[This post is written by one of our recent guests]
Take a look at this picture I’ve posted. That is my boss and three of my friends (co-workers). We are smiling and being silly as Dr. Webb was driving us to downtown Atlanta this morning.
Now take a closer look at the girl in the middle. Did you see her hair …. freshly cut, colored and highlighted? What about her nails? Aren’t they pretty? Perfectly manicured from last Fridays appointment with Tina, her manicurist. This girl wants to tell you a story. Are you willing to take a moment to listen and hear what she has to say?
A few months ago, well… Christmas to be exact. Our boss, Dr. Webb gave us a rare Christmas gift. That gift was a bible study book with the promise to do it together over the course of 2014. Dr Webb was good on his word and marked off our schedule one day every month for the total of eight sessions. Now, how many people have a boss like that?! I felt so incredibly blessed to work in such a place.
The first month came and after looking over the study, it didn’t take me long to conclude that this study would take us down a path of community outreach.
I wasn’t surprised by this, because for years … Dr. Webb has shared with us his passion for the homeless. We’ve collected socks, sent food, books and even seen some of these men and women in our office, reaching out to them with a warm welcome, improving their smiles and … Hopefully, their quality of life.
So, again it was of NO surprise to me many months ago that Dr Webb marked off yet another day of our schedule with “Field Trip” typed in the description.
As time passed and the “Field Trip” approached. ….We all were curious. We had questions and even concerns as this “Field Trip” drew closer.
Where are you taking us Dr Webb? Will we Be safe? Will we have to do much walking? Will it cost us anything? What will they want from us?
After the “Field Trip” … will You take us by the Varsity?!?
The day of the “Field Trip” finally came and this morning …VERY early, I sat in a room of people. mostly men. As we enjoyed donated bagels, grits and coffee, Elliott (a homeless man) led the prayer time and devotion. I read along in Psalm 139.
“O Lord thou hast searched me and known me, thou doest know when I lie down and when I rise up, thou doest understand my thoughts from afar”.
Then one by one they went around the room…. Calling out, to our Heavenly Father….praying aloud… Asking, for forgiveness, for guidance, for healing, for political mercies. Thanking Our Heavenly Father for another day, surviving another night, for the blessing of another hot meal, for health … For safety… For freedom to worship….
I felt so honored and humbled to be there to witness it, and to share in this precious time with God.
After prayer time, a few more folks joined us and Sylvia (a wife and mother that gives of her time unselfishly to minister to the homeless) asked us to open our bibles and turn to JUDGES where we would Continue their study and talk about Samson and Delilah.
As we went through the verses and discussion….
Were there awkward silences as I’ve seen many times in bible study? No there was not. Insights were being bounced from one table to another. EVERYONE having SO much to share about what this passage meant to them, and ultimately what God was showing them. The men were so eager to share, Sylvia (the facilitator) had to say… You first, you second … then you third.
I felt so humbled.
After bible study, Sylvia took us to the streets. As we began to walk, The wind was blowing and I couldn’t help but think what an absolutely beautiful day it was!! Sylvia led us around the corner where we were not only passers by, but it was as if She were a celebrity. Sylvia is very well known in the community they have created there at COTS (Church on the Street) formerly called The Abby. Not because she is a celebrity, but because she has established a relationship with many of the people that are homeless, hungry and struggling in this neighborhood.
It was as though they trusted her and she didn’t seem afraid. One by one, she called out their names and greeted people with a hug, fist punched it out or gave them mints from Her pocket.
There were hundreds of people on the street. Maybe because it was a beautiful day or maybe because there was a food truck giving out plates of warm pasta?
We walked we trash, drug dealers, prostitutes, hustlers, children, even stepping over sick people lying In the gutters, sidewalks and bushes.
I was not humbled… I was embarrassed and afraid. Even still we walked ….. And Walked… Greeted people, talked with people and walked some more.
The wind was still blowing and the day…. Was Not so beautiful now.
We went back to the Abby (Church on the Street) where we separated and sat in a room FULL of people that were waiting with forks in hand for their lunch. As I entered the room, the heat of the day hit me in the face and I clung to Elizabeth… not wanting to sit alone. We were invited to sit at a table with five men.
Five men that We did not know.
I was a little overwhelmed, thoughts rushing through my head….unsure what to say to these men. How do I enter into a conversation? What would I have in common with them?
A plate of food was put in front of me.
There was no air conditioning, no breeze and By now…. I was very hot, feeling a little claustrophobic, sweating profusely and not very hungry.
There was a man sitting beside me… He shook my hand and introduced himself. I noticed his warm eyes as he began to tell me that he had returned to Church of the Street today to share what God had done in his life. He had once come there to eat because he had no where else to go, but now… Because of the opportunities Church on the Street provided to him, he was able to get back on his feet. He had come today to share his “GOOD NEWS”… And encourage those around us not to lose HOPE.
After a few minutes I found that I was conversing with him and the other gentlemen at my table… We talked about making homemade chicken and dumplins, adding green peppers to Ragu when making spaghetti, the tragic death of Robin Williams, How drugs and depression don’t discriminate, our loss in interest of ML baseball after that horrible strike over money in the nineties, moving here 24 years ago from Ohio and not missing that SNOW!
Soon, Our “Field Trip” concluded… And it was time for us to go. We said our goodbyes..and went our separate ways.
As I drove home this afternoon… I turned off my radio. I rode in silence all the way home.
As I was reflecting on the events of the day, I found myself thinking about Football season. I don’t know if I’ll ever watch a Falcons game again without visualizing the face of Charles. His ragged T-shirt (Obviously A tossed out 2007 Carnival Cruise souvenir) …… His eyes dancing as he asked me if I enjoyed watching The falcons. And “football ms Linda… Do you like football”… He wanted to know… Was I a Falcons fan? Because He LOVED football.
I remember now as I was leaving thanking him for allowing me to have lunch with him and his reply asking me to please come back. Funny…. Somehow I can’t help but feel we would have no problem having a conversation.
As I write this I can see still his toothless grin and Hear His gracious thank you as I slid my plate of food over to him.
There is SO much more I could share and I Thank you for taking the time to read this very long post.
I’ll ask two things of you…
1) If and when you watch the Falcons this year? Will you Think of Charles, a delightful Falcons fan. Will you Say a prayer that he is somewhere warm, safe, loved and able to enjoy the game?
2) Please do not look back at the picture I posted.
Because I should have never have ask you to look at that girl in the middle anyway.