Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Taking in a girl from the streets

With several deadlines, hurricane Ike, an upcoming Spiritual gifts seminar this Saturday, and a crisis with one of our friends, I knew that I would need to work through my day off this week.

So I was at Starbucks today, working on various things, when a woman who was sitting nearby hesitantly approached me. She asked me what I was reading. Again, I was looking through the Using Your Spiritual gifts material. She asked what it was, and I replied that it is a study that seeks to help people discover how God has made them, and how they can use their gifts to serve God and others.

This woman clearly was "down on her luck." She had been crying. She needed rest and a warm shower. As I began to gently ask questions, she told me her story.

She had come down to see her grandmother, having taken a bus to see her. McKinney was an intermediate stop on her way back to Ohio. But someone had stolen her bus ticket. Her husband's phone was disconnected. And she had no money.

For the past few days she had slept in the place where they put shopping carts oustide at Kroger's. During the day, she hung out at Starbucks, and the workers had showed kindness to her, offering her free drinks and letting her stay there all day.

I asked her, If you could ask God one question, what would it be? She said, What is my purpose? Why am I here? She had been abused by two men--the second had left her with a noticable limp. She had made mistakes in her past, but had managed to finish high school. But church people had treated her cruelly. She had dabbled in witchcraft, but then put that behind for Christ. Still, she had tried to commit suicide.

I asked her if she had eaten, and she said she had not. So I offered to take her to go eat, and she readily agreed. Alyssa, one of the Starbucks workers, agreed to watch her bags while we went to go eat.

I called Becki to join us for this meal, and had Christy, one of our secretaries, call about a bus ticket to Akron, Ohio. No bus left today, but one would leave the next morning. I had Christy order the ticket online. Then we told Vanessa that we had bought her a ticket, and told her that we would put her up in our home tonight. She started to cry, and was very thankful.

Vanessa came home with us. After cleaning up, she played with the kids, who enjoyed playing with her. She showed me some of her pcitures on facebook, including the one I've posted here. It is a reminder that those who are homeless, even temporarily, either have or at one time were a part of, a family.

Vanessa said that this was the compassion that she had not received from church people. They had been harsh and judgmental, telling her she was going to hell.

I do not know what will happen with Vanessa when she gets back home. I do not know if she will have a husband there or not. But I hope that somehow this encounter may help restore her faith in God and his purpose for her life.

I never thought that I would be encountering someone like Vanessa at Starbucks. It seems, for whatever reason, God is sending people into our lives that really need help.

Have you ever had an encounter like this? Have you ever felt that God has put someone in your path to help?


Birgit said...

James I always enjoy your blog. This shows just want a kind person you are. Thank you for that. We all can take a lesson from this
God Bless

jeremy said...

Most of the time, I can't go into Best Buy or some other computer store without someone asking me what a good video card is, or what's the best keyboard to get. I don't work there, and I don't wear a t-shirt that says "ask me all your tech questions!" It's almost like people just know. Even more, when we are out in public, studying with spiritual materials, or even just reading, the opportunity is there for people to converse in a very low-key environment.

It's awesome that God puts us in situations where He can use us to minister to others.

"Give us a heart for the hopeless, the weary and wounded, For all who are hungry, helpless and poor. Let us see the sorrow, the pain, and the heartache that all the abandoned endure.

May we reach out to the broken, the beaten, the battered. To all who have fallen, disgraced and ashamed, May we be a comfort, loving forgiving and offering grace in Your Name.

To the last, to the lost, to the least of these, Let us be Jesus today."

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a great story.

What you did will go a long way to restore her view of the church. And, by church, I don't mean a building. Too ofter followers of Jesus wait for people like this to walk through our church doors instead of actually being the church and taking it to them.

You have set a wonderful example and I thank you.

Anonymous said...

James thanks for leading by example. God has placed many people in our lives in places all over this country. My wife and I are amazed by how often this occurs.