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.