(If you would like to read visit #1 with Richard, just type in the search button on right, Voice of the Homeless, Richard~Visit #1)
After visiting with Richard the first time, I wanted to talk with him one more time. I went back and found him the next afternoon. He seemed pleased to keep talking with me. Maybe it was the cold Dr. Pepper I brought him.
I wanted to know what the father figure in his life was like and how it had affected him. He shared with me again about getting the cancer when he was 5 years old and lost his eye. The bills were enormous from cancer treatments; dad was already working three jobs trying to take care of him and his sister and wasn't making it. Dad committed armed robbery but didn't hurt anyone. This sent him to prison for a long time, most of the years Richard was growing up.
Dad, after many years, was let out and moved to
I asked if his mom had divorced the dad after he went to prison and he said they had never been married. His mom said they never intended to. He found out while he had those brief phone talks with his dad that he had married after prison and now has a little family wherever he is. "At least he’s a dad in somebody’s life", Richard said sadly.
Dad was not a believer in God and never went to church. Mom was a die hard Christian, always going to church, went to bible studies and women’s group programs. I asked him what happened to her. He thought she just needed to be in love and she ended up with the wrong guy. "She doesn’t go to church anymore."
He said he definitely believed at one point but after everything that happened he lost his faith. While he was in college for the short time that he was, he studied the bible in a class and he thought there were a lot of inconsistencies, contradictions, and fairy tale stories. He had even asked pastors questions, but he was never satisfied.
He has prayed a lot and has never heard a voice. After becoming homeless at 17, he prayed asking for help, and he never got it. He sees people getting help that don’t seem to deserve it and when he was down and out and trying to do the right thing, he wasn’t getting any.
I shared with my thoughts about how I believed God didn’t answer prayer until he heard the sinners prayer. Why would he answer us when we won’t acknowledge him and who he is? Richard believed at one time and had faith, but he never prayed, repenting of his sins, and asking Jesus Christ to come into his heart. We can say we believe all we want, but until we step out in faith and the prayer is prayed, we are not saved. You can say you believe and know, but Satan and his angels also believe and know. Richard wants to see God and hear his voice. I told him Christianity is based on faith and once you step out in faith, it becomes more real as you get to know Him and spend time with him and the more intimate that relationship becomes, you will begin to hear from Him. Richard still wants to see and hear first. He just kept coming back with how he asks God to let him know if he’s going to make it, is it all going to be ok and he just wants to hear that voice but it never comes. Richard is telling God to come to him. What he needs to understand is that God is already there. God is just waiting for Richard to see Him with his heart.
"I guess I'm just on the fence." He doesn’t want to say that he’s not a believer, but he’s having a hard time believing right now through the tough times. Early in life he felt he was a strong believer and the first tattoo he got was a big cross with the face of Jesus in it. That was a happy time. But things started going bad and he started getting tattoos with upside down crosses in the pictures because he was angry.
I brought up the sinners prayer again and recited Romans 10:9-10. . . “If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” He didn’t want to do it when he felt he couldn’t believe it a 100%. He felt if he took something into his heart not believing all the way, he would be hypocritical.
I hope I will get my faith back and my life will get back on track. Maybe this is all a test and if I pass, the doors will open up for me.”
I’ve never been a big fan of tattoos but I wanted to show an interest in what seemed important to him and I was curious about the tattoos, so I asked him to tell me about them. The Gemini tattoo represents his zodiac sign. (I didn’t get a picture of this one)
They went to church together. He was in love with her. I’m pondering. . . He was relying on a person to keep the faith going. His eyes were focusing on a person and not the Savior. Then she cheated on him three times. He would take her back every time because he said, love is blind. I'm pondering again. . . he was forgiving of this person and love is blind but it didn’t work like that with him and the Lord. Something bad happens and he gets angry at God. She ran off with all his money. He was mad and started hanging out with the tattoo crowd. He said he loves art but more than that it’s like a shield where people cannot know who he really is. He likes it that people can’t read him. And yet, he was happy to explain his tattoos. . .
The demon skull
The letters on his fingers, “self made”
The jaguar because it’s his favorite animal and his mom liked all the jungle stuff, (no pic)
the dagger through the head represents all the mental pain he has gone through, (no pic)
five eyed wolf
was a sign of strength and perseverance, to which he said, "I think this is what I have to get me through things."
goat skull with upside down cross in it because he was angry
The woman with a blindfold over her face represents him walking through life blindly having no sense of what to do.(no pic)
(After a nurse told him he would not make it in the profession with the tattoos, he lost his goals and dream and was blindly walking around.)
Skull, candle and a rose : (no pic)
the rose represents the love he had for the two friends who died in the military, they were like brothers to him, the skull represents their death and the candle, he said represented the fact that their memory is always burning in his head.
The tear drop under the eye is because of the sadness of losing his friends and family.
Out of Step is lyrics from a band he likes and I believe the interpretation is in the words
Trust No One
represents all the times he was burned by friends and family. His motto right now is be nice to people, but don’t trust them.
I asked him if he trusted me or did he think I was crazy. He said, “I trust you, you are nice. You get vibes off of people and I can tell you are nice and a good person. You’re doing the right thing.” He wants to load up his body with the tattoos. They are a shield. Is he shielding himself from more pain I wonder?
I would have at one time been repulsed by these tattoos and I would have looked the other way. But Jesus doesn’t. He told us “Man looketh at the outward appearance but He (the Lord) looketh at the heart. I think we need to be more like Him and look past the appearances to what is going on inside of someone. We could be missing a chance of meeting someone incredible, someone who needs a listening ear that we can give, someone who needs to see that the human race is not all bad, and someone who needs to see Jesus, and that just might be through you.
I didn’t want to harp but it was important to me and I just needed to tell him to not give up on the Lord and to not give up on people, that we are all human but we are not all bad. "I won't give up, he said, I just need to take it slow." I told him I wanted him to have hope again and to be happy. We sat in silence for about thirty seconds, and then he looked up at me and smiled, “I think I’ll pray that prayer some day, I’m just not quite ready yet.”
He was prayed over and given a hug.
My thoughts: Life is made up of choices. His parents made choices that deeply affected their son. In that heartache, Richard made some unwise choices. Both of his parents let him down. Then he fell for a girl, a supposedly Christian, who also made unwise choices and let him down. I believe Richard feels like he has been thrown away by family, a girl he loved and by God. He feels God has let him down. No wonder he feels confused and angry at Him. But this is also a choice that He is making. He could have gone in a different direction after he was forced out of his home, but he chose the route to get into trouble. Even though his tattoos show anger and hurt, I could not get over the sweet nature I was seeing in this boy. He didn't talk with anger. He just wants to love and be loved.
I feel for him. He should have had a family who put him first, cared for him and loved him. I shouldn't say they didn't love him, I'm sure they do. It just seems they have put selfish reasons ahead of that love. 17 is still a young age, not knowing how to take care of yourself and what to do when you find yourself out in a blizzard with shorts and flip-flops on. I wish he had walked to a church. I wonder if the church would have helped. I’d like to think they would have.
He said he asked God for help but he never gets any. I don’t think he is realizing it when it comes. The police officer came to their rescue and led them to the Salvation Army. Salvation Army helped by giving them a place to lay down at night and food to eat three times a day. My friend and I were out there listening to them share things about their life. And when I went back a couple of day later to check on them, I found out they had received the money they were looking for and got their bus ride back home to Boston. As I was hearing him talk of never getting any help and remembering the officer and Salvation Army, I recalled one of my favorite books, 1000 gifts, by Ann Voskamp. She is showing thousands of readers how to recognize the gifts from the hand of God, even through the tough times. I tried to explain this to Richard. I believe God is waiting for the invitation from Richard. I also believe God is putting gifts out there for Richard to open his eyes more to the truth of who He is and to the love He offers. I pray Richard will begin to understand and his eyes will be more open to the gifts and even more so to the Gift Giver!
If only people could realize that God is not the enemy and blame him for the bad things that happen. They don’t seem to ever put the blame on the real enemy. It’s him who causes sin and grief to run rampant. He is out there like a roaring lion looking for prey and Richard was a vulnerable target. But God is stronger still, and with people praying, I believe Richard will come to accept the truth one day. It may be after making more poor choices, but I choose to believe that the seeds that have been planted in Him will grow and flourish some day. I believe this young man could be something outstanding. He just needs the right encouragement, to get on the right path, to go through the right doors when they open and stay away from the wrong doors.
Lord, I pray that Richard will trust in You with all his heart and lean not on his own understanding; in all his ways that he will acknowledge You and that You will make his paths straight. (from Proverbs 3:5-6)
Maybe then Richard can add a tattoo claiming he found the One he can trust for life!