I arrived that morning to a homeless family, dad, mom and five kids camping in our church parking lot as if they were at a state park. Huddled together in a SUV which no doubt was as feeble as their chances of survival on the streets. In fact, I might not have noticed, had it not been for the children who poured out of the vehicle like kids at recess. Today they are housed, employed and an intricate part of an inner city church. However, that is not the story. No the story is much deeper and involves a homeless wife and mother discovering the richness of a biblical narrative, an invasion of a Holy God into a fallen world. Even as I write, my mind races back to that Saturday morning when Dr. Stan May and Iva told the story.
I looked at this small congregation of leaders as they listened to my dearest friends share the heartbeat of who they are, people who have devoted their lives to The Story. But I also watched a personal awakening of a woman of The Hood. She would buy a Chronological One Year Bible, then another, then another, then another. (She makes $75 a week). I remember one particular Wednesday night immediately after our mid-week Bible Study, her shoving a ten-dollar bill in my hand. “There’s a teenage girl who needs a Bible.” I recall another time, seeing her downcast, depressed, looking so heavy that I couldn’t help but ask one day in the office, “Belle, are you ok?” She responded, “It’s this story”, she held her Bible in hand, “Brother Jeff, it’s painful, it’s been weeks and weeks of reading these prophets, it’s depressing. When will it get better?” I thought the passions of the prophets have invaded her. The love of God has so gripped this once homeless woman that this temple of His Holy Spirit is grieving? I have never in my nearly forty years of ministry seen such real and raw empathy. Her countenance reflecting where she was in the story of God’s redemption and her face a mirror of His message. She admitted later on Facebook that it took her two years to read through the Chronological Bible but in the end discovered the love of God in a way that went to her soul and has since changed her life.
Today, she teaches inner city kids, leads Celebrate Recovery, serves in our summer camps and yes, ministers almost daily to the broken lives still on the streets. Every once in while, I’ll smile as she pulls yet another one off to the side and tells them of The One True God who rips open heavens and rescues the broken and forgotten.