Two winters ago, God laid on my heart to start a blanket ministry for the homeless in our community. I did. About 300 blankets were collected and given out. I was shy and pretty quiet that first year with the homeless. Then the second winter rolled around and my husband came on board. The collection of blankets doubled. The homeless seemed to come out of the woodworks. God seemed to be filling me with a boldness that led me to stop and look each one in the eye, to reach out and touch, to really listen when they spoke, and the boldness to share about God and His love.
Many people when they see a homeless person quickly look away, change directions or avoid all together where they might be. Oh, how sad for the ones walking away!
I’ve come to discover there are precious souls in these bodies that may not always look beautiful on the outside but I’m realizing beauty is not always immediately visible. Sometimes we have to slow down and make the effort and look and then the beauty arrives. And the beauty can be different in each person.
After meeting and talking with many homeless individuals the second winter of the blanket ministry, I realized these precious people needed to be given a voice, their stories, I believed, needed to be told. Every night I would go to bed and they would be on my mind. Questions kept running through my mind that I would like to ask them and I just wanted to sit and listen to them talk about their lives, hopes, dreams, whatever they wanted to say about their life. I wanted to write their stories. But I did not want to do this for the wrong reason, so I started to pray, asking God if this desire was from Him or just me. For six months I prayed this prayer, not getting any kind of confirmation, just silence. At the end of six months, I went to bed this past Friday night and sort of prayed out of frustration, kinda begging God to let me know if this was from Him or not…do I pursue this idea or forget about it.
The very next evening, my husband was to meet his photography club members downtown on the square to practice shooting the cameras. My husband Keith, arrived downtown an hour early, so sat down on a bench with his camera and began shooting. Just a little ways over was another bench with a man sitting there watching Keith. He called my husband over and said, “I see you’re a photographer, have you ever taken pictures of the homeless.” Keith laughed and said, “As a matter of fact I have.” He proceeded to tell this man about our blanket ministry and documenting it with pictures. Then this man proceeded to tell Keith that there were a lot of homeless in our town, and they all had stories, and someone needed to write their stories. Again, Keith laughed and replied with, “Well, let me tell you about my wife.” The man, Greg, said to bring me on down, he would tell me his story, that maybe it could help someone. So they made a date for us to get together the following Saturday, a week later, at 5:00 pm.
This could only be from God and I now believe I have my answer. Isn’t it just like God to answer by planting a homeless man on the bench and my husband down on the other bench at the same time, with no one else around; a homeless man who wanted his picture taken and said “someone needs to write our stories down”. Could an answer be any clearer?
A quote from Max Lucado, In The Grip Of Grace:
“All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other” John 13:35. “Could it be that unity is the key to reaching the world for Christ?. . .If unity matters to God, then shouldn’t unity matter to us? . . No where, by the way, are we told to build unity. We are told simply to keep unity. . .How de we do that?. . .Does that mean we compromise our convictions? No, but it does mean we look long and hard at the attitudes we carry.”
When I first read this, I felt the unity Max was talking about was within the church. Upon further pondering, I thought how we need unity within our community. I realize not everyone will befriend and be convicted to work with the homeless, but I hope these coming stories will make us look long and hard at the attitudes we carry regarding certain groups of people and if these attitudes are not Christ-like, we would make the effort to change, so that everyone we come into contact with will know we are His followers by the Christ-like love within us. And even if we never come into contact with certain people, our hearts will be more at rest and peace with those Christ-like attitudes and to know that we are pleasing to the Father with a heart more in tune with Him.
As you listen to these voices, in God's timing, I pray you will begin to see and feel the beauty in their souls, souls created by God, souls loved by God, souls that God sent His Son to die on the cross and sacrifice for these souls just as He did for you and me. Some of these souls have made mistakes, just like you and me, may still be making mistakes, just like you and me, but need grace, just like you and me. They need to be shown and given love just like you and me.
I’m so excited to meet Greg next Saturday and listen to his story. Please pray that God would lead this conversation, that the Lord would lead me to speak when I need to, what to say, what to ask, and when to be still and just listen. Please pray His blessings on our time and that this could be made into a story and shared however God chooses. And please say a prayer for Greg. . .he has cancer.