I held my first street based Bible fellowship last week. It went very well. Four street dependent folks sat with me in the air-conditioned comfort of a church on Guadalupe Street (not my home church, so I really appreciate them opening up their doors for this missionary). They listened about the history of the Bible. They read aloud and discussed the first chapter of Mark. They raised questions like “do you really need to be baptized to go to heaven” and “how much does Jesus know about temptation.” Great questions. This went on for two hours of fellowship!
Today I had a hard ministry day. I was sick last week in the bed with flu, so I was really glad to be back in the field and in the streets. The first half of my day went as expected. People were glad to see me up and around again. I helped various people. I supervised as a group of friends help a friend walk off a bad dose of drugs. I counseled a young man wanting to stop his heroine use. I made plans to help someone write a resume and encouraged them in overcoming anxiety they have with the whole job thing. All this may sound bad or like a downer, but it is what I was made for. I am shaped perfectly in order to do the work described. The tough part came in the last two hours of my day.
I was presented by a friend with a young person, about 28 years old. This person was new to the streets. They needed help (physical things to make a night on the street safer), but it was after 5pm so none of the best sources of help were open any longer. This person was anxious inside the crowded place where we met, so I went outside to talk with him. It was cold and rainy today, so this meant being outside with him. I did an mental assessment through our conversation. This person was not a danger to himself. This person was not hooked on drugs. But this person has had about a multi-month episode of troubles. The more I talked, but more I could tell that this person was suffering some side effects of a mental condition. However, it was mild enough that there was no need to call in help.
I explained the options available to this person for shelter tonight. He didn’t like them. I understood but there really wasn’t any other options to offer. He could go to one of our two shelters. Both are scary. He could call a number in his pocket of someone willing to loan him a tent so he could camp outside. He could begin to hitchhike to his sisters in another state. Or he could pursue a couple of other even poorer options. However, for each, he had reasons why he couldn’t choose the option.
I tried another approach. I explored his relationship assets. He has a terrible and broken relationship with his father. No help there. His mother is dead. His sister lives in another state and will only help if he goes there. He has no friends in town, except friends that he labels as evil.
I tried faith. I asked if faith were a resource for him, an open ended question that usually gets an honest answer about the faith of a person. He said yes emphatically. So I asked him what kind and how that was going. He said that he’s a Christian seeker, and doing all he could to learn more. What luck… I’m a Christian missionary! I asked about his current understanding. It seemed minimal (although I have no need to judge him), so I explained grace. He understood but still I could sense that it wasn’t all there for him yet. We talked about sin. He seemed to understand, but I could tell that he didn’t quite. We talked about how rebellious we all are and how Jesus will absolutely always take us back. His eyes watered but he still held back. Finally, I asked him if he believed he was truly a beloved child of God. He said he wanted to, but something held him back. He said it was all the evil around him. We prayed together for safety, deliverance, comfort, and guidance.
Despite all that I knew to do, I could not get through today. I could not help him find a good alternative for shelter. I could not help him find a good resource for support. I could not help him today break through in his faith. There was nothing left to do but to stand in the cold and the rain with him. We stood and talked for about an hour more. We were both quite chilled. He was troubled enough that I just could not leave him. I was reminded of a Linda Martin song, “What do you do when it seems like you can’t make it through? Well you just stand. When there’s nothing left to do, you just stand. Watch the Lord see you through. After you’ve done all you can, you just stand.” So we just stood.
When it came time for me to leave, he thanked me. He said that I had obviously given him all that I had to give and he was grateful. He called the friend who might help him find a place to camp outside tonight. I pray that he is safe. I pray that he finds a way to surrender and accept grace. I pray that he finds a peace that surpasses all understanding tonight.
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…