Forgiveness

 “Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld (John 20:21-23).”

The Holy Spirit advocates peace and forgiveness. As a street minister for Operation Nightwatch, I get to hear how the work of the Spirit impacts the lives of my homeless friends. I met Wayne this week in front of Target. He was standing alone with his bike and a box of food from the food bank. I didn’t think he was interested in talking and wondered if I was bothering him. Reverend Paul and I waited awkwardly through the silence of long pauses for the Holy Spirit to move. Gradually, a conversation began to unfold. Wayne revealed that he had been arrested twenty years ago for drunk driving. Stealing a car at the age of fourteen, and being charged with a DUI, has left Wayne financially unable to drive. He needs seven thousand dollars to pay off his legal debts. Wayne begins to smile as he talks about his son and his plans to see him later in the week. We ask Wayne about his tattoos and if he has seen a doctor about his eye. His eye looks infected, and we want to connect him with medical care. Wayne does not have an eye infection. He takes his glass eye out and his hat off, revealing a huge scar across the top of his head. Three years ago, his roommate attacked him with a sword. “I bleed out and was dead in my apartment for twelve minutes. Six months after the attack I told my roommate that I forgave him. He never did believe me. While I was dead, I saw a bright light that looked like pastel Easter colors. I am grateful to be alive!” Wayne opens his shirt and shows us the cross around his neck. What a blessing to learn about forgiveness from Wayne.

Rhonda grew up in a family of Jehovah Witnesses. Her father disowned her when she got pregnant at sixteen. When she tried to leave an abusive relationship, her dad quoted Bible verses about divorce and told her that marriage was for life. She is forty-eight now and lives in a shelter for survivors of domestic abuse. She is going to be a grandmother and hopes to return home. Rhonda talked to her dad on Easter and told me that she hasn’t really been able to completely forgive him. We talk about how complicated it is when the people you depend on to take care of you also terrorize you. I tell her how Jesus’s teaching on divorce advocates for women. How the Son of God was born to unmarried teenagers, how her dad could have been excited to be a grandparent. Rhonda shares how her dad provided for the family and how he did the best he could. We agree that forgiveness is a process. While were talking, Rhonda looks up to the sky and tells me that the Lord has always taking care of her. Forgiveness freely given and freely received.

Angela tells me that she came out as queer to her son on Easter Sunday. It went well and she is hopeful for their relationship. She grew up Mormon, always hearing the words of the Bible as condemnation. I let Angela know that Scripture includes sexual minorities into the kingdom of God. We discuss Phillip and the Eunuch from the book of Acts, the Eunuch from Jeremiah, and the nonbinary love of Christ. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:27-28).” Angela smiles and tells me that she has never heard those Scripture versus before and seems relieved that I know what nonbinary means. We pray protection and peace for the LGTBQIA community and forgiveness for the ways I have used the Bible to oppress and exclude people from God’s love. Thank you for not withholding forgiveness. May we no longer feel distressed or anxious but reassured that we are forgiven through our risen Lord!

Michael Cox

Freedom

Darcy is profoundly mentally ill. All the other homeless people living around Safeway tell me how concerned they are about her safety. Every interaction I have had with Darcy for the last three years has confirmed her community’s concern. Trapped in a cycle of delusional thinking, Darcy believes that she is controlling all the banks in the city. In the middle of her ranting monologues, she will often describe gruesome details of rape and murder. Real abuse and trauma are expressed through fragmented mental health. When she talks with me, I try to listen for the thread of continuity that strings the narrative of her life together. Themes of fear, violence, and abuse are articulated in the middle of paranoid delusions of global banking schemes and the FBI. I respond with words and body language that hopefully communicate empathy and concern. I pray healing in the name of Jesus to the damage abuse and trauma have done to Darcy’s identity.

Last week Darcy was walking by and stopped to talk with us. Reverend Paul and I were handing out survival supplies: socks, water, prayers, and a listening ear. Darcy began to sob as she talked with us about the violence and abuse experienced in her family. It is challenging to understand everything she is saying. I need God to send his Spirit to help me interpret her communication. While I am praying, I feel overwhelmed with the presence of God. I interrupt Darcy, and tell her, “God wants you to be free of guilt and shame.” Darcy cries uncontrollable and thanks me. Her entire countenance changes as we discuss the freedom and liberation provided by Christ. She literally looks brighter and lighter. Darcy begins to articulate the grief she feels about losing her son to the foster care system clearly and coherently. She shares about her violent ex-husband and blames herself for being victimized. As we pray, the heaviness of despair and self-loathing are lifted. “Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:7).”

Reflecting on my interactions with Darcey, I am struck by the Holy Spirit’s power to preserve, recover, and restore our true God created selves. How Jesus identifies with us in our suffering. “He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself (Philippians 3:21).” To share in a moment of miraculous healing and deliverance with Darcey is an honor and a privilege. In the middle of suffocating fear, the holy breath of God breathes life, continually transforming us into the children of God we were always intended to be. “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven (1 Corinthians 15:49).”

Michael Cox

Street Church

I have known Jeremy for over twenty years. I met him when he was a homeless teenager living in a van with his brother. He works in construction and lives in a secluded wooded ravine by a wealthy Seattle suburb. By cover of night, he has brought plywood, drywall, and generators into his camp, building himself a mini house. I usually see him on outreach in the same neighborhood he lived in as a homeless teenager. Jeremy is currently working as a day laborer and hates that he is not doing finish carpentry. Operation Nightwatch bought him a pair of work boots and keeps him well fed through out the week. He has expressed interest in getting into a shelter or an apartment. Being inside would be healing for his body, mind, and soul. He has a rat problem at his mini house in the ravine. “I put out rat poison and they just eat them pellets like candy.”

Jeremy has experienced unbelievable amounts of violence in his life. He often loses his train of thought while were talking. He suffers from seizures, a byproduct of being repeatedly hit in the head. Jeremy has a hard time controlling his temper. Lots and lots of fighting. This week he came to the dinner church, excited that he was off work in time to eat a hot meal. Standing on the sidewalk eating chicken biscuit casserole, Jeremy shares about the restraining order that prevents him from seeing his son. “I haven’t seen him in ten years, and it breaks my heart.” Jeremy begins to sob uncontrollably, apologizing through blue collar homeless tears that he has a hard time managing his feelings. I encourage him to cry and realize that this is the first real interaction we have had. In our twenty-year history, our conversations usually revolve around legal issues and why they are not his fault. We hug and pray. I share that God reconciles all things and that he will see his son again. I tell Jeremy that he can work on things he has control over. Working towards his own healing will lead to the restoration of his life. Relationship with his son will come through relationship with God. We can forgive ourselves when we know and trust that God has forgiven us. After we cry, hug, and pray. After I share all the ways God loves and cares for Jeremy and his son. My favorite thing happens. Street church testimony!

I love to hear stories of God’s grace from people on the street. Jeremy, with all the suffering and hardships in his life tells me how God has saved him. He had a fire going in his mini house and thought it would be ok to put a little gasoline on it. After pouring a few drops on the fire the gas can, floor, and walls were ablaze. “I ran outside and went to blow on the gas can. I felt a huge rush of breath behind me, and the fire went out. I heard God say, ‘I saved you fucker!’ I should be dead, and it is a miracle I am alive.” All I can say is yes, I cannot believe you are still alive. God speaks in ways we can hear! “And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed (Exodus 3:2).”

Operation Nightwatch has a new shelter in a church basement, and I offer to give Jeremy a referral. He agrees and I am hopeful that it works out. Whether he makes it to his shelter bed or not, the important thing is that Jeremy knows that he is loved. Loved by a God who shares his suffering, who sees his affliction, who calls to him out of the fire, here I AM.

Michael Cox

Hallelujah people

“Shut up. The Hallelujah people are here.” This was our greeting as we approached a group of tents surrounded by garbage and addiction. A group of homeless men thought we were up to no good and yelled at us. That’s when we met Patricia. Patricia was not ready to let the Hallelujah people be disrespected. Welcoming us and exhorting her community, a street sermon on the hospitality of the Holy Spirit was about to be preached. Patricia began to share her love of Scripture and the reality of her addiction. She shares that she can’t do recovery meetings and finds peace in the word of God. I tell Patricia that reading the Bible is how I got sober. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).” Patricia is overwhelmed with relief. “You mean you feel the warmth and freedom of God when you read the book? I tell Patricia that she isn’t crazy, that the words in the Bible are the breath of God. Patricia tells me that her addiction, and bad behavior have alienated her from God. I tell her that, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).”  Patricia tells me that whenever she can stay in a motel, she likes to watch the Christian channel. We talk about various televangelist and how they have encouraged us over the years. Patricia thinks one of them may have been involved in a sex scandal. After yelling at her neighbors to quiet down for the “Hallelujah people”, Patricia recites John 3:16. It takes her a few times, and we help her with a few words. I ask her if she knows what verse comes after John 3:16. “Yes John 3:17!” Patricia wants to be a preacher when she gets clean from drugs. I tell her that she is a child of God and called to share his word. May our minds be transformed to believe that we are all worthy to receive the love and forgiveness of Christ. Her homework is to read John 3:17. Jesus comes to save the world, not condemn it. Shut up the Hallelujah people are here!

Michael Cox

Come on with it

Last night we had an epic five-hour rainy outreach. From sopping wet tents and tarp lined doorways, homeless men and women told me and my coworker Paul, that they loved us and appreciated us. Steve shared that he dropped out of high school at the age of sixteen and has been homeless ever since. He is now forty-three and hopes to get back to work and into a shelter. He vented for a half hour about his struggles with maintaining sobriety on the street, the shelter system, and his stepdad. “My mom basically picked him over me. I know that my criminal record is connected to what my stepdad did to me.” Steve’s stories of violence and vindictive street justice fill our time together, stories that all serve to cover up the terrified neglected little boy hiding inside of his rage. Our conversation ends with him smiling and thanking us for talking to him. “I mostly talk to myself and have nobody to hang out with that isn’t a drug addict.” I hope Steve hears the loving voice of God our father. “And behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17).”

Casey is smoking crystal meth when we approach him. He is deeply moved that the church is out on such a rainy night talking to him. He wants to make sure we thank the church ladies who made the sandwiches. While Casey is expressing his gratitude he begins to cry. He wants us to pray for his grandfather who has been diagnosed with cancer. He wants to go home and see him but is ashamed of his drug use and criminal history. We hold hands and pray. He is crying and grips my hand tightly, like he is literally holding on for dear life. We hug and cry some more. We talk about how the Spirit intercedes and speaks things that are beyond words. How tears communicate the deep things of the soul. Casey and I talk about the Bible, and he shares his favorite verse. “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate (Romans 7:15).” We then have a tearful conversation about how, in the eyes of God, we are not our bad choices. Casey knows that God’s path is true, and that at some point we have to turn away from darkness. I encourage Casey to ask God for his miraculous supernatural help. We both agree that we can’t change on our own. We need the power of God. “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out (Romans 7:18).” We hug again and I am overwhelmed by the Spirit of God, and thankful to get my theology of sin and forgiveness from the street.

Our last stop of the night turns into a mini prayer service. Misty wants us to pray protection from the devil and asks for the cross around Reverend Pauls’ neck. Paul hands her the cross and leads us in the Lord’s prayer. We ask a young couple a few tents up if they want us to pray for anything. Without hesitating they smile and declare, “come on with it!” “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Matthew 6: 9-13).”

Michael Cox

God holds your hand

We had nine people come on outreach with us Monday evening. Staff from Public Health were offering flu shots and Hepatitis Vaccines. Lutherans, Methodists, Catholics, and Pentecostal Christians were offering socks, sandwiches, and prayer. The first person we spoke with wanted a flu shot and prayer. She asked me to pray that she wouldn’t hang herself. An image of a noose keeps haunting her thoughts. I kneel, hold her hand, and pray against the spirit of suicide and death. I speak life to her heart and mind in the name of Jesus. Her hand, like her entire body is shaking. She responds with tears of joy to the care and comfort that only the Holy Spirit can provide. When we are done praying, she stands up and gives me a hug. My friend James is at the bus stop. He is drunk and excited to see me. He always calls me Father Mike and asks me to bless him. After we pray, he thanks me and gets a pair of white Kirkland brand socks, my favorite. We walk toward the park and meet a couple that is organizing all their belongings in a shopping cart. They both wanted flu shots and were happy to chat. Linda had just sold some clothes to a thrift store. Her boyfriend both appreciated and tolerated my jokes. I asked if there was anything I could keep in my prayers for them? Linda wanted prayer for a messy legal situation. She was assaulted recently and had a restraining order placed on the individual. The police thought her boyfriend was the perpetrator and arrested him. She was assaulted again while her boyfriend was in jail. I started to talk about legal resources when Linda reminded me that, “somethings only God can take care of”. The prayer time was powerful and deeply moving.

We walked up to some tents and talked with our friend Jeff. He shared that when his dad died, he didn’t hear about it until a week later. It seemed that I was the first person he had talked with about his dads passing. His dad was hard on him. “He never hit me. I wish he had instead of yelling at me all the time. He made me feel so small.” We prayed about addiction, the shame that comes from relapsing, and the radical forgiveness of Christ. He got a flu shot and the Hep A vaccine. “That’s the one that protects you from poop!”

Theresa was walking by the Community Dinner with her dog. I invited her to the meal, she smiled and approached cautiously. Once in the buffet line, volunteers asked if she wanted to take a few extra meals for leftovers. Theresa began to cry and shared that she had no food in her apartment and had no idea what she was going to do. We prayed with her and discovered that she had no toilet paper either. I went to the corner store and bought a four pack of bath tissue to add to her armful of meals.

Prayer for people on the street, “Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Don’t tremble with fear. I am your God. I will make you strong, as I protect you with my arm and give you victories. I am the Lord your God. I am holding your hand, so don’t be afraid. I am here to help you (Isaiah 41:10,13).”

Michael Cox

Food tastes better when you can say hi

Jesus feeds people. He feeds huge crowds with five fish and two loaves of bread. He gives living water that causes people to thirst no more. He tells us that whoever eats his flesh and drinks his blood has eternal life. Jesus eats with people that no one else will. The professional religious power brokers want to know, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum (Luke 5:30 NLT)?” The Community Dinner Church likes to invite the disinherited to dinner. We like to gather with people who have found themselves excluded from other communities. “God sets the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land (Psalm 68:6).” When I discuss the stories of Christ with people at the Dinner Church, I find people who are interested in the everlasting food of the Gospel. Marty shares with me that he isn’t religious or a Christian, but the words I share about Christ always move him to tears. He tells me that he thinks about the Gospel stories all week long. The Dinner Church is his community. Pastors from various denominations come to visit the Dinner Church and want to know, “how does the Dinner Church disciple people?” Even after hearing Marty’s experience and witnessing healing prayer in the middle of a meal, people who identify as “from the church”, are not convinced. How can the sacred happen with mashed potatoes, body odor, and the wet feet of homeless people? How will peoples lives be transformed by Jesus if a pastor doesn’t explain the “right way” to follow him. I find that it is the religiously experienced that miss the real meal of Christ. The broken body of Jesus is shared not taught. When we avoid the suffering of others, we find ourselves living a parched, hangry life, absent of freedom and joy. The sun-scorched land of rebellion happens when the church doesn’t care for the poor. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me (Matthew 25:34-36).”

Last week, I visited a new Dinner Church that some friends of mine have planted. They are having great success welcoming and serving the neighborhood in the name of Jesus. One gentleman wanted me to pray that he could spend more time with his mom. I talked about cartoons with another man that was not wearing any socks or shoes. When I told him that I wished I had socks to give him he said, “Being barefoot is how I stay cool!” I sat with a man on a bench who was enjoying the meal. After a while we realized that he had been a longtime guest of one of the very first Dinner Churches in Seattle. He was delighted to know that the food was being prepared by the same cook. He asked if he could bring a meal to his friend that was bed ridden and dying of cancer. I threw his garbage away while he got a meal for his friend. As he was leaving, he thanked me and said, “food tastes better when you can say hi!” The presence of God is delicious. “Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him (Psalm 34:8).”

Michael Cox

Trauma

 I had the opportunity to help a homeless friend get into housing. I met him twenty years ago, we reconnected recently, and he asked if I had any ideas for a new living situation. Miraculously, my idea worked. He was in a new place within a week. That never happens. As I was praising God for his provision, I had another idea. What if we interviewed my friend for the upcoming fundraiser? It would be a few questions like, how has Operation Nightwatch, (the ministry I work for), supported you? What impact has our relationship had on your life? At first my friend refused. He was uncomfortable being filmed. While I was reassuring him that he didn’t have to participate in the fundraiser, he quickly changed his mind. “Why wouldn’t I do it, You guys have helped me out so much!”

A week passed and I showed up at his place with the two-person crew to film. I introduced everyone, and my friend began to scream at us. “How dare you guys come and expect me to tell all of my painful secrets for free. I need five hundred dollars for this shit. And fuck you Mike, you should know better.” My friend was so upset that it didn’t matter what I said. He was not hearing any of my attempts to reason, comfort, or cajole. I decided to take the night off, eat ice cream, and play my guitar. Reflecting on the situation, I came to the conclusion that my friend didn’t want to be reminded of how much help he needs, how long he has been homeless, or how demoralizing and dehumanizing his life on the street has been. I thought about how many white people have offered to “help” African American men and how emasculating accessing social services can be. I thought, I help people process their trauma.

The next week I prayed with a man who told me that he felt like giving up. He has been homeless for a long time and was exhausted. He was thinking it might be time to end his life. We kneeled in front of his tent and prayed for continued perseverance. I prayed that he would be encouraged by how much he has overcome. I reminded him that God loves him and that the author of life would never leave or forsake him. We prayed against the spirit of death and praised Jesus, the God of truth, resurrection, and light. When we were done. He told me that he cries out to God all the time and thanked me. As I was walking away, I heard him say, “I needed that!” I also heard the Spirit of the living God say, “I help people process their trauma”.

The next tent I came upon was inhabited by a young woman named pearl. She was excited to talk with clergy and told me how much God had blessed her. She met a woman who gave her a ride into town. She had to leave the motel room because her friends were smoking crystal meth and were mad at her for sleeping. “It was three in the morning, and I fell asleep outside standing up. I woke up and realized there was a bush right next to me. Remember the story of Moses and the burning bush? I slept in the bush. God always provides for me.” We kneel in front of her tent and pray. She cries, and cries and cries. She thanks me for the prayer, and we do a covid, social distance, air hug. I am reminded again that God helps people process their trauma. “Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:7-8).”

Michael Cox

Prayers for women

Last night, I prayed for two women. They both live in the park and cried while we asked the Lord for protection and healing. Jesse has a medical issue that has affected her voice. She speaks in a gravely whisper and it’s hard to understand her. I have a doctor, a nurse, and a social worker with me and invite Jesse to speak with them. She is excited and tells me the details of her medical issues. While we are waiting for the doctor, there is loud music and yelling, coming from several tents. There is a man smoking crack and a woman smoking meth sitting near us as well. A man who is agitated approaches, swinging a piece of rebar over his head. My outreach partner says, “heads up” and I prepare to engage in possible street drama. Another man, sitting next to my new friend Jesse, lets us know that he has our back. “Don’t worry, I see that guy.” I ask Jesse if she wants to pray while we wait for the doctor. I kneel and ask if its ok to put my hand on her shoulder. I pray that she would recover her voice. The folks on the bench listen, as I thank God for seeing and hearing us. I ask God to heal any wounds or trauma that may be impacting our health. I can feel her body shake and am in awe of how open she is to God. The doctor listens to Jesse’s fear about the emergency room. Jesse listens to the doctor’s concern about her health. I love to watch the medical professionals in action. I offer to take Jesse to the hospital and give her my card. She is appreciative and we agree to talk again next week.

Cathy is at the other end of the park. She is alone and scared. Her boyfriend has beaten her and taking all of her belongings. She tells me that, “He wanted to control me, and I can’t be controlled”. She lifts up her shirt and shows me a giant bruise on her side from being assaulted. I write down the address and number for a domestic violence shelter and introduce her to my medical outreach pals. Cathy lets us know that God is going to deal with her ex-boyfriend, and that she has done nothing wrong. I affirm all of her wisdom and am amazed at her resolve. We pray for protection, and I am in awe of how open she is to God.

I had the chance to pray for a woman that has dedicated her life to serving God. She works in a part of the world where her identity as a Christian missionary could get her killed. She lives her life with the understanding that, as followers of Christ we are to, “live dead”. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him (John 12:24-26).” I am in awe of how open she is to God.

Michael Cox

It depends on your perspective

I offer a sandwich and water to a homeless woman. She is sitting on the sidewalk with a group of homeless people I have known for a while. She is nodding off from heroin and ignores my culinary offerings. I begin to talk with another gentleman, when I hear her yell, “hey, where is the food.” I apologize, saying I misunderstood and thought she didn’t want anything. Upon receiving the sandwich, she begins a series of interrogating questions. When were the sandwiches made? Why did you not pass them out in the morning if you received them in the morning. Who made them? Why do you think I need a sandwich? I answer each question and think, you are under no obligation to eat the food I am handing out. I do understand the frustration she is expressing. People often assume homeless people will be grateful to receive their rotten leftovers and dirty clothes. She asks me why I think homeless people are garbage cans and starts to pick the sandwich apart, throwing bread, meat, and cheese, from the Metropolitan Market into the bushes. I must confess that my inner monologue wasn’t, “oh she is having a rough day”. I thought about all the time I have spent trying to make sure homeless people don’t get treated like garbage cans and how I didn’t want her to throw food at me. I was hit by a glass of milk years ago and am not naïve to the possibility of projectile picnics. She continues to escalate so we walk over to my friend Matthew. We talk about the 80’s tv show Nightrider. I win older guy pop culture points for remembering that the cars name was Kit. Matthew says Kit was more than a talking car, he was artificial intelligence. He asks me how I am doing and how long I have been married. We shoot the breeze for a while before we move to a group of guys playing cards.

 I have learned not to interrupt gambling on the street. If someone starts to lose money while I am blabbing about socks and Jesus, I will be blamed for bringing them bad luck. A few men look up from their cards and get water and sandwiches.  A younger guy is walking through the park with a shirt on that says repent for the kingdom of God is at hand. He introduces himself and tells me how he has been called by God to warn people about the antichrist. He gives me his literature and I wish him well. We approach a tent and meet a woman who is eight months pregnant. She sees my collar and my coworkers’ cross necklace and asks us to pray for her. We hold hands and she begins to sob. We pray against shame and guilt. We thank God for being a God of life and we pray for her soon to be son. She is struggling with addiction and is struggling to remain hopeful. She is trying to “get right with God”. I share that Jesus is a cry baby and we read Psalm 56:8. “You have kept track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle, You have recorded each one in your book.” I give her my number and tell her to call me anytime. She is visibly moved from our exchange, and I am overwhelmed by the goodness of God. Later in the evening we visit are friend Marta in her tent. She always gives me a hug and thanks me, calling me Father. She is a little flirty. Last week, with a mischievous grin and giggle she called me grandpa. After she gets her supplies, she thanks us for remembering her. We see Ivan on a scooter by the waterfront. He tells us that he has cancer and that its not the worst thing that has ever happened to him. Before motoring off, he leaves us with some wisdom. “Suffering is relative. It depends on your perspective.”

Michael Cox