When several Corban University students first met Paul, a “bum” in a Salem park, little did they know the profound impact he would have on them.
In February, students with SALT, a group of students ministering to Salem’s homeless teens and adults, encountered Paul huddled under a blanket in Salem’s Riverfront Park. With time, the group struck up a friendship with the dirty, bearded figure. This friendship and Paul’s connections within the homeless community, led to a nearly 10-minute YouTube documentary title “The Paul Project” that has attracted the attention of many.
Jessica Baughman didn’t know what to expect that cold Friday night when she packed her Canon 7D and prepared to tell the story of Salem’s homeless with Paul’s help.
“My first impression was of a really nice, very sweet guy,” she said. “The way he talked about the homeless really showed he had a heart for them. The video was Paul’s idea from the start and he gave us some really good ideas.”
Paul served as a coordinator to the group of students, most in their 20s or younger. He arranged places and times to meet various interviewees and made certain they were safe from harm.
“He really was a guide through the people with mental disorders and helped us interpret the jargon used by the homeless,” said Tyler Doornick, a health sciences major at Corban. “Paul helped us gain the trust of the people we interviewed.”
However, they had one obstacle to a complete story. At first, Paul steadfastly refused to be on camera.
“We really wanted to capture what he had to say,” Baughman said. “Of anyone we spoke to, he could really express his feelings and heart for the homeless better than anyone else.” Toward the end of filming, Paul agreed to go on camera and share his views about life on Salem’s streets.
With many hours of raw footage, Baughman set to work editing. It took more than 15 hours and a quickly looming self-imposed deadline, to make it happen.
“I’m at my best when I’m doing a project like this at the last minute,” Baughman admitted. “I was involved in school and literally put it together on the only weekend I had free.” Doornick was pleased with the outcome, which was shown in April during chapel service at Corban and was quickly spread through social media.
“I had no idea it could ever come together this well,” he said. “I was like, wow, this is crazy. We were all praying for what God would do on the hearts of the people who watched it and I think it has touched many hearts.”
Throughout their time with Paul and other homeless Salem residents, SALT members shared the Good News of Jesus Christ. They knew Paul was not a Christian when they met him and aren’t sure now, but they hope the relationship they built will have planted a seed that will take root and grow. Doornick also hopes “The Paul Project” video won’t be watched and forgotten anytime soon.
“I think it is important not to keep yourself compartmentalized to Sunday services,” he said. “It’s really easy to go out and talk to people. Anyone who is willing can take action and live it out.”