April 16, 2009
I had a wonderful discussion today with a young man named “Brian”. Brian was in a very happy mood. He and I had a nice long visit.
Brian had been to visit someone in his family recently from whom he was estranged. This was something he had been very anxious about in the past, so overcoming this was a great boost to his sense of being!
Brian is doing many things to straighten out his life, including being a good husband, getting and holding down a job, and staying clean and sober. And he feels great and secure about that!
I asked Brian what equipped him to be making all these changes. He was very quick to answer: “It’s my wife and new family. I’m just growing up.”
I didn’t actually know Brian’s history, so I asked him to describe his life before. “I rode trains. I drank heavily. I grew up in a place where I was heavy into drugs by the time I was a young teenager and that continued for nearly 10 years.” But he grew up. Brian found he had something to live for.
One day Brian woke up to discover that he had grown older. He saw people in their 30’s, 40’s, even 50’s who still acted like he was in his teens. He realized that he didn’t want to be that way. Brian was quick to let me know that he doesn’t want to judge these folks. He knows that they have their reasons for being how they are, but he also knows that he doesn’t want to be that way any more!
I know that Brian had a lot of help growing up. I thank the countless workers who helped him over the course of almost a decade of trouble: social workers, religious workers, strangers who gave him something to eat, people who smiled at him on a bad day, and other street dependent youth who helped him survive. All played a part in keeping Brian alive and well enough to reach the point he is now.
And I pray that myself, other workers, citizens in the cities and towns visited by street youth across America (and beyond) can do this for the many other folks who need it.
November 27, 2008
Today is Thanksgiving. I am taking a holiday from ministry until Monday. However, as I thought about thankfulness, this story came to my mind from this past Monday…
Mark was sitting on the bench of the trailer when I went in. He was an older man, rough and rugged looking, but very thin and slight. He smiled but didn’t say much to me. He followed the conversations but didn’t tell any stories of his own. When it was time for him to go, he asked for prayers. Everyone else was working to clean the trailer at closing time, so I asked Mark to step outside. I asked him what he would like me to pray for. He answered that his children needed prayer. One was about to lose his home. One was about to have a baby. And one was not in touch. He asked that the parents-to-be would be a better parent than he had been to his children. I asked Mark if he was Christian, and he responded yes without hesitation. I asked if his kids were Christian, and he confirmed they were. So I laid hands on Mark, and he grabbed my hand as I prayed. I first prayed as he had asked me to, but I was overcome with the need to pray for Mark to forgive himself and to receive healing. As I prayed about how Jesus has forgiven Mark of his troubled past as a parent, he began to cry openly. I prayed for reunification within his family, for strength and protection, and most of all for forgiveness and healing between them all — grace enough to cover them all. We finished and he gave me a big hug.
I heard yesterday that his daughter unexpectedly called Mark and that he is on his way to see her!
I am thankful on this Thanksgiving Day for the grace of God, the sacrifice of Jesus, and the gift of the Holy Spirit — they are all that separate us from disaster. And they are what brings joy into our lives, making it more than survival but true living.