By: Vivian Wilson
I spent last week with a wonderful, amazing group of servants. I was privileged to be a part of the UM ARMY mission in Lufkin, Tx. My role on this trip was, along with seven very special brothers and sisters, to feed this camp of about one hundred and forty people. What a blessing to see their smiling faces every morning and evening as they made their way through the serving line.
Yet there was another face. I can’t get it out of my mind. The first time I saw his face was after breakfast on Monday morning. He came every morning for the rest of the week. His face did not smile, it was weathered and reflected a hard life. His eyes were downcast and lacked the brightness that hope produces. It was a face that modeled “the least of these”. He was quiet, reserved, unwilling to reveal too much of himself. This face has a name. But I am ashamed to say that I didn’t even ask him what his name was until Wednesday.
His name is Larry.
Larry has few possessions. He carries a small backpack, probably not much more than the clothes on his back, and a bicycle, which is probably his most prized possession. The bicycle was given to him by the Journey Class of First United Methodist Church. (Coincidentally, it was their classroom in which we slept for the week.)
Larry has a story. Everyone has a story. I don’t know his. I know that Larry has a large scar on his right calf. I know that he is from Indiana, has no family, and has been in Lufkin for “about seven years.” I know that he lives in the woods less than a mile from the church with others who have no home. And I know that Larry almost died last February.
Every Saturday morning with out fail, the Journey Class comes to the church kitchen to prepare meals for delivery to 250 seniors. These wonderful brothers and sisters have also become accustomed to preparing enough for Larry and about 20 of his fellow homeless friends. So when I asked a member of the Journey Class if a homeless man often came to the church, she asked, “Larry?” I said, “Yes, do you know his story?” She knew only that last February he was found just in time to save his life. He had been severely beaten and was in ICU for several days.
Larry never asked for money. He asked for food and only after we asked if there was anything else he needed, he asked for clothes. I’d say these are the bare necessities. Larry was grateful for what he received and voiced his thanks by adding, “God bless you,” with every meal. I also know that Larry shared the food we gave him with his friends.
So many times I have looked with disdain at people who beg on street corners, criticizing them for not getting a job. Larry said, “I got a job once. It fell through, though. No one will hire you when you don’t have a phone number or street address.”
I don’t know what Larry’s spiritual condition is, but I know mine. I am saved, adopted into God’s family by the blood of Jesus. My prized possession is the very presence of God in me. By grace, through faith, he gave himself to me.
Yet there are too many times when I live like a pauper, forgetting the hope I have, my eternal home in heaven. I look for joy and peace and happiness in all the wrong places, people and things.
I am no better or worse than Larry. Larry is a person, formed in the image of God, and loved by Him every bit as much as I am.
Larry’s face revealed a deep inner sadness, loneliness, a life that is hopeless, and his only purpose is to find the basic essentials for survival. It would seem that he lacks the SOURCE of life, but I can’t know this.
I think maybe there have been times in my life as I have walked with the Lord that someone can say, “It would seem that Vivian lacks the source of life.” It would be in times when I’m not content, unsatisfied, and looking for something to fill the place that only God can fill. It is in those times that I reject the all-sufficient grace, presence, and provision of God that I find myself lonely and wanting.
But hear the good news! This is when God lifts me up. His faithful loving presence rescues me and draws me close. He fills me with His Spirit, then joy and peace overflow. My face reveals the presence and the promise of hope that are mine in Christ.
I will pray for Larry. I pray that he would come to know the Savior Who will lift him up, no matter where he lives. And I will pray for myself, that God will remind me of Larry when I am ungrateful and discontent.
Matthew 25: 31-46
Psalm 40: 2
Psalm 113: 7, 8
A work in progress,