The Fathers

Samuel has been sleeping in front of the school for at least four years. When I see him, he is always friendly and chatty. He calls me and the other outreach workers “The Fathers.” As a street minister for Operation Nightwatch, I wear a clergy collar. Sometimes people assume I am a Catholic Priest. I will try and clarify, explaining that I am a Protestant Minister or Reverend. People usually glaze over with boredom as I drone on and on about how I am friends with Catholics and that I believe in the Priesthood of all believers. Last week while I was serving pizza casserole, pasta salad, and lemon cake, a young woman looked at me, got nervous, and referred to me as “your honor.” The awkward conversations around my, “get up” as one outreach worker from the county called it, are worth the moments of pastoral care and therapeutic relief that the clergy collar invites.

Samuel went to work with his brother last year and I bought him two pairs of jeans from Costco. He lost his temper, his sister died, and his brother is not speaking to him. Back on the street and sleeping in front of the school, Samuel has a host of health care needs. He has prostate cancer, back problems, and needs a catheter to urinate. His stories about trying to pee at the hospital have all of us doubled over laughing. The more we laugh the better his stories get. He tells us about raising llamas as a child, trying to ride them, and getting thrown off. He believes one particular llama, intentionally saved all the llama food in its cheek, cornered him, and pelted him in the face machine gun style. Not many people can say they have been shot at by a weaponized llama. Working day labor and staying on and off in cheap motels, Samuel has been able to survive the violence of the street and stay alive.

Over Christmas, I ran into Samuel downtown. He was sleeping in a shelter program and looked great. This week he came to our Monday Community Dinner and told me that he had his own apartment. He wanted me to come see it, letting me know that his size for jeans was still 32 32! When I arrived at his apartment, he was waiting for me in the lobby. The building and his room are nice and new. After showing me his DVD collection and refrigerator, we prayed. We lifted up the life and soul of his sister, thanking God for his rest and peace. We prayed reconciliation for him, and his brother, thanking God for restoration and reconciliation. We prayed a blessing on his apartment and for the other residents and staff, thanking God for protecting us with his mercy and kindness. When we’re done praying, Samuel takes me down the elevator, leads me through the lobby and opens the door for me. We hug and he says, “Thanks Father, tell the other Father’s I say hi!

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going (John 14:1-4).”

Michael Cox

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