Thursday, January 10, 2008

NCYM: Part Two

January 5, 2008

In the background of jaw-dropping worship, I lose myself. This is one of the reasons I LOVE coming to NCYM every year!

Today was an interesting day. This evening, we decided to have an adventure, so we rode on the MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rail Transit Authority.)

Atlanta is just a different place than what we are used to. Omaha is VERY tame compared to what we saw…

Graffiti was plastered over so many buildings. But there was some graffiti that was beautiful; you could tell that it had once been an unkind message, but someone took the time to paint over it and make it look nice.

We passed a scraggly looking older man when we got off the train. He asked us for money. We all walked as fast as we could in the other direction.

As we hustled away, I told the other youth ministers I was with, “You know what? We should have at least stopped to talk to that guy. You never know…he could have been an angel that we were supposed to help!”

Adam said, “Alright, if another opportunity comes up, we stop.”

Not 20 minutes later, we arrived to eat at The Varsity, one of Atlanta’s best known restaurants (the slaw dogs are AWESOME, by the way!) The other guys went inside, while I waited near the exit for Tracy, who was in the restroom.

I noticed a man outside, dressed in several layers to stay warm. His bag had all sorts of flags and cloth hanging from it. He wore a beard and gloves to keep his exposed flesh warm.

He sauntered over, but looked afraid of someone inside the restaurant, possibly the owner. Instead of entering, he stopped at a trash can just outside the front door and started picking through the refuse, looking for some leftover scraps.

My eyes burned with tears and anger flooded inside of me that this sort of thing could happen. My first instinct was to bring him inside and buy him a meal, but I didn’t want to create a scene, or get the owner angry with me.

By this time, Tracy was done and we joined the others at the counter. I said, “We need to buy this guy some food. He’s hungry!”

But I went back to check on him a few minutes later, and he was long gone…probably chased off. All I could do was pray for him.

After our meal, we were walking back toward the train when another man stepped out in front of us and asked for money. God was giving us another chance!

“What’s your name?” I asked while others were digging out some money.

“My name is Rick, man. Please help me.”

“Sure thing, Rick. What do you need?”

“I just need some food right now.”

We stuffed the money into his hands, and I put my hand on his shoulder.

“Can we pray for you, Rick? What do you need us to pray about?”

His eyes lowered to the money in his hand as he answered, “Well, right now I need to pray that I get off the streets. Also, you can pray for my leg. A car hit me a while back and it’s all banged up.”

He rolled up his pants to show us his scars. His right leg was swollen bigger than his left.

We prayed with him. He never said, “Thank you.” But that’s OK. He smelled like alcohol. But that’s OK.

We hope he didn’t use the money for anything other than food, but I’m sure God will watch over all that.

I just pray that Rick saw and felt a little bit of God’s love today.

And I pray that those occurrences will be normal for me instead of “every once in a while.” I think our churches would have more God stories to tell if this was the norm instead of the anomaly.


Theresa said...

It's very uncomfortable, but that's what we're called to do. Some colleagues and I were in Chicago coming from eating at Giordano's (best pizza in the world!!!) and had a whole pizza's worth of leftovers in a box we were taking back to the hotel. As we were walking by, we saw a homeless person with a cup for donations. It was night and we weren't in the best part of town, so we were walking pretty fast. Someone suggested we give the pizza to him - I thought, what a great idea! Another of our group said he probably wouldn't take it and just wanted our money, and might mug us. Two guys from our group brought him the pizza and he stood up on legs that were obviously maimed to thank them gratefully. It's true some homeless people are crooked and less than ethical, but you know what? We're called to reach out to those who need Jesus the most, and I can't think of anyone more in need. Besides, I'd rather be loving and taken advantage of than harden my heart. Thanks so much for sharing!

One Observationist said...

Great stories about your experiences Theresa and Franklin. Glad both of you were able to reach out to someone less fortunate. Your stories are great reminders for what we need to be doing. Thanks for sharing.