Friday, August 25, 2006

When God Uses a 2x4

You know all that missional/attractional stuff I've been talking about for a while? Every now and then, God can really use a situation to explode some notions, while reinforcing at the same time.

Sunday night was Celebration Sunday at Otter Creek. We had the band playing and, while I wasn't running the sound that night (that was the very, very talented Scott Hernbeck), I was running MediaShout, so I was there early, running through the songs and making sure I and the singers were on the same page. I ran down to the gym to get my necessary Diet Coke. As I was heading back to the tech booth, I saw a man walking in. He did not look like a person who usually comes into Otter Creek, which I could say more about but I won't. Today.

He was wearing a pretty ratty t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops. As he walked up to me, he also had some pretty distinctive body odor. He asked me if there was an elder or a deacon that he could talk too, and pretty much knowing what was coming next, I said no, but wondered if there was some way I could help him.

He gave me his name (we'll call him Jimmy) and then told me his story about how he was a homosexual who was down on his luck. He'd drank gasoline which had eaten away at his stomach lining and was supposed to have had back surgery, but couldn't get it. His ankles were swollen and he was just trying to get enough gas to get back to his home in southeast Nashville.

Now, I've dealt with enough people to know a scam job when I hear it and this sounded like one. It was almost like a business man telling the story of what his company does on an elevator ride (the elevator talk, if you will). Jimmy's words almost felt rhythmic, like he'd said it enough that he had it down. However, what I've also decided is that despite what I think about someone, if I have a couple of dollars to give, I'm going to give it to them. Could he have been lying to me? Sure, but if I give someone a little money, what they do with that money is between them and God, not me. Now, if he were asking for a couple of hundred or a thousand, sure, I'd follow up on his story some.

In this case, I literally had no cash on me. Well, I had 40 cents left over from the dollar I used to get the Diet Coke. I did see someone in the lobby that I know has been struggling with many of the same things that I have about how to treat the poor and needy, so I called him over and Jimmy went through his story again, almost the exact same wording as when he told it to me. My friend had some money on him, so he gave Jimmy a few dollars. Jimmy thanked him profusely. He said that he had seen the church here and cars in the parking lot and he knew he could get help here.

He was about to walk away when I mentioned the Celebration service and that he was welcome to stay and worship with us. I would introduce him to Doug Sanders who might be able to help him some with his situation. Jimmy started to talk about how he smelled and wouldn't feel right about it. I pointed out that Jesus was homeless and that he probably didn't smell that great and in fact, he washed his disciples' feet which were in sandals and they certainly didn't smell like roses. I told him it didn't matter what he smelled like; he was welcome there.

He then started talking about how he didn't have electricity in his home and that he really wanted to get back before it was dark, so I asked him for his address. He gave it (or one) to me and I gave him Doug's contact information and the church's phone number. I asked him for his and he said he didn't have a phone at his house. He was about to leave again, and I asked if I could pray with him. He agreed so I did and at the end, gave him a hug, and he left. Maybe to go to the Methodist church down the road and pull the same thing. Maybe to go home to his darkening house.

The people of the church, the Body of Christ, must get outside of our walls and take the Kingdom out of there to a hurting and dying world. But sometimes, God brings opportunities walking into our church buildings. Pray for Jimmy if you would today and pray that the church will grow in grace and mercy to even those who would take advantage of it, for the sake of those who desperately need it.


Adam said...

Thanks Phil. I needed to read that.

Tony Arnold said...

Phil, if it happens again and the smell issue comes up, you can point him to the shower and we can let him pick out some cloths fromt he Room In The In closet (wherever that is now).

I thought of this reading your post, but I will admit I don't think I would have thought of it on the spot. I am afraid I wouldn't have begun to even do the things that you did do which were awesome.

You put your heart where your mouth (or fingers) have been lately. Interesting coincidence, you just executed items 1-3 on my current post.

God Bless you Phil.


Justin said...

Do you think there were scam beggars in Jesus's time? There aren't any mentions of them in the Gospels. I often wonder what Jesus would have said to them, since he would know their motivations.

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