When I first met Frank I didn’t know anything about him other than he was poor and homeless. I didn’t know his story. I didn’t know how he got into this mess. Did he drink himself homeless? Did he waste his money? Was he just lazy or refuses to work? Did something traumatic happen to him that caused him to spiral out of control?
But it didn’t matter. We were Jesus’ folks and we had to help him. So we did.
As we began walking with Frank we heard his story of how he got into this mess called homelessness. It is a story of many unexpected twists and turns. He was a field engineer at a fortune 500 company and was doing well in his job, until his mother grew ill. With no one there to care for her, he was forced to quit his job and tend to her.
Three years later his mother passed away. As he stepped back into the work force, he had difficulty finding a job. After several hit-and-miss opportunities, he decided to use his navy veteran benefits and go back to college. Then the unimaginable: a car accident. Now injured, jobless, and penniless, Frank was homeless.
But none of that really matters.
Don’t get me wrong, his story matters because he matters, but it has no bearing on whether we should help him–walk with him. We had to, because if God has proven anything in the Incarnation it’s that no one should be abandoned, even if it’s of their own making.
Frank entered into what we call our 3E Restoration Process and as time unfolded, so did more of his story. And so did God’s in-breaking kingdom.
First, Frank stepped into a community of new friends that helped him step off the street and into a place to live. Immediately many in our church wrapped their arms around him and accepted him for who he was, just as he was. Some of us met with him weekly to talk intentionally about life, past, present, and future, while some met with him just to hang out. Then it happened. Frank stepped into a relationship with Jesus.
Now Frank lives in a house with two other guys. He has a good job and is finishing his four year degree. He has new clothes, polo cologne, a different perspective, a certain hope and abiding peace. Frank has a new life.
Each week as our church gathers, Frank serves us the bread and wine as we participate in the Eucharist. Every time I see him serve I see a man who went from homeless to housed, hopeless to hopeful, abandoned to adored, lost to found; I see the gospel. Every I time I see him serve the bread and wine I see God’s story unfolding before my very eyes as His see His kingdom made tangible.
Frank’s story is one of many I could share, and each story comes down to one simple question: will Jesus’ folk make decisions about helping others like Frank based upon what we DON’T know or DO know?
What we don’t know:
Why they are in this situation.
If they will constantly call if we give out our phone numbers.
How much they will interrupt our way of life.
What they will do with the resources we give or the life-skills we teach.
Whether or not we are enabling patterns of unhealthy behavior.
What they might do to us if we ever find ourselves alone in their presence.
What we do know:
They are made in God’s image.
He knows them best and loves them most.
To be kind to them is to be kind to God. ¹
To insult them is to insult God. ²
To help them is to help Jesus. ³
To walk with them in meaningful relationship is to be most like God in Jesus Christ.
And here is what I know that I know: on my best day I am still a recovering sinner and broken man learning how to live fully into the life God has given me in King Jesus. Once hopeless, now I am hopeful; once abandoned, now I am adored; once lost, now I am found. I am no different than Frank. Chances are, neither are you.
Lord have mercy on us if we ever forget it.
1. Proverbs 19:7
2. Proverbs 17:5
3. Matthew 25:31-46
Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.
Thank you for reading bro. And thank you for sharing it on Facebook. It means a lot.
I am reminded, there but for the grace of God, go I.
Oh yes! Thanks for reading and commenting!
I am in awe of your kingdom work. I thank my Lord for Williamsburg Christian Church, filled with joy that my darling Garrett is part of that . thank you for the story of Frank, it filled my heart with thanksgiving and joy.
Wow. I love this.
So very encouraging, Fred! I started working with people with mental illnesses recently, and have realized how invisible they can be to old friends, family, the community. Without support many end up, like Frank, on the street. We’ve learned that with support, they can recover. That’s kingdom work. I think these folks are often the lepers of our day, the untouchables. I was diagnosed with a psychiatric disability about 18 mos ago and have felt the sting of stigma, the looks, and everything that goes with it. Can’t imagine what Frank lived with as a homeless person. Love heals all wounds. God is glorified by the work that you guys have done with Frank and pray it is multiplied a 1000 time over! Miss you, bro. Ben Overby
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Fred, Thank you for this article. I am a member at Springfield CoC and am looking forward to talking with you this next weekend. You see, I came from Milan Christian Church in Milan, IL and it was a dying church in 2005, but in the last few years it is growing and growing. My husband, Dr. Don Merritt, PhD Theology just joined me here in Virginia from IL and he is biting at the bit to help Springfield and Josh. We both look forward to meeting you. Your congregation is growing and relevant. You are making disciples and I am encouraged. Looking forward to your message.
Don’s blog is: http://lifereference.wordpress.com/ if your interested.
Cathy, thank you for your kindness and encouragement! I am looking forward to spending some quality with you and the Springfield family this coming weekend. I imagine Josh is very grateful to have you guys walking along side of him and the faith community as you live on mission with God. I look forward to meeting you and Don and will follow his blog! See you soon!