a homeless couple

On Christmas day, a homeless couple came into church who have been coming to our meals for over a year now. They had never been to a church service before. I had taken time over the previous weeks to go out of my way to invite them, assuring them that they would be welcome and would like our service. So on this particular day they got up early, packed up their campsite and hiked over to church. They loved the service.
I spoke with the man afterward who is a friend of mine. We’ve had many a great conversation over the last several months. He was obviously deeply touched by something which happened in the service. I asked him why he didn’t come more often, because he was always welcome here.
His eyes misted over as he started to reply. His lower jaw trembled and with the first syllable he spoke, his voice cracked. He had to stop to gather himself as he held back tears. He tried and failed at a couple more attempts to speak. After a moment with deep sadness in his eyes he choked out, “I can’t. I cry too much in church.” With that he turned and walked away to avoid totally breaking down.
Every three months or so, he comes in beaten and battered with a black and blue face. He tends to be a mean drunk and he gets drunk a lot. He’s tried to sober up many times in the last year. Once, when he was tapering off his drinking to just one beer a day, he would excitedly report to me a couple of times a week about his progress. He got the shakes so bad during that time he couldn''t put on a pair of socks. He would come early to set up tables and stay after to help clean up the place. He needed to stay busy.
“I cry too much in church.” Those words spoke so much about lost hopes and lost dreams. Whoever aspires to being homeless man when they grow up? When he sits in church he remembers what life was supposed to be. He thinks of all the choices, the pains, and wounds of the accumulated years. He thinks of all of the should-have-beens and the could-have-beens, all of the if onlys; all the lost chances, broken relationships and the evil he has done and which has been done to him.
Does God still love me? Is his power big enough to reach even the depths of my life? How did I end up like this? Is there ever going to be a way out? Does anyone sitting around me think I’m worth rescuing? -“I cry too much in church.”
He is around 50 years old now. He thinks it’s too late for him and that he will die alone in the street someday. He feels like he is on a runaway train and the tracks are washed out ahead. It’s just a matter of when — not how. He believes that there is no other true destiny for him. He’s tried and failed too many times to hope anymore.
“I cry too much in church.” Those are the words of a heart that is still alive. Those are words coming from the depths of a soul that can still see clearly and can assess the situation with truth. Those words indicate that when he comes into the presence of the Holy Spirit and can no longer drown out the voice of God with booze and brawling that something tender in him awakens. These words are from someone that still remembers the hopes and dreams and desires that a shipwrecked life still hold — way down deep. Words that say the child of God in that broken, battered and abused life is still in there; Locked and trapped in a prison of despair.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed” Jesus said in Luke 4:18. How? What’s the plan? How does this man experience that Jesus?
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Romans 10:15
Preaching! That’s something a professional does from a platform in front of a gathered crowd—right? Not in this neighborhood. Oh, that happens too, but something deeper is needed to reach a black and blue heart that cries too much in church.
A group of volunteers came down to serve at one of our meals and we spoke about reaching the deeply oppressed.
“These guys aren’t going to jump because some hot shot speaker rallies them from a nice speech,” I said. “Their only hope to find the real Jesus is if a Christian picks a few of them to befriend, and walks with them for many months through the conflicts of life. Someone has to take time to hear their stories, follow up with them weekly, advise, counsel, and train them in the ways of God. One gifted speaker here won’t make much of an impact. But 20 Christians willing to be real friends could.”
I often wonder where we can find those 20 Christians. It’s still true — The harvest is ripe but the laborers are few. — Pray