A few years ago I visited my parents as they put on the first Carefest in St. Augustine. I wanted to be a part of the work God was doing through them but had no idea the work he would do in me.
As people came and went at the event , there was a group of people ,who were not part of the event, sitting at a picnic table behind the tent and next to the labor ready building. Charlene, another helper, and I decided to offer them donuts, waters and coffee. We had plenty. One gentleman asked if he could have extra for his sick friend who just got out of the hospital and was nearby. (I mis-understood him to say across the street in a truck.) So I began to load him up with donuts and drinks which he accepted. I could tell the load I was giving was more than he could carry so I offered to help walk it to his friend. We began walking and talking. He told me how his friend, Eli, had heart failure and there was nothing the Hospital could do so they brought him "home". We walked across the street where trucks were parked but we did not stop at the trucks. We went into the woods where my eyes were opened to a life style I had never experienced firsthand. We walked into an area of tents were people lived. It was neat and tighty, seven or eight tents were circled around a plastic table with chairs and a clothes line was hung between trees. There were 4 men there and myself. The men helped Eli off his cot and into a chair. They introduced me to him and themselves. We talked for a minute and they told me more about Eli. How he rode his bike everywhere, doing silly tricks and making people laugh, how he was so generous and if he only had the shirt on his back but someone else needed it he would give it and how he worked as hard as he could before he became ill. They showed me his swollen red ankles and how bone skinny he had become. I knelt beside Eli and asked if I could pray. Mind you at this point in my life I was not very comfortable praying aloud with others. With eyes closed I laid my right hand on his bony left shoulder and began to thank God for Eli's life and his friends. I asked that God would send the right people to help Eli and that He would be Eli's comfort. While I was praying I began hearing my name called. I was especially tuned in to my mother's frantic screams for me. I finished the prayer quickly wished them well, told them I would bring lunch when it came and headed towards the calls for me. I remember immediately thinking something must have happened to my Dad and they were looking for me. However, when I reached the three ladies calling after me I realized they were fearful of my where abouts. What was I thinking they asked because they knew what I did not, that homeless men lived back in the woods. I began to tell them about Eli and that I was fine. And I learned that God had already begun answering my prayer. Of the three ladies looking for me were Charlene, director of hospice, my mother, caregiver extraordinaire, and Bev, pastor's wife of Homeport. I asked if they could help him and they began working on it. I enjoyed the rest of the day with mom and dad while Eli was making his way into my heart and Bev and Charlene were trying to help him.
The next day, Dad called and gave me an update on Eli as I was returning home and in the airport. Bev had a fire department go to Eli and transport him to Charlene's hospice where he was cleaned, fed and resting comfortably. That Tuesday Eli passed away. Charlene had learned that Eli was a Veteran and they were able to give him a military burial.
So what if I had not been willing to go, close my eyes and pray? What if Charlene and Bev just let it go and chose to focus on the days events instead of helping Eli? Would Eli have died in the tent without the burial he deserved?
When all was done and I could see how God cared for Eli and answered my prayer. While I was with those men, in the woods, in a homeless camp I had complete peace, no fear at all because the Holy Spirit was in me and working on Eli's behalf. My heart was so moved that I have looked at many aspects of my life very differently since I met Eli.
I look at all people without judgment but love and compassion. I do my best to keep the two greatest commands: Love your God with all your heart, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. Unless we are willing to go when God calls we may miss a great gift He has planned for us. Don't be afraid to go into the woods for Christ who died a horrible death that we may live and love one another the way he loves us.
HOWEVER, I have failed! A couple weeks ago as I was coming out of Wally World and an elderly gentleman was standing at the light with a pink sign that read "Hungry, old and ugly but God loves me anyway". I called him over and gave him a 5 dollar bill that was at the top of my purse, told him I loved his sign and we had a quick laugh. The next day my kids and I were driving to the lake and as we got off the interstate there was a man standing with a sign and at the bottom and said "God Bless". My son asked if that was a HOBO. As we got closer I called him over, gave him the 5 dollars bill sitting at the top of my purse and wished God's blessings on him as well. As we drove off I explained to Will that he is a man in need of help and as Christians it is our job to do what we can to help. Will replied with a yea and said and he is probably a Christian too. Ok, so how did I fail? Tucked further down in my purse and in my wallet was also a 20 and a 50 dollar bill (which we used later to go out to dinner). I questioned myself, Why did I not give those bigger bills. Was it because my husband would not agree, because I did not trust that it would not be spent on alcohol and cigarettes or because I had plans for that money? The crazier thing is that I normally do not have any cash and in both situations I had a choice of what to give. I wonder, what would Christ have done and why did I not do it?
"but just as you excel in everything in faith, in speech and knowledge in complete earnestness and in your love(for us) see that you also excel in the grace of giving"
There are so many opportunities in our days to truly be the hands and feet of Christ. Unfortunately we so often fall short because we do not give until it hurts or we do not even notice the chance to share his love. I am challenging myself to do better and I hope you join me in this challenge! When we cannot give financially we can give the gift of a prayer, a smile or a kind word of encouragement. And of course, we can always give of our time. If you have story to share please send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
God Bless us ALL!