Recently, a group of us were serving in a homeless center in San Diego. This center has impressive programs that help empower people on their journey to self-sustained independence. I walked up to a man who was sitting down, and not clamoring for the food we were passing out. “Would you like one of these food bags?” He said, “Sure.” I could have kept walking around, but decided to engage in conversation. As we did, I discovered a very smart, nice man behind his exhausted appearance.
His name was “T”. We began to talk. He was ready to tell me some of his story. He and his wife were homeless, drifted down to San Diego from northern California and were trying to figure out what their next move should be. They had a little money (from Social Security checks) and two bicycles. That morning he had fended off a knife-wielding man who was trying to steal his bike.
Over the course of the next 30 minutes T told me that he had made some “poor choices”, including substance abuse, but has been sober for four years. He had recently quit a rehab-life training course and regretted it. He thought that maybe he should return and re-engage.
I asked him what gave him hope in his journey. T readily replied, “God.” I asked him to tell me about that – why, what part had God played in his life, etc. We had a great talk. It was clear that T had, at one time in his life, put his trust in Christ.
After a while longer, I mentioned that he looked familiar, and wondered if he had ever played professional football. T is a big, athletic looking man. He said, “No. But I did play college football.” After asking where, T said that he played “at the University of Oklahoma.” With some enthusiasm and a slight punch from me on his shoulder I said, “T, I went to OU! Boomer Sooner!” Well … that changed things. We went on to talk about OU, the Sooners recent play in college basketball, and why he left Oklahoma – the land of his birth. We had a really strong connection.
Before departing, we prayed together. Since then we’ve emailed, messaged each other on FaceBook and talked on the phone. Here’s what he wrote three days after he returned to northern California: “I wanted to let you know that I start my new job tomorrow working for a moving company. Can't remember if I told you that I was staying with a friend of mine…, but one of the roommates is moving out, so we're gonna rent the room. God's so good when you follow directions 😊. Can't tell you how much we appreciate your prayers, friendship and spiritual guidance. In a world that I came real close to giving up on, God showed up in the form of His people. You. Thank you.”
Pray for T as he continues to make great choices and get back on his feet. Also, pray for the Body of Christ – all of us – to live intentionally and take the time to simply ask questions like, “What gives you hope?” You never know where it might lead.