as fast as possible to protect this baby. That began my journey in crying out to God and saying, OK, God, if this is you, if this is what your voice sounds like, then I need help. The Lord did help me in a series of events. I made myself a promise shortly after that after my daughter was born. I knew there were so many more kids out there like me and I needed to go back and help them when I was able. So, I made myself a promise at that very tender age that if this was real, if this was God, and He was going to rescue me, I knew that I had an obligation to come back and help other kids. And so that's what I've devoted my life to.

Jessilyn Lancster: I love how you've honored the Lord like that. How long ago was that? How long does the turnaround then since you made this promise to now you're running this organization?

Rhona Mahl: Well, my daughter is 34. I have a granddaughter by her that I've spent my entire career serving homeless and at-risk youth, teen moms, kids that are being trafficked, kids that are incarcerated, kids that are on drugs. I spent my entire career 20-plus years working with at-risk youth.

Jessilyn Lancaster: That's incredible. You mentioned hearing the Lord's voice. We believe that spiritual warfare is very real and very prevalent. What role does prophecy and understanding this spiritual warfare play as you work with these kids?

Rhona Mahl: It's absolutely crucial because the truth is, I think we can get caught up in the moment of the need. For instance, if there's someone on a street corner, a youth, sitting in a doorway and eating a meal, we get caught up in the moment of that need. Oftentimes meeting that instant need is just a drop in the bucket because we know that we need so much more than a meal to feed ourselves. We need the Word of God, we need the truth. And that's why I say that if a plate of food is actually going to keep the kid on the street another day, then we're actually sometimes feeding into the enemy's plan. So, we have to take a step back and look at the bigger picture and realize that there's powers and principalities and strongholds that are keeping systems in place that are keeping children in place, right in the enemy's web. And when I said that, you know we hear all the time kids being given a one-way ticket to Portland because the services are so robust. services aren't the answer. Jesus is the answer. And so, if all we ever do is meet that basic need and giving a kid and meal or sleeping bag, we are contributing sometimes to the enemy's plan to keep them stuck there. So, we have to take a step back and realize that the enemy is at work in our systems and the question of how can I help is really the wrong question. The question that we as believers, as spirit-filled believers have to ask ourselves is not how can we help. The question we have to ask ourselves is how can we love? The next time we see a kid in a doorway or street corner, instead of saying, how can I help? Then we roll down our window and hand them two dollars and think that we've done something to help, maybe we just contributed to the enemy's plan in keeping them high another day. We have to ask ourselves, how can I love? How we love someone is going to look a lot different than handing $2 out the window. We have to have skin in the game and we have to know that loving them means going back the next day and the next day and the next day because caring for them is not leaving them on that street corner. We would never, ever drive past our own child on a street corner and hand them $2 out the window. I personally would be horrified if that's where my child was and knowing that $2 was keeping them there one more day. So, we have to ask the hard questions. We have to have a completely different conversation.

For the rest of the interview with Rhona Mahl, please click here.

 

Connect with Braking Cycles

·         On Facebook

·         On Twitter

·         Brakingcycles.org

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Braking Cycles with Rhona Mahl