As soon as they came out of the oven, my husband and I jumped into his jeep and headed down to the bridge thinking we might find Melanie and Tony, but whoever we found, that is who the brownies would go to. Melanie was not there. Keith and I drove to the other side of the bridge where we knew Tony stayed. This side of the bridge is much more precarious and I became a wimp. I'm not afraid to talk to the homeless and ex-cons, but I am afraid of steep climbs with big rivers raging below. My hero of a husband took the pan of brownies and scurried down the path and up to underneath this side of the bridge.
No Tony. As we came walking back through the parking lot, we spotted a red t-shirted man sitting on the park bench under the shade. From a distance it look like it might be Tony. We walked towards him and he waved at us smiling big.
He was reading. Can you tell what the book is. . .
I was elated to see what it was. . .
I met Tony last Fall when he first came to Bowling Green and was experiencing his first time as a homeless man. He allowed me to interview him for the book I'm working on. He told me he had accepted Jesus into his heart as a young boy, but as he grew, he got further and further away from Him. He wasn't sure about the whole thing with God, the Bible and all anymore. He let me pray for him that day though and had tears afterwards, thanking me for not treating him like trash. I continued to pray for this man.
He has been homeless now for 9 months. We live in a college town and one of the christian groups there is called Hilltoppers for Christ. Several of those Hilltoppers found Tony underneathe the bridge, (I guess they were braver than I on this steep, scarier side). They started bringing sandwiches and doing a bible study with him every week. Tony read through the bible from beginning to end. Those precious Hilltoppers now pick up Tony every Sunday morning, Sunday and Wednesday evening and take him to church with them. Tony told my husband and I this day that his eyes have been opened once more all the way and he rededicated his life to the Lord. That bible he read through was the King James Version. Now he wants to read it all the way through again in the NIV version.
Tony's whole demeanor has changed from last Fall. Back then, he was timid, scared, and uptight. Now he is relaxed, has a peaceful aura about him. When I shared with him about recognizing the difference, he responded with, "It's Jesus. He's been there all along, I just wasn't seeing Him. . .now I do."
This man had a record, one much scarier to me than the drug charges some of the others have had. But his time was paid and he has received forgiveness in his heart. He is a new man. He is my friend, one I would have been afraid of years ago, but God put Tony and my paths together in the downtown park one day last Fall and he and I connected. . .the connector. . .Jesus Christ.
Some say to me, "How could you befriend such people?" and "Aren't you scared?" I say, "Those 'such people' are no different than I." I have never seen in God's Holy Word where he put a scale on sins, weighing one worse than the other. Jesus Christ died on that cross to save us ALL from our sins, those sins were never put into a category of . . .He died for these but not for those.
We miss out when we want to judge someone for their sins. If I was judged as the way many in the homeless community are judged, I would have no friends, I would be depressed. . .who knows. . .I could be the one under the bridge, wishing I had a friend. Maybe I would be waiting for someone to come share the good news of Christ, or for someone to just come visit with me, befriending me, making me feel "not like trash".
I want to say here, very importantly, that you have to be careful when approaching the homeless who are strangers to you, in secluded areas. I never do. In those places, my husband has always been with me. When I do meet people alone, I am always in the middle of our downtown park with businesses all along the four sides. People are out there walking their dogs, eating lunch on the grounds. I am safe there.
A homeless person has never been threatening to me. Just the opposite, they have been very polite and mannerly, even more so than the men who come out of those businesses in their suit and ties.
My point is, smile at everyone, give a handshake to everyone. . .just be careful in those certain places. There may be a friend out there waiting for you, and you just might realize that you had been waiting for them.
We all stood up to part ways. I hugged Tony and whispered to him that he was worthy in the Lord's eyes and he was our friend. He smiled as he walked away with tears in his eyes.
Brownies and blankets and sandwiches won't fix homelessness. But they are great tools to get you to someone out there, feeling helpless and lonely, where you can offer friendship and in God's timing, His Good News, a prayer, a hug, and who knows. . .you might find them later on a bench reading that Good News. What a gift, for them and for you!
May I ask a favor? Next time you eat a brownie, say a prayer for the homeless and a special one for Tony as he works to find a full time job.
Or you could lift him up now and eat the brownie later :)