“For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him.”
–Romans 6:7-8 (NLT)

Angry picketers marched outside the building where the meeting was to be held. Chanting and singing could be heard as leaflets were passed out.
The unruly mob was composed partially of small business owners who claimed that the homeless were bad for business, and homemakers who saw that segment of the population as a danger to their children. The city’s decision to remove the homeless shelter wasn’t good enough for these two groups of people, and they had decided to take things into their own hands. Reporters searching for a good story were stirring up the agitated factions, and generally making the situation even more chaotic.
The area around the building had become a three-ring circus as people pushed their way inside. Security did their best to block the mobsters’ path, while Brenda threw her hands up in the air, repeatedly trying to call the meeting to order. After what seemed like an eternity, Brenda finally restored some semblance of order, although she still had to shout.
She said in no uncertain terms, “I’m afraid that I can’t answer any of your questions or comments until I have absolute silence. I’m running out of time and patience.”
Then a police officer stood up and addressed the murmuring crowd. “If you don’t quiet down this minute, I’ll arrest all of you for disturbing the peace!”
With a twinkle in his eye, he nodded to Brenda, motioning for her to continue.
“Thank you,” Brenda said, barely concealing her sigh of relief. “We’ll start with this lady in front, who has her laptop open.”
Brenda motioned to a petite woman in a blue dress with ruffles. “Please tell us your name and the news crew that you’re with.”
When the lady seemed to hesitate, Brenda impatiently pointed to her again. “Well, go on,” she barked. “We haven’t got all day.”
“Okay, Brenda,” the woman began in a faltering voice, “but I’m not a reporter.”
“Just who are you then, and what is your business here?”
“My name is Blossom, and you probably don’t remember me.”
“No, I can’t say that I do,” Brenda replied, studying her quizzically. “Should I?”
“Yes.” Blossom’s voice wavered. “I’d like to answer your question about my identity with this statement. I think it will clarify some things, and it may resurrect some memories.”
“Brenda’s work among the homeless is exceptional, and it means more to me than I can say. I know about it from experience, for I once made my home on the streets. I had a bad drug habbit which I stole to support, but Brenda was the first person who invited me to receive new life in Christ. She rescued me when Bread of Life had just begun, and she gave me a roof over my head. I’m ashamed to say that I took advantage of her kindness, repaying good for evil. I won’t go into all the details for time’s sake, but Brenda showed me love when no one else had.”
“Wait a minute,” Brenda gasped, holding up her hand. “It’s beginning to come to me. Haven’t I seen you somewhere before? I’m trying to place you. Just give me a second. … Oh!” she gasped as it hit her. “Wasn’t your street name China?”
“Yes,” Blossom nodded, “but I changed it in prison.”
“I knew I hadn’t seen you around, but how is what happened a long time ago pertinent to our discussion now?”
“Well, despite your love, when I went to prison, I was broken like china, in the same way a lot of these homeless people are. After giving my life to Christ, though, I started to see things differently, so the name China holds some bad memories for me. But the name Blossom spoke to me of the fresh start I needed. You are still the only homeless shelter in the valley with a Christian message, and I believe that God wants me to help you share that message.”
Brenda scowled as Blossom sat down. “It’s all quite clear to me now. You’re trying to hide behind that name change, but you won’t do it on my time. Thank you so much for your kind words,” she went on sarcastically, “but I’ve heard them before, and we don’t need your help. We’ve got a schedule to keep.”
Turning to someone else, Brenda asked them to state their concern.
“Wait! Please give me another chance,” Blossom pleaded, standing up. “I meant what I said. Christ has given me a new start, and I want this audience to know that it was partly because of the seed you planted.”
“After what you’ve said and done before, I’m afraid I don’t trust you,” Brenda cut in. “You know what they say–once bitten, twice shy. I simply refuse to discuss it any further. Let me repeat myself one more time. Then either sit down or leave. There will be consequences if you don’t.”
Sighing, Brenda turned back to the man who had questioned her, and motioned for him to continue.
But after her encounter with Blossom, Brenda’s mind wondered. Was she doing the right thing? Although she wanted to believe Blossom, Brenda reminded herself that Blossom had been a smooth talker in the past, so Brenda remained on her guard.
Without seeing fruit from her life, how did she know this story was real and not trumped up? Blossom certainly looked like she was doing better, but on the other hand, Blossom could be using this opportunity to take her for a fool again.
The rest of the hour passed in a haze for Brenda. By the time the questioning was over, she felt totally drained. God’s peace seemed to allude her, and she was afraid that Blossom’s return might be dammaging to their cause. If the wrong thing was said or done, it could accentuate the uphill battle to keep the shelter open. In any case, Brenda knew that there was too much at stake for her to give up now.
Before the meeting, she had been enthusiastic and vibrant, despite the hecklers and their backlash. Now, however, she just felt like collapsing in a heap.
When it was time to leave, Brenda spoke in a hoarse voice. “The rest of you can go, but I need the ministry team to stay behind.”
Moments later, Brenda addressed the ministers who remained in the meeting room. “We need you here tonight, so please let your voices be heard. This board meeting could seriously curtail our outreach to the homeless, so it just isn’t optional.”
As she spoke to her inner circle, a few stragglers tried to get her attention, but she shooed them away.
When the room was virtually empty, she turned her attention to cleaning up. As she worked, however, she was surprised to glance up and see that Blossom remained.
“What is she still doing here?” Brenda groaned to herself. “And how can I get rid of her before she causes any confusion?”
As if reading her mind, Blossom caught Brenda’s eye. She gestured and mouthed, “I’d like to stay for a few minutes and help you. You can’t be expected to do everything alone.”

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!

Ignoring her, Brenda went about the business of straightening up.
Eventually Blossom gathered her courage, went to the front of the room, and stood in front of Brenda.
“How can I make myself useful?”
“That’s really not necessary,” Brenda replied coldly, but Blossom only protested.
“I have some time, and you can’t manage all of this by yourself.”
“Point taken,” Brenda replied, standing stiffly. “But why do you want to help all of a sudden?”
“I told you–God has changed my heart.”
“I know what you said, but you said practically the same thing once before,” Brenda said harshly. “Something seems fishy here.”
“I understand your skepticism,” Blossom blurted out, “but just let me prove myself.”
“Why should I?” Brenda answered haughtily. “So you can steal some more?”
“No, not at all,” Blossom almost wept. “I would like to help you in any way I can. I will do whatever it takes to show you that I am on the level. I’ve done a lot of soul-searching, and I feel that street ministry is my calling. As you know, the Bible says to comfort others with the same comfort we have received.”
“Well,” Brenda said with a noncommittal sigh, “today you can start by packing these things up. I’ll clean off the whiteboard. If this is a ruse for any of your sweet-talking, the door is right over there. I need to have a clear head for tonight’s meeting,” she glowered, and turned away.
After they had worked in silence for some time, Brenda surprised them both with her words.
“You know, your actions really hurt me. I thought we were becoming friends. Aside from that, you left Austin and I without a leg to stand on financially. In fact, you and your antics almost caused us to close our doors for good. We trusted you by giving you access to everything, and you paid us back by taking all of the money we had. You pretended to help back then, too, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, you led us to believe that God had delivered you from your drugs. So is it any wonder that I have a hard time believing you now, when you waltz in here with this story? I won’t let you ruin tonight’s meeting. Forgiveness is one thing, but trust is quite another.”
Instead of replying verbally, Blossom decided to let her actions speak for her, and she continued to work steadily.
When she had finished, Blossom walked hesitantly over to Brenda again. Silently pulling an envelope out of her purse, she handed it to Brenda, and then bolted out the door.
On one hand, Brenda was speechless and curious about the contents of the envelope. At the same time, she was very suspicious. She absently fingered the envelope, both shaking and smelling it. She knew that she should wait for Austin, but against her better judgment, she cautiously opened it.

“Dear Brenda,” the letter inside read. “I know it is asking a lot, but please try and forgive me for betraying your trust. You weren’t the only one I stole from, and I want to make amends where I can.
“When the heat was on, I just bolted instead of toughing it out. Every time I ran away, I managed to cover my tracks, but running from your shelter was different. It only got me in a worse mess, and that was when I ended up in prison.
“After many lonely days, I humbled myself and really cried out to God. I told Him I wouldn’t live like that anymore, but when I didn’t experience any thunder-and-lightning revelations, I went back to my old ways.
“The real blessing came when I quite literally ran into the chaplain one day. He invited me to a Bible study. Deciding I didn’t have anything better to do, I went to it. A few weeks passed, and I finally got up the nerve to ask him what he thought had happened in that prison cell. He showed me from scripture that the one I had been running from all my life was God. He told me not to look for thunder, because the primary way God speaks is through His Word.
“To make a long story short, I yielded to God’s love that night. The chains in my heart were broken, and I truly knew that something was different. I know you have heard things like that from me and others before, but this was more than emotion. I could look myself in the face for the first time, and own up to what I had done.
“Then, I couldn’t help thinking about you, and how you had tried to befriend me when nobody else would. The light began to go on, and I went back to my cell rejoicing. Then, realizing that what you told me was true, I felt a call in my heart to serve others in street ministry. Though the concept of being loved was still new to me, I can honestly say that I never looked back to my old ways again.
“I didn’t want to admit it when I ran from Bread of Life, but I had never met anyone like you. God apparently used your love to break down the walls in my heart before I was aware of it.
“Like I said before, I would like a chance to make up for the wrong I have done, and I wonder if I could be of service. If nothing else, I will try and pass on the kindness you have shown me on to others.
“I have my own online business now, and enclosed you will find a substantial check. While I can never repay what I owe you, I will send you monthly payments. Aside from that, you will find my number at the bottom of this letter, if you wish to call me.
“Thanks again for everything you have done for me, and God bless you and your ministry.

Even though she knew that the check might not be good, Blossom’s letter touched Brenda deeply. Now that she knew the truth, she was ashamed for acting so coldly toward Blossom.
Brenda wept as she reflected. Who was she to be self-righteous, anyway? Hadn’t she had a similar background? It pained her that she wasn’t practicing the love she spoke about to others.
Falling on her knees, she broke down uncontrolably.
“Oh dear God, please forgive me. I don’t know what has happened. I have been filled with bitterness, and I want to give it all to you. With all this talk of buildings and land, I almost forgot my real calling. I want to be more like You, and come alongside those who are hurting. Thank You for coming to a sinful person like me, and cleansing me of my pride.
“I am no better than Blossom, or anyone else for that matter, so please give me wisdom and humility as I call her tomorrow. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

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!
If you have questions, comments or prayer requests for Timothy or Stephanie Burdick, please call 507-369-6861.