Book Review: “Under the Overpass” (Mike Yankoski)

Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski started off with bang, and ended in an all-out fireworks show. I was hooked from page one until I finished it in a matter of maybe 5-7 hours max over a broken-up period of about 4 days.

Mike answers what He believes the call of God on his life, seeks godly counsel, prays for guidance, finds a partner, then sets off to live homeless on the streets in a half of dozen main cities all over the United States over a 5-month time frame. Facing the elements, stress, hunger, danger, and loneliness of the streets, Mike and Sam seek to gain a better understanding of the homeless community that is ever-present all around us. They’re goals are to survive, grow (or at least hold on to) their faith, and spread the love of Christ to those they come in contact with.

Mike gives detailed accounts of different circumstances he and Sam encountered along the way. The book was very well written, with jabs of humor strung here and there throughout the chapters.

I so very much enjoyed this book – I found it hard to pry out of my hands on several occasions. I was so engrossed in the events that had taken place in Mike and Sam’s lives, that I felt as though I was right there on the streets with them both.

Christians –and even non-Christians– don’t normally know what it is to really “want” something (and by “want,” I mean it in the “need” sense of the word). Even if life isn’t exactly how you would like it to be, the truth is that if you have a roof over your head, clean clothes, and a warm bed to sleep in at night you have been blessed beyond measure. We take too much for granted these days.

I was enraged at the so-called “church” at several points along the way in this book. I was shocked and appalled to read how Mike and Sam (the truly “needy” in the family of God) were ignored, shunned, and even removed from their presence by Christians. Of all people who should be helping the homeless, it’s the church! Christianity in general has failed in so many areas, and I fear this area is no exception.

I was encouraged and challenged by Mike to engage in my community – through my church or local rescue missions – and show the love of Christ by my words and actions to those who often go overlooked. On my way to work in the mornings I’ll sometimes pass homeless people. Those who I once drove by without so much as a second look now cause my heart to squeeze in pain for their situation. No one is above falling. Everyone needs Christ… and “everyone” includes the drug-addicted, alcoholic, smelly, ragged, forgotten homeless people.

I highly recommend this book to anyone willing to read 200+ pages of engaging, heart-wrenching, challenging material. You will gain a whole new perspective about one area the church has neglected to take part in. You will walk away encouraged, challenged, and changed for the better.

A special thank you goes to Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers and Blogging for Books for the complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest, personal review of it.

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Posted on January 8, 2011, in Book Review and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Heather, I will try to get my hands on this book. It sounds fascinating. For another book that will convict your heart regarding how much we take for granted as Christians in our Western culture, try the novel “Safely Home” by Randy Alcorn.

  2. I’ve heard of this book, but never read it.

    It is easy when passing a homeless person to think, “Whatever I give them, they’ll just spend it on booze or drugs.” But what if they aren’t? What if they genuinely just want a sandwich? Blessings,

    Eden

  3. Hi Eden,

    I read “Under the Overpass” just after it came out, and enjoyed it very much. Was especially glad to see it, because it was among the first Christian books of its kind to finally get published. In the 8 years I was a Christian college librarian, I never saw ANY books that explored what the Bible meant by “love your neighbors.” Not who they were, not their needs, not how the Bible taught us to help them.

    At that time, I never thought much about it. I just ignored the poor. One church I was in taught that we should NOT help them, because “they’d all brought their problems on themselves.” Then, shortly after God finally clubbed me into starting to study what the Bible really said on that, and just after I’d started turning that study into a book (see my web site), he led us through almost six years when our whole family was homeless (we had to live in a small tent trailer).

    We soon learned most of the homeless were very different than we’d thought. For everyone we met who was homeless because of alcoholism or addiction, we met many who’d lost their homes for one of three other reasons: job layoffs, sickness, or divorce. They didn’t look unkempt or scruffy, but they, like us, lived in campgrounds, and many of them just under bridges, like Mike and Sam described. One mother and three children we later knew well had to make meals out of tomato sauce packets.

    There are people out there – especially in big parking lots – who ARE just “scamming” the customers. We’ve pulled up beside such people and pointed out a nearby church that WOULD help them – and had the people just wave us off.

    But there are a great many who DON”T hold up cardboard signs, and who we usually don’t see at all, who are definitely in need. For isntance, one of our neighbors here – a good friend of my daughter – wound up 4 million $ in debt – despite insurance – after her husband died from leukemia this winter. She has NOTHING to pay that with. To help people like her, we need churches that are willing to work together, AND we need changes in our laws. Like, above a certain amount, insurance needs to pay everything. But neither our churches here, nor our legislators, are willing to do anything like that. And I have to believe God will judge us for it.

    The poor (specifically including immigrants, orphans, and widows) ARE the kinds of “neighbors” the Bible most often tells us to “love and help.”

    I pray God will bring us more books like “Under the Overpass.” And that he’ll bless you for reviewing it.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful comment. I’m so glad you enjoyed the book as much as I did.
      If you know of any other such books like “Under the Overpass,” please let me know!
      Blessings,
      Heather Joy

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