It is 6 a.m. at the start of day 2, and I had a rough night! Sound really carries in the woods, and it sounded like everything was right on top of me. I got out of the tent and gathered all my wet clothes and put them in my wet backpack. I had decided to go to the laundromat and dry all my stuff including my bag. I headed that way. As I was coming out of the woods, a police officer was sitting in his car right where I came out, and I thought “Oh no, I am busted,” but he didn’t even look at me.
I kept walking and stopped by a local hotel. I went in and asked if I could get a cup of coffee and the man at the desk said yes and pointed me to the coffee. This had to be the best cup of coffee I have had in a long time. I then walked to the convenience store close by, and I decided to ask if I could use the restroom. (For those that know me, I have a thing about public restrooms, but I have a bigger thing about going out in the woods!) They said I could use their facilities, so I did and I also washed up while I was in there. It was now 6:45 and the laundromat didn’t open until 7 a.m., so I sat out front and waited for them to open. I took $2 and put everything I had in the dryer and dried it. At the same time, I charged my phone up and looked at the newspaper. It was slow and not many people were there, so it was nice. Once everything was dry, I decided to go in their bathroom and put on my dry clothes and then dry the ones I had on. After I finally finished drying everything, I decided to start walking, and once again, it started to rain. I ran to an overhang of a local business so I could keep everything dry. It didn’t rain long, so I got back to walking. I decided to figure out which church God wanted me to go to, so I started to pray. I walked and I was thinking, man I am hungry. Then some friends and their son came by and handed me two doughnuts and I was thankful! Answered prayer! I hope they’d do this even if it wasn’t me.
I continued to walk and I felt the Lord lead me to a particular church. So, I headed that way, walking past other churches and watching families going into church together. I started to miss my family and wondered what it is like for those that are out there each day who don’t have anyone to see these people with their families. I continued to walk and got to the church at 9:55. The service started at 10. God had confirmed this was the church where He wanted me. I went to the front door and the greeters were very friendly and pointed me to the door leading in to the worship room. I went in and it was dark, which was good. I sat on the back row and put my bag under my seat. The worship band was good, but I could not concentrate. I kept thinking how hungry I was, did I stink, what if that cop goes in and tears up my tent, where am I going to get more food, man I have to walk all the way back and a host of other thoughts.
To say it was hard to worship was an understatement. I actually left 30 minutes into the service. I began to walk again. I walked past other churches and saw people filing in. I really just wanted to be going to church with my family. I then stopped to rest a while. From walking with soggy socks and wet feet the day before, the bottoms of my feet were now one solid blister. I decided I would stop at another church and see if they offered any kind of food assistance. At the first church, I was met by a man at the door who asked me what I needed. I asked if they offered any kind of food assistance and he said, “No, we don’t do that,” and that was it. I walked away feeling kind of like an idiot. I came up on another church around 12:30 that had some cars in the parking lot and a sign out front that said “All Welcome,” so I thought maybe I could get some food here. I saw a man walking out and I said, “excuse me sir” and he kept walking, and then I said again, “excuse me sir” and he looked toward me. I asked him, “Does your church offer food assistance to those in need?” He said, “I don’t know. I haven’t been going here long. Go ask someone inside.” So I walked toward the door, and a couple came out carrying a large plate of food. They would not look at me.
“Excuse me, does your church offer any kind of food assistance?”
“We don’t know. There are some people inside.”
So I go inside, and there were two gentlemen inside the door.
“Can we help you?”
“I sure hope so. Do you offer any kind of food assistance?”
“No, we haven’t got that going yet, but maybe soon.”
I saw a bunch of people in the other room and a large table full of food. I guess they were having some kind dinner for their members. I just said“OK” and walked away. This was probably the most humiliating, sad thing I had experienced in this journey so far. I was really mad to say the least, and I could see why the homeless I had met were so turned off by the church. I am not saying all churches are this way, but there should not be one like this. I walked some more. I now know what Isaiah 58:7 means when it talks about the “poor wanderer.” I was just wandering with no real purpose or plan. I was at a loss. Honestly, I was getting a little frustrated by now.
I walked to a gas station, and they let me use their bathroom. I drank water from the bathroom sink for what seemed like forever. I went outside and sat down on the sidewalk, not really knowing what to do next. Well, I started walking and I came up on another church with a car in the lot. I thought to myself “Why bother?! They won’t give you anything. Why try?” I guess that is how those who are homeless feel, too.
I decided to go ahead and walk up there. When I did, I could tell the two ladies in the car did not want to roll down their window. A man came out from inside the church and the ladies rolled down the window. I asked them the same question I had asked the previous two churches and really expected the same answer, but to my surprise they said “Yes!” Praise God!
They got the key to the food pantry and we went inside. They were very nice. They started to fill a bag for me with the typical canned vegetables that most churches give away: green beans, corn, and cranberry sauce. I told them I had no way to cook or open a can. They loaded my bag with pop tarts, canned beef stew (with a pop top), cereal and even gave me some soap and razors (I guess I looked pretty bad). They then offered to pray with me and to give me a ride to the Waterfront Rescue Mission. I told them thank you, but the food was enough. They were really nice and it made me very happy to see people actually doing what the church is supposed to do.
When I got outside the door, I put all the food in my backpack so it was easier to carry and went on my way. God impressed on me that I should go back to this church and let them know what I was doing and donate toward their food ministry. I started walking back to my tent, thinking the whole time about making sure my tent was OK. It was around 3 p.m. I got back to the tent around 4 and everything was good. That was a relief.
It was starting to get cool, and I knew I was in for a long night. I broke open the beef stew and ate it. Yes, I ate it cold, and it was good! I started to put on layers of clothes. I stayed outside the tent for an hour or so, and the whole time I couldn’t relax. I kept thinking someone was going to come walking up on me. At about 5, I got inside my tent and inside my sleeping bag so I wouldn’t get too cold. Then, it hit me that I was going to be in there for the next 13 hours with nothing to do. I started to read my Bible.
At this point, I felt God telling me this would be my last night as a homeless person, but I wanted to make sure it was Him and not me. As I read, He led me to Isaiah 58:7 “Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter.” I knew I was to pack up my stuff in the morning and He would lead me to someone in need of my tent, sleeping bag and the food I had. It was getting dark and cold outside, so I laid down. I remember thinking, “12 hours, 11 hours, 10 hours…” until daylight. I couldn’t get comfortable, and I kept hearing all kinds of noises, thinking the worst of course. I prayed what seemed to be all night, but I did get a few hours of sleep and then it was morning. Thank you, God, for the daylight!
My Thoughts on Day 2:
Day 2 helped me begin to understand the daily struggles of those in need. I felt the frustration of humbling yourself to ask for help and not receiving it from where you feel you should. I felt the feeling of hopelessness and a lack of purpose that they must feel — what it’s like to just be wandering through life.
I know most of you want to know what churches I stopped at, but I am not going to say because we must decide which church WE will be. I will say I went to three different denominations. We are each the church and it is up to us individually to make a difference. I know this, most of us have placed the homeless or those in need into two categories — either criminals or lazy. I see that it doesn’t matter if they are good people; we have already cast judgment on them based on their situation instead of the person that God made them to be.
My 10-year-old daughter told me when I was getting ready to do this that I didn’t have to be afraid. I asked her why not and she said, “because you are the one they are going to be afraid of.” I asked her why she thought that, and she said, “because people are afraid of homeless people.” I asked her why she thought people are afraid of homeless people, and she said, “because they don’t know them.” I asked her if she was afraid of the homeless people we have met at the cafe, and she said, “No, because I got to know them.”
We need to get to know people before we pass judgment on them. I understand we must be careful and not just give a person the keys to our home. I also know if we walk in the Spirit and allow God to lead us, He will show us what to do. When someone says all Christians are hypocrites, it’s not fair to the Christian. When someone says all homeless are criminals or lazy that is not fair to them, either. Many times in the Bible, God says help the poor and needy. God just wants us to be willing to help anyone and He will bring those in our path that He wants us to help. We can’t do everything, but we can do something. We just have to be willing. Join me today and ask God to show you a need and give you the ability to meet that need.
Day 3 coming next, and you will find out who God led me to give my stuff to. It is awesome!