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).”