Yesterday, while taking time to speak to God, He whispered some terrifying words: Go and help the homeless, it is time. I have prayed for a ministry, and have always felt an aching pain within my soul at the plight of the men, women, children and dogs who litter the street with their vulnerability. I have often thought, there, but for the Grace of God go I…….and yet the idea of being in downtown Lebanon, alone, sent me reeling in fear. PTSD or not, these are dangerous times.
“Oh man, tomorrow?”
Yes. Tomorrow. He replied.
I felt a lurch in the pit of my stomach. Earlier in the week I had been thinking along these lines, and immediately my friend Jason came to mind: the heart of a lion, combined with the strength of a cougar (I mean, he hiked the Appalachian Trail, twice.) He works hard as an organist for his church, and having the male element involved, well, that calmed my nerves a bit. Alas, he has a very busy schedule-working by day with autism, Down Syndrome and Intellectual disabilities, he spends the evenings practicing his music, pouring his heart and soul into that organ.
So, it was with trepidation that I set out on my first day of ministry. I packed water, toilet paper, granola bars and soap. This was just a trial run, I told myself. But failure wasn’t exactly an option.
As I drove through historical Lebanon County, I was reminded of just how desperately I am in need of His grace. Stopped at a red light, praying for God to lead me, to give me the right words, I was literally HONKED out of my prayer zone. What the? The light had just turned green……why, this is my BIGGEST PET PEEVE!!!!!! I honked back in righteous (?) indignation. The guy behind me flapped his visor (is this a new way of giving someone the finger?) and yelled at me.
I then proceeded to drive approximately 10 miles per hour for the next three blocks. And, you know, the Holy Spirit working inside said………
“Get off my jock you shit head,” I screamed in the most unladylike way imaginable. Nice. It never fails……..if I begin to take myself a bit too seriously, Abba is always there to remind me that all the Glory belongs to Him. I am but a lowly servant, and if anyone needs His forgiveness, well, it’s me.
Pulling into the parking lot of the Downtown Market, my eyes searched the scene for someone I could minister to. At first I thought He was leading me to a man on the corner, whom I thought was surely in need, but when I caught up to him he had walked into the local TempForce, and I wasn’t about to follow him. How embarrassed would he have been if, while standing in line for a job, I indiscreetly handed him a roll of toilet paper? No, not my guy. I crossed the street and immediately saw that God was leading me to a man, sitting on a fire hydrant…..his belongings? A shirt and two lottery tickets.
“This is my first day of ministry in town. Can you lead me to people who are in need?”
He was proud, I could tell right away. I introduced myself to the dark-skinned man, his hair lightly silvered. He told me his name was Marcella, and then he did the strangest thing: He began to minister to me. He spoke of how he didn’t consider himself homeless.
“I don’t look at it that way. God provides. I am from Puerto Rico, and one day, in His perfect timing I will go home.” His hands shook as we parted. I gave him a bottle of cold water, but he turned down the granola bar. We prayed together, and hugged one another, each of us clinging to the other.
“If you come next week, I am craving an orange.”
It was all I could do to get back to the jeep before sobbing a lake of tears.