He turned 60 years old a week ago. His name is Gary. I met him Saturday night as Blake and I were walking the streets of downtown Chattanooga, just after our time of worship at Saturday Church. I gave him a card with our address on it, but he couldn’t see it clear enough to read it. Still he made his way back to the shop, and I met him there and spent nearly an hour, simply listening to his stories, hearing the not so glamorous life of a homeless man.
Rusty had a gallon jug sitting beside him, I asked him if he was thirsty, he told me no, he was carrying a gallon of “milk” with him, to keep him from getting thirsty. I asked him if he lived on the streets, he answered “yes.” We invited him back to the shop, he accepted. When we got back to the shop, he was so excited when he realized that our coffee shop was the backside of a pool hall that his dad operated years ago. He said coming back to our shop was “like coming back home.”
Today my wife and I visited the City of Refuge in Atlanta. A place where literally hundreds of lives are being changed daily. Here they house over 300 homeless women and children, offer a school and a daycare center for kids of moms who are staying at the City of Hope, a medical clinic. I looked into the eyes of a little girl who smiled and laughed with such hope in her eyes. She has a chance in life now because she’s living in a City of Refuge.
In my desperate attempt to find words to describe how I feel after these life impacting experiences, the only word that comes to mind is “disturbed.”
Disturbed – by the fact that there are people like Gary and Rusty sleeping on the streets of my city tonight, some by choice, some because of unfortunate circumstances, but on the streets none the less.
Disturbed – that there are women in my city tonight that are selling themselves so they can at best feed their children, or at worst feed their addictions.
Disturbed – that a little girl or a little boy is going to bed hungry tonight in my city, because there’s no food in their house, much less a parent present to provide them the food they need.
Disturbed – that I’ve spent more time talking about ‘being” the church, than actually “being” the church.
Disturbed – that I’ve wasted so much of my time looking for the next feel good church service, where the worship is just right, the preaching is engaging and entertaining, and I leave feeling like I’ve overdosed on spiritual steroids.
Disturbed – that someone will read this and simply write me off as being “overboard” or excessively and unnecessarily concerned because after all “we can’t save everybody.”
I sat in front of a pastor today, who told one story after another of lives changed at the City of Refuge, and the ways they are sharing Jesus with people who need Him the most. Somewhere in our conversation, he barely mentioned “Oh yeah, we have a worship service here on Sundays,” but their Sunday gathering wasn’t the ultimate expression of their faith. Taking hope to the lost, last and the least – that’s what it meant for them to be the church.
I’m raw. I’m disturbed. I’m begging God tonight to not let me be undisturbed, until all have heard, until no one is hungry, no one is homeless. I’m asking He do the same for you.
My prayer: Fill Us Up and Send us Out! – Amen.