Here’s my story:
Chapter 1 – The Kick In The Teeth
I rarely get the chance to run off from home and serve Jesus on the streets. But today Mrs. Agent X told me I needed time away and sent me packing. At first, I did not know where to go or what to do. The opening was sudden, and I had no plans or anyone to go see. But I had all this free time and a need to get away for a bit.
Hmmm… What to do?
Some of my readers here are aware that I am working on a book for possible publication. A study in St. Mark, to be exact. I have a few friends helping me review and revise, so I grabbed my copy and took it with me. Since I had this reading to do, I decided to head down to Mahon Library. I could study on the revisions while seeking out street-friends at one of their hubs.
As I entered the building, I made a circuit around the whole area – especially near the internet computers. I did not see anyone I knew. (Actually, there was one cat I know there, but he generally plays the role of sycophant with the leadership at the Premier Homeless Church, so I opted not to interrupt him with my greetings.) I looked in my pocket, and I was carrying only six of my “business” cards. (I hate to call them “business” cards, but that is how you order them. That is what they are called, but this is certainly not a business; it’s ministry. I don’t use them for any kind of commerce at all.) I sometimes leave these in areas I know homeless people will find them in hopes that they will reach out to me through email or on this blog.
With only six, I did not want to give them away indiscriminately, but I discretely slipped one on a desk near the computer area and another in the men’s room. I kept four of them in my pocket in case I met someone I could give it to as part of my greeting.
Then I found a seat at a table near the newspaper area. At first, I was alone there, and I began reading on my latest draft. In fact I was looking at the powerful insights of Mark chapter 8 where Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do the people say I am?” and “Who do you say I am?” These questions on Jesus’ lips were rumbling though my heart and mind when a strange man I did not recognize came and took a seat across the table to read his newspaper.
I looked up at him, but did not recognize him. He made no acknowledgment of me whatsoever. But he triggered a memory of a conversation I had near that same spot a couple of years ago. In fact, I offered a post that featured that conversation once which you can read here if you desire:
Well, the man triggered the memory, alright, but he did not look particularly familiar nor did he appear the slightest bit interested in me. So, I went on with my work as he read silently there across from me. I think we might have been sitting there in silence for about half an hour when the library security guard walked up to the man across from me and engaged him in conversation, at which point he dropped my “business” card on the table for the man to view.
At first my mind echoed the words of Jesus: “Who do the people say I am?”. Neither man showed the slightest interest in me, and I presumed neither one knew the card was mine. If they were going to speak frankly about it in front of me, there was every reason to believe they would not know they were discussing my ministry. I might just find out who some people say that I am!
As you can see from this front/back scanned picture of my card, there is a photo of a tee shirt which says, “Jesus Was Homeless” on the face of the card. The security guard wanted the other man’s opinion on it, but he made comment even before the other man responded. He said, “If Jesus worked a job, then how can someone say he was homeless? … I work three jobs, I am not homeless.” And then the man at the table said, “He probably is looking to get your money. … These people are always out to get your money.” Then the security guard said, “I knew a Baptist preacher in Levelland that said if you don’t put $100 in the offering, you need not bother coming back….”
It was clear to me in a matter of seconds that these two geniuses disapproved of the “business” card and all it stands for, that they were willing to mischaracterize it in their contempt, and that the phrase “Jesus Was Homeless” had triggered it. I am not sure at all why they thought I would seek money with it. Perhaps they know that the Premier Homeless Church operates on a million dollar budget these days, and they dont see any end to the homelessness in sight despite all that money. But I really don’t know. Meanwhile, as I sat there watching this little discussion unfold, I thought to myself, this must be that guy who made his ugly little comment to me that day more than two years ago and then wouldn’t talk to me after. Without realizing it, I must have recognized him after all!
I also decided there would be no constructive discussion of the matter at that point, so I just sat in anonymity and let them banter on like this trash-talking my ministry and those of others. I think it is safe to say that the cavalier way they drew their conclusion about me based on my card calls into suspicion the color with which they painted the other ministers they criticized too.
Their conversation ended quickly. The security guy moved on to other duties – I presume. But I figure that both men have discussed homeless people at length before, and I am sure that library with it’s large homeless clientele, provides them plenty of fodder for those kinds of discussions.
Still, I wondered if there was any chance the security guard saw me leave that card where he found it … I wonder. It is possible he hoped to stir up a controversy with me by playing this charade. I think it is more likely that he did not see that it was mine, but either way is possible.
I continued reading on my draft, and after another ten minutes or so, the man across the table got up and left. After a few more minutes I did too. But I was armed with some interesting information now. Who do the people say that I am? They say I am out to get their money. I am a crook. You can plainly see it on my “business” card.
It was a kick in the teeth. I bet they even meant well.
As I walked to my car and packed up my bag to leave, I noticed the security guy had walked out the front door behind me. He was many yards away by that time, but he seemed to linger there, almost as if watching me leave. Gave me cause to reconsider whether he had seen me plant the card in the first place. I was clear that these geniuses have not read my blog before. If they had, they would know I don’t raise money. In fact, on the contrary, I spend it on the poor.
What they can’t know (unless one, or both, of them takes the time to look up the web address for this blog) is that I purposefully packed my pockets with give-away money before I left the house. Not a lot, but a bit. Some I figured I could afford to part with when I found someone asking.
So, I was clear they misrepresented me in their little discussion about me right in front of me, but it still felt like a kick in the teeth.
Chapter 2 – I LOVE Broken Hearted Drunks
I almost drove home with my tail between my legs feeling a little defeated. Almost. It even crossed my mind to write here about the experience, and the title Kick In The Teeth just came home to roost. But as I prayed on it, I decided to swing by the Walmart area nearby and give a quick looksee for anyone I might know.
I found a congregation of mostly homeless people gathered near the bus stop. I got out of my car and approached. Almost immediately, I encountered a man on a phone. I asked if he got Wi-Fi, which he affirmed. I gave him my card. Then I was approached by a woman I did not recognize at first, but who called out my name in hopes it was me. Once we got to talking, I recognized her from my time at the Premier Homeless Church (before they kicked me out (another kick in the teeth)). It was Etta! We barely reconnected before the bus arrived, and she had to go.
But then I crossed the street and was met by Jim! Jim who I spent a night out front of the old St. Benedicts some years ago getting to know. He was drunk of course, but friendly with the alcohol! He was so excited to see me. His cheer and gladness at seeing me really helped my mood. Soon he was introducing me to the other guys on the curb and telling them what a great guy I am. (Who do the people say I am?)
This was one of those moments when I was able to say to Jim that I have prayed for him by name every day since the last time we met! This stunned him. He was speechless for a few moments. But then he wanted to pray with me. So we got on our knees there on the sidewalk, removed our hats, and prayed.
Jim made me feel loved. Jim ministered to me! And before we were done, Jim gathered all his friends around in a circle there on the sidewalk out front of Walmart, we all removed our hats, and we prayed to God with all our broken, contrite hearts.
Jim told me about his troubles. His woman is back in jail AGAIN. This makes him very nervous. He does better when she is by his side. She helps hold him together, he says. I understand that. I have a woman who does that for me too. But it gave him great comfort to know that I had been praying for him. It gave me great comfort to know I had given him great comfort. I think Jesus was pleased to share this moment with us.
Soon after this encounter, I finally headed home for the night. But I note this: I did not ask anyone for a solitary dime! And just in case the two geniuses from the library take advantage of that “business” card’s web address and read here, let me just tell you now… I don’t want your money. But if you want to pray for the homeless, or better yet WITH the homeless, I will be happy to facilitate that for you.