[This is a guest post from Jon Braswell. He relayed this story to me and I thought you should all hear his testimony about Grandpa. Jon has worked with Church on the Street since our inception as a lay missionary and mission team leader. He has incredible insight into the human condition especially in relation to the poor/homeless and the church.]
When I first became involved with Church on the Street (CotS) I met a man named James who was known as Grandpa down around Woodruff Park. He was a very ragged looking man with a heart of gold. He knew he was in the advanced stages of HIV and would be leaving this world soon. So one day we talked about Jesus. He wanted to make sure he was right with God and asked me if God would take him as a broken down man with lesions all over his body after living a sin-filled life of drugs, alcohol addiction, etc. I told him God would not take him as a broken and sinful man, but would take him as one of his beloved. We then confirmed his relationship with Christ. He told me he had never heard anybody express the love of Jesus like we do at CotS, but he understands now.
He told me that he was not raised to be the way he was and that he did not want his mama, or Jesus, to see him as a ragged man. I told him the usual…that Jesus did not see him that way and that Jesus was preparing a place for him as we speak. He said he knew that, but he was concerned with more immediate things; he wanted to know if I could help him get a suit. He knew that when he died the state of Georgia would cremate him and send his ashes to his mama in South Georgia. Being a Southern Gentleman and, as he said, “a man of God now,” this was his last request. So I went to a thrift store and got him a black suit, white shirt, shoes, socks, new underwear and a bow tie. I brought him over to the Peachtree and Pine shelter where our offices were located and let him use the CotS shower, then I drove him back down to Woodruff Park where we took a couple of Polaroid’s of James in that suit. He put the pictures in a sandwich bag that said “Jame’s Stuff” and wrote his mama’s address on it. That was the last time I saw James alive. When I inquired to a homeless man with a horrible skin condition named Keith where Grandpa was Keith said that James had died. As I was walking away Keith ran over to me and said, “You know that suit you got James? He was wearing it when they took him away. He looked real good.” Yeah James did look good in that suit, but Jesus was not looking at the suit, He was looking at Jame’s Heart and it looked pretty good too.
Pastor Andy has challenged us to get some new eyes and look past the skin and into the heart. We need to look at the Heart of the Gentle Healer, Jesus Christ. Forgive me for the long story, Jesus just placed it on my heart. Peace, dear travellers…