Under the Overpass: A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America

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5th Anniversary - Updated & Expanded Edition
With foreword by Francis Chan

Ever Wonder What it Would Be Like to Live Homeless?

Mike Yankoski did more than just wonder. By his own choice, Mike's life went from upper-middle class plush to scum-of-the-earth repulsive overnight. With only a backpack, a sleeping bag and a guitar, Mike and ...

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Under the Overpass: A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America

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5th Anniversary - Updated & Expanded Edition
With foreword by Francis Chan

Ever Wonder What it Would Be Like to Live Homeless?

Mike Yankoski did more than just wonder. By his own choice, Mike's life went from upper-middle class plush to scum-of-the-earth repulsive overnight. With only a backpack, a sleeping bag and a guitar, Mike and his traveling companion, Sam, set out to experience life on the streets in six different cities—from Washington D.C. to San Diego— and they put themselves to the test.
    For more than five months the pair experienced firsthand the extreme pains of hunger, the constant uncertainty and danger of living on the streets, exhaustion, depression, and social rejection—and all of this by their own choice. They wanted to find out if their faith was real, if they could actually be the Christians they said they were apart from the comforts they’d always known…to discover first hand what it means to be homeless in America.
   Mike and Sam's story is gritty, challenging, and utterly captivating. What you encounter in these pages will radically alter how you see your world—and may even change your life.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Under the Overpass

“The Scriptures are filled with images of a God who is casting down the mighty and lifting up the lowly, of the last becoming first and the first last. In relentless nonconformity to the patterns of our culture, the Christian call is not to move away from suffering but to move toward it, so that we can bear some of the burdens carried by our brothers and sisters. Here is one story of the downward mobility of the Kingdom. It is a story that dares you to move closer to the margins, to the suffering, to the pain. . . and to meet Jesus there—in His many disguises.”
—Shane Claiborne, best-selling author, activist, and recovering sinner

“Under the Overpass is a captivating, terrifying, encouraging, motivating, saddening, amazing account of a young man who died to self with the assurance that God knows best. Rarely does a book move me this much. Mike Yankoski doesn’t have a little liquid fire in his heart; he is consumed by it. Let his book ignite your heart and soul.”
—Ryan Dobson, best-selling author of Be Intolerant and To Die For

“Every once in a while a book comes along that is so raw and revealing it proves to be a catalyst for cognizance and conviction for multiple generations. Under the Overpass is such a book. Mike and Sam’s five-month journey through the underbelly of America was not a brazen stunt by bored college students but a quest born out of guilt and curiosity thatbecame a Christ-fueled passion for the poor and dispossessed. I know Mike and am inspired by the fact that his zeal has intensified over time. He lives what he learned on the streets. Be careful as you read this timely book; it could radically change your perceptions and maybe even your calling.”
—John Ashmen, president, Association of Gospel Rescue Missions

“Often it’s hard to understand why God calls us to do difficult things. But when we’re willing to answer His call, our lives are forever changed. Mike and Sam were willing to say, ‘Here I am, Lord,’ and I have no doubt that their story will change you too!”
—Brad Meuli, president, Denver Rescue Mission

“Everyone with a beating heart will benefit from reading this book. Leading through example, Mike Yankoski takes readers on his amazing journey through the forgotten streets of America. Into the darkest places where most choose not to look, Mike chose to go. This book is so deeply moving that emotion is soon overrun with an honest desire to make a difference for what our dear Lord calls ‘the least of these.’”
—Kim Meeder, best-selling author of Blind Hope and Hope Rising

“Mike Yankoski hangs out with alcoholics and drug addicts. He panhandles for bus fare and eats from dumpsters. Yes, he has guts. But he also has faith.”
Dean R. Hirsch, President, World Vision

Publishers Weekly
Yankoski's parents were right: It was crazy to live as a homeless person in six American cities for five months; fortunately, this crazy idea makes for quite a story. Yankoski, a Christian college student, challenges the reader to learn about faith, identify with the poor and find more forgotten, ruined, beautiful people than we ever imagined existed, and more reason to hope in their redemption. The journey begins at a Denver rescue mission and ends on a California beach. Along the way, Yankoski and a friend learn the perils of poor hygiene and the secrets of panhandling. They meet unfortunates like Andrew, who squanders his musical talent to feed his drug habit, and hustlers like Jake, who gives the pair tips about how to look and sound more pitiful to get more money. Yankoski tends to moralize: If we respond to others based on their outward appearance, haven't we entirely missed the point of the Gospel? Still, the book features fine writing (I awoke, rolled over and saw beads of sweat already forming on my arms. Saturday, early morning, Phoenix) and vivid stories, authentically revealing an underworld of need. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-As a college student in Santa Barbara, Yankoski was comfortable with his life. However, listening to a Sunday sermon one morning, he began to wonder whether his faith would remain as strong if his privileged upbringing and typical college existence were taken away. So began his decision to put his faith to the test. After discussing his plans with his family and various advisors, he and a friend took a leave of absence from their studies and their middle-class lives to enter the world of the homeless. They spent five months in 2003 on the streets of Denver; Phoenix; Washington, DC; and other cities. Playing their guitars and panhandling, they relied entirely on charity. The harshness, hunger, dangers, and indignities they faced are reported in detail. They formed friendships with other homeless people and watched many of them struggle with alcoholism and drug addiction. Yankoski steers clear of preachy or patronizing tones, and his dry sense of humor makes the book thoroughly readable. Teens will appreciate the frankness with which he approaches the day-to-day challenges and his personal struggles.-Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590524022
  • Publisher: The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/1/2005
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 185,722
  • Product dimensions: 5.16 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Meet the Author

MIKE YANKOSKI and his wife, Danae, are both graduate students in theology at Regent College, Vancouver, Canada. Mike is a board member for World Vision, and a frequent speaker for World Vision, Compassion International, Union Gospel Mission, and colleges across North America. The Yankoskis make their home in a community house on Vancouver's east side where they seek to live authentically among people in need.
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Read an Excerpt

by Francis Chan

I would like to write a few words about Mike Yankoski, and then I’ll give some thoughts about his book. . . I am a very skeptical person, and I struggle with cynicism. Like most people, I have heard so many lies that now I have a hard time trusting. I even struggle when reading a good book, because in the back of my mind I’m wondering if the person who wrote it is for real.
   So what is it about Mike that inclines me to trust him? The sacrifices he has made.
   Sacrifice promotes believability.
   The apostle Paul defended his ministry in 2 Corinthians 11 with a list of hardships he endured. It was his suffering for the sake of the gospel that gave credence to his message. Paul showed that he genuinely believed what he taught. Why else would he suffer as he did? His argument in 1 Corinthians 15 is similar as he explains the foolishness of his lifestyle if the gospel isn’t true.
   While there are many who say they live for eternity, Mike and his wife, Danae, are among the few I actually believe. Their actions have shown me that I can trust them. You can too.
   Now about the book. . .
   I was warned when entering seminary that if I was not careful, a dangerous habit could form: I could learn to read the Bible and do nothing in response. I still remember our seminary president warning us that study to the neglect of action becomes easier and easier with each occurrence. We should be terrified if we have mastered the art of becoming convicted and doing nothing in response. Don’t read Mike’s book if you’re not willing to change your attitude and actions toward the homeless.
   As a person who considers himself sensitive to the needs of the rejected in our country, I learned from this book that I still have a ways to go. I look forward to seeing the changes God will bring about in my life because of it.
   Mike shows much grace in pointing out weaknesses our churches may have in caring for the poor. It is embarrassing to admit, but I have often struggled with pride when encountering the homeless. I can’t say that I usually see them as having equal worth with me, much less consider them as “better” than myself (Philippians 2:3). Like many, I have found myself at times working to avoid rather than seeking to engage.
   Far from condemning, this book actually causes me to look forward to my next encounter with those living on the streets. I believe it will do the same for you. As I followed Mike’s journey and tried to put myself in his shoes, it caused me to love Jesus more. As I thought of what a struggle it would be for me to leave my comforts, it stirred a greater adoration toward my Savior, who emptied Himself to dwell with us.

      This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid
      down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our
      lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions
      and sees his brother in need but has no pity on
      him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children,
      let us not love with words or tongue but with
      actions and in truth. (1 John 3:16–18)

   I pray that the story of Mike and Sam’s five-month journey causes you to eagerly anticipate your next encounter with a homeless man or woman, created in the image of God.   —FRANCIS CHAN

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Table of Contents

Foreword 7
Note to the Reader 9
Section 1 Twenty Minutes Past the World 11
A Flicker of Lightning
Why Would You Want to Do That?
The Counsel of Friends
Enter Sam
Traveling Papers
Invitation to the Journey
Section 2 Denver 25
A Long Way from Home
Cold Turkey
The Breakfast Club
Hell Fire
Exit to Street Level
Section 3 Washington, D.C. 55
The World Is Changed
You Like Chicken Parmesan?
Most Important Meal of the Day
A Song for Pamela
We Have a Policy
Cowbell Door Chime
Like a Child
Seed Money
Photo Op
Section 4 Portland 95
The Idea of Comfort
Worship Under a Bridge
Sugar Man's Gospel
Body Basics
Church Lock Down
The Stupid, Small Things
Section 5 San Francisco 121
In the Presence of My Enemies
Bed for the Night
Wake-Up Call
You Just Know It's Dark in There
The Other Jesus Guy
The Grace of Pizza
Bloody Sandals
Berkeley Booh Yah
Section 6 Phoenix 157
We Don't Go to Church
Return to Forgiveness
Fix or Fish Sandwich?
On Begging
Road Rash Carnival
Section 7 San Diego 181
Shuffling Home
Old Yellers
Circle of Light
Freedom Rings
Ashes and Snow
Section 8 Coming Back to Normal 209
Wanting More (and More)
Street Visitor
Now What?
The Risk of Your Life
Acknowledgments 222
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 75 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 76 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer


    In this book, 2 upper middle class young men decide to be homeless because they feel as if they are called by God to do so. This book tells of their experiences on the street. When I picked up this book, I was like many other people who just walk by homeless people and don't give them much thought. However, this book showed me that God is calling all of us to help others. There are so many people in need on the street and we must be their voices. I really feel like this book will change my life. I know God is calling me for a special purpose, just like he called these men.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2006

    Couldn't put it down

    to walk a mile in another man's shoes....well Mike does that and paints a gripping picture. I can't tell you what all this book did for me. It really makes you step back and see yourself in another light. Amazing Book!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2005


    Just picked up a book at Mardel's called Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski, 'A Journey of Faith on the streets of america'. It's about a guy that after hearing a sermon on 'Being the Christian you say you are', decided to spend 5 months on the streets as a transient in order to: 1. Better understand the life of the homeless in America and to see firsthand how the church is responding to their needs. 2. Encourage others to 'live out loud' for Christ in whatever ways God is asking them to. 3. learn personally what it means to depend on Christ for my daily physical needs, and experience contentment and confidence in Him. Very very good. Pick up a copy or you can borrow mine if you want. Here's a quote: 'If we are the body of Christ--and Christ came not for the healthy but the sick--we need to be fully present in the places where people are most broken.' 'we all of God's children are beggars at the foot of the Cross, broken people, in need of mending.' and when he's talking about playing music for money and everyone walked by with out giving any... he got mad at first, but then he remembered reading 'We are all equally priviledged but unentitled beggars at the door of God's mercy.' (Brennan Manning) so then 'realized how unentitled I really was. No one deserves mercy. And no one walking by owed us a dime. Mercy is, by definition, undeserved, or else it isn't mercy.' OH YEAH.! GET it! REad it! It will change your life! Be sure and underline things that stand out to you!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2015


    I can never harden my heart to the homeless again,

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2014

    My 13 year old daughter was required to read this book before sh

    My 13 year old daughter was required to read this book before she went on a Mission trip. She couldn't stop commenting this book after she read it so I had to read it. It was one of the most inspirational books I've read. My daughter read it in a day and it took me 1 1/2 days to finish as it was very hard to put down. Puts life in a different perspective and makes you think about what you can do for others that may not be as well off as you may be.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2014

    Great book. It shows us that God is always there for us and we s

    Great book. It shows us that God is always there for us and we should listen to him. So inspiring, motivational and full of emotions.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2013

    Read this review!!!!

    This book is great. Buy it cause it will change your life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2012

    THE GREATEST BOOK EVER!!!!!! We cant even imagen what they had to go threw. It would be sooooooooooooooo hard to do what mike and sam did. I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!!!!!

    Great read!!!!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2012

    Life changing

    Before reading this book I didn't help the homeless because I wasn't exactly sure what was helping and what was hurting. But this book has shown me all the stuff I can do to help and also inspired me in my relationship with God. I never really thought about the life of the guys sitting on the park bench and playing beat up guitars before now, but from now on I totally will. Don't read this book if you aren't prepared for change because those pages bring on a lot of it. And don't read the book if you aren't willing to start loving the homeless. There are some hard truths in this book, but I think they are truths we need to hear. Somebody needs to wake us up and I am glad these guys did.

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  • Posted March 4, 2012

    In 2003, college student Mike Yankoski decided to test his faith

    In 2003, college student Mike Yankoski decided to test his faith in God by abandoning his typical middle class life to wander the streets of six major U.S. cities for 5 months. The result of this journey is Under the Overpass, a vivid first hand account of homelessness in America. From brawls in a public park to scouring dumpsters for something to keep the hunger pains away, Yankoski’s harrowing descriptions of this destitute lifestyle kept me hooked throughout the entire book. I decided to read Under the Overpass because I needed to read something that related to my ethnography on Homeless People Who Became Successful (a project for a high school English class). I approached this book with the mentality of any typical high school student forced to read for school, “I am probably going to read the first 20 pages, give up, and look up a summary online.” I reluctantly picked it up and began to read, and kept reading, and kept reading. I was amazed. How could I be this in to a book I have to read for school? Yankoski’s stunning portrayal of life on the streets of America kept this high school student interested from cover to cover, which is no easy feat. I can honestly say that Under the Overpass is one of the few books in my English class career that I have been genuinely interested in.

    Before starting it, one must know that Under the Overpass is definitely written from a Christian viewpoint; Yankoski’s journey was based on his faith in God, and he sometimes quotes scripture. However, the book does not require one to agree with Yankoski’s spiritual beliefs, because a theme even more prevalent in the book than faith in God is the beauty of human kindness. This is exemplified in the story of a man named Rings, who Yankoski meets in San Diego. Rings is an old homeless man who sleeps in the cab of his truck. Each month, when Rings receives his check from the government, he takes a trip to the grocery store and spends 100% of the check on food. He then brings the food to the beach and feeds as many homeless people as he can. This left me dumbfounded. I was amazed that this man who lived out of his car spent every last penny he possessed feeding others in need. Rings reinforced my faith in humanity, and it is stories like his that make this book outstanding. This documentation of homelessness is an excellent read; it is entertaining while conveying very real problems in America today without being “preachy.”

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  • Posted January 16, 2012

    Great Read!

    As a college student, Mike Yankoski hadn't had much of a chance to put his faith in God to the test. Compared to many others in the world, he had lived a life of relative ease. So when the opportunity arose - a semester off of college - he teamed up with another college student, Sam, to put their faith into action. They wanted to find out what it was like to be homeless in America. They planned a six month period of time, during which they would experience homelessness in six different US cities. They took only thrift store puchased sleeping bags, one change of clothes, and their guitars. To travel from city to city they panhandled and they lived only off of the money they earned pan handling and from shelters and food kitchens.

    I'd describe this as well-written light non-fiction. Because it's really a memoir, there isn't a lot of fact presentation or research that needs to accompany it. It's written in an accessible way that I think makes the book appealing to a variety of people, including teens and possibly even middle graders. At times simplistic, I think the writing really accomplished what the author wanted: to make his story available to a wide variety of readers.

    Entertainment Value
    I was pulled in from the first chapter. The story of what Yankoski goes through as a homeless person is moving and intriguing on its own, but what really made me love it was the spiritual insight. A major criticism of modern Christianity is that Christians do not do enough to help those in need. Yankoski's experiences show both sides of this: some Christians are generous and some reject the men based on their appearance. And this need for acceptance and generosity from the Christian community aren't the only spiritual insights gleaned from the book. Many passages challenged me on a personal level in various aspects of my life, including my attitude towards the poor.

    I highly recommend giving this one a try. It is a work of Christian non-fiction, so be aware that it's going to be coming from that point of view, but I think this one could also appeal to non-believers. Yankoski doesn't preach and the book doesn't require that readers agree with Yankoski's religious beliefs, although they do play a large role in the book. It's also a very accessible book and will appeal to a wide range of reading styles, abilities, and ages.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2011

    Look carefully at the homeless. What do you see?

    You will never see the homeless again the way you once did. This is a hard read for your heart but an amazing story of courage and what it means to " walk the walk." Required reading for humanity!

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  • Posted August 2, 2011

    Incredible. A must-read

    I had to read this book for school and wasnt excited about it. I loved it. It was so amazing ill probably read it again sometime

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  • Posted July 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Highly recommended - you need to read it now!!!

    If you are looking for a book that will change your life, if you allow it to, you need to check this book out now. I am not the same person that I was when I began reading this book. The text is something that anyone can take and use in their daily walk.

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  • Posted May 21, 2011

    What A Great BOOK....

    I Loved this book...very well written and I could not put it down...really shows how much we need to work on giving to others and to realize that we need to live life the way God says and not what the church or others say we should live...I feel terrible about how the churches treated these two guys and others. Makes me want to do more in the world than what little I have been doing..TP

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  • Posted April 9, 2011

    This book will challenge you into action! Order your copy or go get it at the store!!

    This is a great book and one that I highly recommend that you add to your library for life. It will be a book that you keep coming back to you to remind you how blessed we are to live in the United States. If you walk away from this book without feeling challenged to help those in need, whether on the street or not, my heart is truly sorry for you.

    For my full review please go to domingorogers dot com and search "Under the Overpass"

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  • Posted April 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great Book for Self-Reflection and Church-Evaluation

    This book takes very little time to get into and is a quick read. I felt like I was along for the experience and was surprised, no appalled, to hear how many churches treated less desirable people in our community.

    Under the Overpass is great eye-opener and would be a great intro for groups heading out on mission trips to help the less fortunate and for those that need a wake-up call.

    Loved it.

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  • Posted March 9, 2011

    TRULY a journey of faith...even for the reader! CHECK IT OUT!

    During my time reading Under the Overpass, I ran into several friends who had read the book previously, were reading it now, or had seen it a considered checking it out. I was elated to know that several of them had read it. I coveted the time to converse about it with those reading it. I prodded those who had not read it to DO SO NOW!

    What's the reason, you might ask. Well, I was engaged, intrigued and convicted by this book. Basically, I really, really liked it! I was able to travel alongside Mike (the author) and Sam (his traveling buddy) as they leave their comfortable, middle-class lifestyles and live on the streets of six, large American cities. They journaled during their time and Mike shares that account in a straight-forward manner. You get to meet those they encountered. You will feel their pain as they panhandle, with no luck, for the third day straight. You will start to smell the stench and imagine the grime during this epic adventure to see how many Americans live daily. You will be surprised at the reaction of many Christians. You will be stunned to know that it was not the Christians who stepped up and helped "the least of these." Throughout it all, Mike and Sam learn more about God, His Provision and the meaning of love and compassion. Mike and Sam came away from the experience changed.and I came away from reading the book changed.

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  • Posted February 26, 2011

    Difficult to put this down to go to bed!

    Under the Overpass is the story of two college guys who voluntarily decide to live on the streets as homeless men for five months. They spend between 3-4 weeks each in six different cities so they can experience what it is like to be homeless: Denver, Washington, DC., Portland, San Francisco, Phoenix, and San Diego.

    The book itself is an enjoyable read and offers what I can only assume to be an accurate portrayal of life on the streets. My biggest complaint is that the book was edited to keep out "common street lingo" (as the "Note to the Reader" refers to it). The authors write, "Vulgarities and crude insults become part of everyday conversation, even between friends. But out of respect for our readers and the standards of this publisher, this element of street life is not present in the pages you're about to read." My question is, "Why not?" I'm not suggesting that they litter the book with F-bombs and other inappropriate language, but why shy away from the truth? There could certainly be ways to use blanks or abbreviations if they wanted to stay away from the actual words. It's like trying to act out the story of Jesus but never assigning someone to play Judas. Sometimes life is ugly and we do an injustice when we display it any other way.

    Yankoski does make some great points throughout the book which should make the reader seriously reflect and contemplate how they treat others who are made in the image of Christ.

    I particularly appreciated Yankosi's honesty as he reflected on his own struggles in what he experienced during his time on the streets, particularly his realization that he "wanted to live in plenty but remember the sharp lessons of living in want." (p. 209)

    Overall, I'll give the book 4 out of 5 stars. Definitely worth the read.

    I received this book free from Multnomah Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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  • Posted February 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Fresh Viewpoint

    I generally salivate at the prospect of reading real-life adventure stories where the authors take me the reader along as they scale mountains or bear harsh weather or travel the world by foot. The honesty and adventure promised by Mike Yankoski in *Under the Overpass* is what first drew me to this book, his first-hand account of purposeful homelessness for the sake of bringing the Gospel of Christ to the lost and downtrodden of American streets. I drew from this book, however, far more than simple adventure stories, and more even than personal Christian witness. As I read through *Overpass*, I got the sense that Yankoski sought not only to reach the lost with the good news of Christ, but also to understand their perspectives.
    As a teacher and writer, I understand more than many the importance of knowing one's audience before addressing them, and it became obvious to me that Yankoski has taken this principle to a very much-needed extreme. As Johnny Cash once sang: "It's hard to feed someone else when you're hungry; and don't try to teach when you don't understand." By joining the homeless in their mire, Mike Yankoski was then able to eventually bring his readers to that same level of understanding the poor of which Christ and the apostles spoke extensively.
    Beyond providing this necessary viewpoint, though, Yankoski has also supplied the American church the unique opportunity to see how the poor of our streets view the American church: and oftentimes that is through very dismal, understandably antagonistic eyes. *Under the Overpass* is convicting read, one that challenges a believer's comfortable living and skin-deep faith.

    [Note: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review]

    © 2011 E.T.

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