“But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.””
–Matthew 8:20 (NLT)
After a short break, the meeting resumed, and Brenda took her place.
“I’d like to ask you to think about what God’s Word is putting on your hearts concerning homelessness, but I need everyone’s help to do that, so please listen quietly with me. Ellie is going to share her story. I didn’t plan to do this, but I feel that her story is something that God wants us to hear. I was really touched, because it lends itself to what He has put on my heart to say. As I listened to Him in my devotional time this morning, He told me that He wants to move in our midst in a new way.
“I wanted to know how we could help blind people who are homeless, so I sought Ellie out. But instead of answering me directly, this is the story she told me. Trust me–it has everything to do with what we will be talking about, so I’ll turn it over to her for a few minutes, and then I’ll discuss our main topic in more detail.”
“Thank you …” Ellie’s voice wavered as she began. “I’m pretty nervous, and I don’t claim to be a public speaker. Anyway, it all started when an unwilling man from the bus station guided me to the women’s shelter, and just left me there. When no one answered his knock at the door, I sat on the steps for what seemed like an eternity. I was cold and lonely, and frankly I was scared stiff. Finally, I swallowed my pride and made myself reach out and knock again.
“When the door opened, I waited in an outer room for what seemed like hours. When I finally met Brenda, she said they couldn’t let me stay there, and my heart sank. She told me she was sorry, but due to finances, there wasn’t a lot she could do. But she did ask one of her girls who was in a wheelchair to drop me off at the motel down the street. Then she gave me a voucher to cover a week’s stay, and I left the shelter.
“That girl and I must have been quite a sight,” Ellie said, chuckling. “I didn’t know the area at all, and I was hanging onto her chair for dear life, but I managed to follow behind her. Instead of thanking God as we went along, however, I just wallowed in my own bitterness, and I overlooked the kindness that Brenda showed me.
“The girl left me at the motel. Once I was in my room, I had plenty of time to do some more thinking. I wondered where I would go after the week was over, and I felt totally lost. God and I weren’t on speaking terms then. I was quite despondent, to say the least.
“As if all those anxieties weren’t bad enough, I also wondered where my next meal was coming from. I was completely broke. Sure, Brenda’s helper had told me about the soup kitchens, but aside from some vague directions on her part, I didn’t know where they were.
“As I sat there alone, my thoughts went back to my parents’ house. I remembered how warm and cozy it had been when I was a child, and I knew that my mom had done everything in her power to make it that way. But then I realized that my folks hadn’t always had it easy. They had started from scratch, and they had seen many lean years, but now they were enjoying the fruits of their hard work.
“What was their secret, I wondered? Did it have something to do with that song Mom used to sing during difficult times? What was it? She always said that God had used it to turn her life around.
“Then the song came back to me like a flash: ‘Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.’
“I don’t mind telling you I was skeptical. I thought the song was little more than self-induced brainwashing. But at the same time, I knew that dwelling on my troubles wasn’t getting me anywhere either. They just seemed to haunt me like a broken record, so I decided to try Mom’s formula. The problem was that for a long time, I’m ashamed to say that I couldn’t think of any blessings to count.
“But then the thoughts gradually began coming to me. ‘You aren’t out in the cold or confined to a wheelchair, are you? Shouldn’t you be grateful you’ve got a temporary roof over your head, and for the fact that there are places to eat?’ Of course I had to answer in the affirmative to those thoughts, so I decided I might have a few things to be thankful for after all.
“My thoughts slowly began to shift in a more positive direction, but I still couldn’t get them off my empty stomach. Then I had an experience that would change my life forever. All at once, a still, small voice came into my thoughts. It said, ‘Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.’
“Then it struck me in a new way–Jesus Christ, God’s only son, was actually homeless. I was shocked, because I had never thought about that before. Perplexed, I wondered, ‘Was it actually true that Jesus knew what I was going through?’ I had been taught this from childhood, but not being able to comprehend it, I remained dubious, so I decided to put my mother’s God to the test.
“‘Okay, God,’ I called, with a smirk in my voice, ‘if you’re real, then help me find some food.’
“Then, not knowing what to expect, I just sat there quietly on the edge of my bed for a long time. I wondered if God would be angry at my flippant request.
“I was distracted when I heard a man’s voice. He sounded very much like a drill sergeant. It seemed like he was a ways away, and I couldn’t make out what he was saying. But being a curious female, I walked in that direction anyway.
“I remember that even though I was new to the motel room, I didn’t use my cane while I explored, which was rather foolish of me. . I bumped into the wall with a thud, and then I found a window at my level. Needing some fresh air, I opened it, and I could hear the voice more clearly. The man barked authoritatively, ‘Please don’t push! There’s plenty of food for everyone!’
“For a few minutes, I could only stand there, amazed by what could only be God’s provision. I finally fell to my knees, sobbing. ‘Dear God,’ I prayed, ‘forgive me for running from You. Today, I want to make a wholehearted commitment to follow You, wherever Your path may take me. So I ask You to reveal Your will to me as I do that.’
“Then I began to see all of God’s blessings more clearly. I bowed my head in an attitude of thanksgiving and worship, for I knew that the way in which He brought me to this motel, and His provision of food, were some things that I would never forget.
“I’m not being dramatic when I say that the chains of bitterness which had imprisoned me fell away, and I felt a sense of freedom, exhilaration, and peace which I had never experienced before.
“I hope that what I’ve said has helped you gain a new sensitivity towards the homeless, and I pray that you will see how important each one of you are. Thank you for listening, and for your time.”
Stephanie and I hope you’re enjoying this story! If you are, please consider helping us out by shopping through our affiliate links, which will take you to Deeper Shopping Christian Bookstore or the Braille Superstore. You’ll find both links on our homepage. Thank you!
Everyone broke out in spontaneous applause as Conner led Ellie offstage. Then, as Brenda stood up, her voice rang out.
“I wanted to provide a good foundation before talking about future plans, and I believe Ellie’s story has done that beautifully. Sometimes, all of us get so caught up in numbers that we forget the people behind them. Jesus said, ‘As much as you have done it to the least one of these, you have done it unto me.’ Remember that our Lord left the 99 sheep to take care of the one who was lost. We, too, need to be more concerned with the individual than with the program. Keeping that in mind, we are trying to follow these three simple steps.”
Turning to the board, she wrote, “Invite, Involve, and Invest”. Brenda smiled, turning back to her audience.
“We will be looking at each step individually, believing God to do the actual work of transformation. I also believe that the first step can be found by looking at the first I–Invite.
“If you read the gospels, you will see that the ministry of Jesus was one of invitation, so I want to talk about how we can become more inviting as His followers. In that light, Austin and I have always tried to foster a family atmosphere. It’s one thing to run a shelter, and quite another for that shelter to become a place of warmth and caring. In order to do that, we must have the right outlook though.
“As I said earlier, it’s all too easy to see people as statistics on a graph. Instead, we must see the people who come through our doors as friends, and there must always be people in the entryway to greet them.
“When you invite a guest into your home, you want it to be both attractive and pleasant. It’s the same way in this situation. Think about things like basic cleaning, interior decorating, painting and landscaping. By the way, I will need a lot of help with both the inside and outside of our shelter, if we get the new building.
“Next, we are not called to form clubs, but rather, to make disciples. I have to hurry out of here, however, so we will talk more about the Involve and Invest points in our question-and-answer period.
“I can tell you one thing right now, though. Making disciples does not mean letting people form cliques. We must be constantly trying to find new ways to prevent this, and reaching out to those in the community is one of them.
“Now, though,” she smiled, “here’s what you have been waiting for. Your chance to put me on the spot and stump me with your hard questions is finally here! Please don’t be shy.”
To Be Continued …
Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 101 S Kraemer BLVD, Suite 123A, Placentia, CA 92870. Finally, you’re always welcome to join our Monday night Bible study or Tuesday night prayer meeting. Both are conducted by conference call, and they take place at 5:30 PM Arizona time. Our conference number is 712-432-6499. When prompted, press 1 for live chat rooms, and we’ll be waiting in room 31. You can press pound to bypass our friend Sharon’s intro message once you’ve entered room 31. We hope to talk with you soon!
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