There is a park behind our motor home. The other day there was this very old man sitting on a bench reading a book. There were a number of our homeless folk gathered at this picnic table and they were yelling at each other and using a lot of colorful metaphors and this went on for about an hour and then they migrated back to the church property until the old man was alone. During that whole time he never moved save to smirk or turn a page.
Finally he stood up and put his book in a tote bag along with a cushion he had been sitting on and he began walking towards the gate at the church. I felt compelled to go to him and inquire how he manages to ignore the din of the guys.
As I approached he stopped, set down the tote bag and raised his hand for me to stop, which I did. Then he reached into his pocket pulled out a small box and opened it and proceeded to put in his hearing aids. I smiled and said, “You just answered my question. I was wondering how you could maintain perfect peace amidst such a raucous din.”
He smiled and said, “It is my secret weapon and one of my most precious gifts that God has ever given me.”
My Grandpa Smith had this gift as well. When the grand kids were running about and being loud, he would sit in his arm chair and read the newspaper or take a nap and he could do this because he had turned off his hearing aids.
Maybe someday I will obtain this gift.
A small family of a young mother, father and infant– Frank, Rebecca and Kaleb– was kicked out of their housing and they had to fly a sign on the highway in order to obtain a motel room. These folks are a part of my church, and that was unacceptable to me. Yes, many folks in my church fly signs, and many sleep in motels when they can get them, but an infant? Why take such a chance? I sent them a message: “Call me, I might be able to help.”
But what I was thinking was: What are you doing? You have a baby! Why aren’t you getting me to get you whatever resources you can? Why aren’t we working on getting you housing? You can’t be on the street with a baby? You shouldn’t take chances that strangers will be compassionate! We could help you here!
They did call me and we got them a motel room for a couple days and some housing inside during the snow and ice storms in Portland. After the weather cleared up, their time with us was over and they were on their own. I was shocked to find that they had done nothing with the time they had. Well, not nothing. They helped their friends on the street, gave compassion and love to their baby and other poor folks. But they hadn’t done anything to get housing.
So they left our property and I insisted they call me and tell me what happens. They went to Adult and Family Services and they said, “We have no program to help you.” (Not true, they had helped other families with infants. Grrrr.) They went to a local church who often has motel vouchers. The church said, “We take an offering each Sunday but because of the snow we had no service and so no funds came in.” (So a church doesn’t help the poor because of the emergency weather? Grrrr.) They went to another church, and I recommended that they talk to a friend of mine. Nothing. (Grrr.)
I’m thinking: Really? Will no one help this family? Why isn’t there a system in place for them? And why didn’t they beat the pavement before, looking for help? Don’t they realize that we live in a society that won’t help anyone, any parent, unless they see them actively do all they can? Why did they take the week and a half and just help others instead of setting things up for their baby? How could they be so passive?
Then I am struck myself. Why didn’t I pray for this family? If I was so concerned about them, why I don’t I take their case to the Emperor of the Universe, who invites me into His presence to request salvation for myself and for others? After all, I am not at fault. I helped them as much as I could.
Their Savior isn’t the government (God knows….). Their Savior isn’t this church or that church. Their Savior isn’t even Steve Kimes. The Savior’s name is Jesus and He will save. He will deliver, if we would but trust in Him. If I would but ask.
This family trusted that if they did what they could before God that He would protect them and supply for them. Funny, but I think Jesus said something about that: “Seek His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things (basic needs) will be be added to you.”
So I prayed. And instead of calling them and telling them everything they should be doing, (I had quite a list), I asked, “So what will you do now?”
They wrote back, “My sister will allow us to stay one night.”
Today I spoke to them and it looks like they’ll be able to rent an apartment from a friend they haven’t heard from for a while.
Dang, God, You are so sneaky. It’s always good to trust in that sneaky God, though.
By James Ericson Lopez
I had met George and Sandra a couple years ago at Anawim. They have been living outdoors for some time now. As you all know, the weather has been cold and snowy.
Yesterday driving home I saw George and Sandra on Fessenden St. They were each pushing a cart through the snow. I stopped quickly in my car to hand George some hand warmers. There was more traffic than one would expect on a North Portland street in heavy snow, so I had to keep driving and eventually found a road I could turn around in.
Got back to George and Sandra and it became very clear their carts were not going to make it far in this snow with all their gear. I asked them if they would like me to help them by offering a ride. After some quick convincing we loaded their 5 shelves of laminated treated wood and other belongings into my car. I then offered them some food at my place, and they accepted. I first went into my place to make sure everyone was decent, and asked my wife if she could heat up some leftovers.
Not two minutes into dinner there was a knock at the door, its’ Harry. Harry is someone else who I’ve met at Anawim. While he isn’t homeless, he is like many who come for a meal, gear, and friendship. This was only Harry’s 2nd time at my place. I was completely taken by the accidental divine orchestration of Harry showing up right when George and Sandra were at my place.
Up until this moment, I wasn’t having any success in convincing them a shelter would be the best thing for them last night. I offered for Harry to have seat, and made some coffee. The tacos my wife put together were delicious: heated corn tortillas off the burner, marinated al pastor, cheese, hot sauce. Yummy.
Harry was incredible. In his kindness, he helped everyone feel comfortable. He was talking about bringing some cards to the shelter and a portable DVD player to watch a movie. He even was getting Sandra and George to agree to go to the shelter. I called Pastor Steve, and he let me know the shelter opens at 8 here in St Johns at the church. After warming up and getting some food we left. Harry went to get his stuff before going to the shelter. I drove George and Sandra to the beginning of the trail. From there we walked with their wood, etc to their camp. With all the leaves gone from the trees, can’t say their camp is very private. There is a large blue tarp over a collapsed tent from the snow, a fire pit, and four or five grocery carts with belongings. They mentioned they would get their stuff and meet me back at the shelter.
I limped back to the car. I had busted my tail bone earlier in the day sledding with my son. My wife hooked me up with some Vicodin after I made it home. I took my son and daughter to the 7 o’clock showing of Lego the Movie, and afterwards stopped by the shelter. Harry and several others were hanging out at table, listening to music, about to start a card game. No George or Sandra.
Harry and I walked outside together so he could get a smoke. The night had barley warmed from earlier to 30degrees and the wind had died down. Harry said, “You can’t do it all for everyone.” Freeing words. “While they shouldn’t be outside on a night like this, I think they’ll be alright.” I sure hope so.
I look forward to seeing everyone at Anawim on Wednesday for a meal at the church. But now that I know where George and Sandra camp, and I got permission to stop by, I will swing by to say hi sooner than Wednesday:
Well, we all have different abilities and callings. But I can’t do what I do, either. Every once in a while, I look at myself and say, “Who was patient in that time? Who worked all those shifts in a row? Who broke up that fight? Who was encouraging to that person? Because it sure wasn’t me.” That guy may have looked like me, and wore my hat, but it wasn’t me.
Frankly, if it were up to me, I’d crawl under my blankets and just stay there for a few months. If it were me, I’d walk away from irritating people and just keep around me the people I like. If it were me, I’d force people to do what needed to be done and screw the consequences.
But loving and gentleness isn’t me. It’s what God put in me. No one is strong enough to do God’s work. God purposefully calls us ALL to do more than we can do. His plan is for us to step into the situations that are too enormously big for us and to give us the wisdom and strength and love we don’t have ourselves.
And so we learn to trust in Him.