At 10 O’clock in the evening on a recent Tuesday night as a cool front rolled in, near a dumpster in an alley behind a church in the downtown district, a group of homeless people gathered behind the windbreak of the back wall of the sanctuary. One of them was a middle-aged woman whose only protection from the cold was a light jacket, under which she shivered as she huddled close to the wall of the church. We’ll call her “Angel” so as to hide identities in an effort to protect the innocent and the guilty.
There were two ministers in that town, both of them praying for “Angel” at just that moment. One of them was a fellow homeless man who got out of the hospital earlier that day. The nurse who discharged him showed pity and sent him out with a blanket she secured from the linen closet. At first, he thought about how he might trade the blanket for a pack of cigarettes. But then he thought more of it as night fell. This homeless man knew “Angel” would be cold, and he knew where she likely would claim a spot for the night – shelter behind a locked up church. He would begin the search for her and take a lengthy path to find her if necessary.
The other minister was the pastor of the church behind which “Angel” lay shivering. A man who from the time he was 14 years old, devoted himself to being a church leader. It just so happened he was reading a copy of When Helping Hurts, which he piously kept by his night stand. He had met “Angel” earlier that day, and she had made an impression on him. He thought she reminded him of his own mother. But as he prayed, he considered how that if he helped “Angel”, he would need to do so wisely, so as not to enable her broken lifestyle. Thus he contented himself with the thought that he would allow her in to pray in the morning and get a cup of coffee then, but certainly would not open his family’s door to her and let her sleep in the guest room. He slept very snug that night in his bed.
Meanwhile, the homeless man leaving the hospital walked two and a half miles in the blowing wind at 10 O’clock at night to find “Angel” and give her his blanket. When he found her, she was so grateful for his kindness that she devoted herself to his friendship which would last into the Age to Come.
Now, I must ask: Which minister was a deacon of the church? Which minister was the pastor???