Meet my unexpected friends:
I was in Washington, DC with a young friend, heading for the Air and Space Museum, but construction was concealing the entrance. So I approached an older man sitting on a concrete wall.
“Do you know where the entrance is?” He told us where to go.
As we were turning to go, I realized he was probably homeless. So I began a conversation with him as I usually do when I meet someone homeless.
“My name is Judy. What’s yours?”
“Theophilus!” I exclaimed. “You’re in the Bible.”
“I know,” he said.
And that led to a great conversation about the Bible, God, Jesus. I prayed for him. Then as we were about to leave, I stopped again.
“Are you hungry.”
I gave him enough for a good lunch.
As my friend and I continued, she asked, “Why did you do that?”
I told her about an assignment God had given me. He reminded me that most homeless people feel invisible. I felt God said, “When you encounter homeless people, don’t turn away and add to their invisibility. Instead, approach them, tell them your name, ask theirs, use it often as you engage them in conversation. Ask how they ended up in this situation. Ask for their story. When possible, pray with them. And give them a generous gift.”
That has become a way of life for me. And my young friend? On the next corner and the next, almost every corner in DC, there was someone playing a guitar, or drawing pictures, or just sitting with a “homeless” sign. This girl pulled out the money her family gave her and dropped a dollar in every cup or hat or box the rest of our trip. I guess generosity is contagious.
It has been a journey of love and revelation for me. And now when we are together, she helps me watch for the homeless.
I saw a young woman who was almost literally invisible, hiding behind a large sign holding her tiny cardboard sign. I parked across from where she was standing and asked her to come join me. Carrie and I talked for quite awhile and I learned how her mother had left with a boyfriend, and Carrie couldn’t pay the rent. She had been on the street for three months.
Yes, it was scary, she told me, but her dog made her feel safer. She had set up a tent behind Walmart. She thought she had found a job with a food truck, but it didn’t work out. She showed me her little Bible in a plastic bag, which she reads every day. I prayed with her, gave her a $20 bill, and left with a promise to keep praying for her.
He must have been 17 years old. He cautiously approached me in the shopping center parking lot and asked, “Could you give me some bus money to get over to the Salvation Army shelter?”
His name was David. His parents split up, moved away, and he was left alone. He had worked a few jobs, but not having an address or transportation made it almost impossible to get permanent work.
“Could I pray for you?” I asked.
Oh yes—he was grateful. I gave him enough to get dinner and a bus ticket, and to pay the fee at the shelter.
As he walked away, I got in my car and wept and prayed.
I was riding in a car with a friend on a busy street when I saw a man on crutches holding a sign. He looked pretty ragged. Suddenly he fell to the sidewalk. No one stopped to help him up—he just lay there. Knowing it could be an act, I asked my friend to turn in. We got out of the car and walked over to help him up. He seemed truly needy.
Then I saw his sign: “Help me. I have brain cancer.”
A long conversation ensued: Where are you from? Do you have brain cancer? Could you get help from the county? He clearly had some brain damage. I gave him some money and asked if I could pray.
I began, “Father” and he shouted, “You know the Father?”
“Do you know the Son too?”
Again, “I do”
He grabbed my hand and asked that I ask the Father and the Son to help him.
Again, I left in tears.
I am always on the lookout for my new friends. That’s how I met Juan. He was standing beside his car in a busy shopping center parking lot, holding the usual cardboard sign: “Homeless. Please help.”
Juan had a warm jacket and a decent-looking car. He didn’t look homeless, so I asked him about it. He pointed out his wife and five children in the car. He had lost his job several months earlier, and last month they had lost their rental home. So the family was now living in the car. At least they had shelter. I prayed with him and gave him some money.
So, you are probably thinking, “You just got scammed.” Maybe. People say that to me often. And I’m sure I have been occasionally. But I feel God asked me to do this. The outcome is his. And I almost always sense that the person I am talking with is telling me a genuine story.
At any rate, I am grateful to be a little part of their story, to add a little hope to their lives. It brings me joy.