Thursday, May 27, 2010

Understanding the poor

There is much wisdom in those that have gone before us.
Who are the poorest of the poor? Following are words from Mother Theresa - one who became poor, like Christ, and lived most of her life serving Him in the poorest of the poor.

Today, the poor are hungry for bread and rice, and also for love and the living word of God. The poor are thirsty for water but also for peace, truth, and justice. The poor are homeless, in need of a shelter made of bricks, and also for a joyful heart that understands, covers, and loves. The poor are naked, in need of clothes and also for human dignity and compassion for the naked sinner. They are sick in need of medical care and also for that gentle touch and a warm smile.

The "shut-in," the unwanted, the unloved, the alcoholics, the dying destitute, the abandoned and the lonely, the outcast and the untouchables, the leprosy sufferers, all those who are a burden to human society, who have lost all hope and faith in life, who have forgotten how to smile, who have lost the sensibility of the warm hand touch of love and friendship, they look to us for comfort. If we turn our back on them, we turn it on Christ, and at the hour of our death we shall be judged if we have recognized Christ in them, and on what we have done for and to them, there will only be two ways, "come" or "go."

Last winter we met a scruffy-looking man in the park one Saturday. He was standing off to by the sidewalk alone. I noticed him, said hello and asked if he would like a sandwich. He replied, "I've been watching you here for a few weeks now. Why are you taking your time to stand out in the cold to hand out food to people you don't even know?? I looked into his eyes - so full of searching and brokenness - and said, "The truth is that the Holy Spirit led me down here. I'm not one to like freezing cold temperatures, but this doesn't bother me. I'm here to offer my brothers and sisters a hand." This man (I'll call him Frank) was living in his van. He shared how hopeless he felt, how if the next ten years of his life were going to be like the last ten then what's the use in living? We listened, not really knowing what to say, but offering encouragement as best we could. After awhile, he left and we didn't see him again for a few months.

Recently, I began seeing him around more and more. He had been in and out of jail, lost his van, lost his way.
A little over a month ago, he shared with a friend that he "just didn't know if he could go on."
Well, our awesome God is amazing in how He takes care of our needs when we step out in faith, like 'Frank' did by sharing his feelings with my friend. God is always setting up divine appointments through his followers...

One of His followers (Dave) decided he was going to get involved with an early morning Bible study on S. Division. Through this Bible study, our Lord put 'Frank' in touch with a godly man and a wonderful ministry called Next Step. From there 'Frank was able to get out of the homeless shelter. Dave then hired him to work at his construction company. Now he also has a more permanent place to live.
A couple weeks ago when I saw him again at the park, I didn't yet know all this news about the Bible study, job and living arrangements. What I did know was that there was "something different" about 'Frank.' He seemed more upbeat.

Here comes the best part - Last Saturday he came up to my van to help me unload the food and tables. He had a big smile on his face and shared that he was getting baptized the next day!

"Praise God," I shouted. "You're getting baptized on Pentecost. How awesome!"

The "something different" about 'Frank' was his new life in Christ. No human comfort or worldly good can provide this. He was lost but had been found.

'Frank' was one of those who Mother Theresa talked about - one "who was a burden to human society, who had lost all hope and faith in life, who had forgotten how to smile, who had lost the sensibility of the warm hand touch of love and friendship." He looked to us for comfort.

I pray that all of us as God's children can have our eyes and ears open to see and hear Christ in the distressing disguise of the poor. He is reaching out His hand to us each and every day. Will we grab hold and ask for the faith to follow him?

In Jesus and Mary,