I sometimes forget how important the praying part of this ministry is. Particularly, in regards to encouraging people who are brokenhearted. With the pressing demands of hunger and especially the cold weather at this time of the year, I sometimes forget that people on the street can also be emotionally brokenhearted for a number of reasons. More about this later....
On the way downtown I started thinking about an encounter I had several years back at about 5th St and maybe Los Angeles or Main St. I don't remember the guy's name, but I had just helped a couple of people on 5th, but couldn't stay there very long and had pulled around the corner to park. I think one of the people from 5th followed me there so I could finish giving him whatever it was I had to give him. While parked there I remember several people had bedded down for the night (sun was down but it was still light out) in a small open area a few steps above the sidewalk right adjacent to where I had parked. A man somewhere in his late 30's or early 40's lifted his head up and saw me. I think I probably called out to him asking if he was hungry. He came over to the car and I probably gave him some food and asked if he needed any socks of something. He must have said yes because I had gotten out of the car and remember standing with him behind the trunk of the car I had at the time. I remember giving him a blanket or two and some socks and warm clothing. He told me he was with his mother and they were now homeless. I remember praying with him and saying, "the man who walked on water will walk with you through this difficult time now". When I said that he laid his head on my shoulder. It was a very moving moment. I've had many memorable reactions to prayer time with folks living on the street. Last Sunday I had one similar to this. It humbles me every time I am able to speak for God directly to someones heart and reawaken their yearning to know Him. Well I decided to head straight down to this area and see if I could find this spot that people were using to sleep at night as it was now getting close the sundown too. I got off the 101 freeway at 4th to make my way across town. As I got off the freeway there was a man standing there looking for handouts from the people getting off the freeway. I gave him the first sandwich. I drove across town on 4th until I got to Main St. I drove around the area for a while, but never did see the area I remembered. After about 15 or 20 minutes of cruising the area without success I figured I better start going to the places I knew I would be seeing folks. I headed over to 10th and San Pedro lamenting the time I spent without finding the "spot" I was looking for.
When I got to 10th St I found a few people I knew there. Chris was there and although I didn't see Debbie, she was there in their make-shift tent. Another couple, her name is Bree (not sure what his name is) were there also, but in their car. I found out later that if they wanted to drive somewhere they have to jump start the battery. Anyway, 4 of the 5 blankets I had and the two pillows went quickly. I handed out sandwiches and tarps and found out that Red was asleep on the sidewalk across the street. I walked over and put a tarp in his cart because he asked for one after I had given out all that I had the last time down. I hoped it was still in his cart when he woke up. I had four bags of various articles in them and handed them out too. Bree ended up going through the women's clothes in the back of the car and when she was through I asked to pray for her and her husband before I left. Chris and Debbie were already back in their tent by now. So before I could even begin praying, Bree asked if I would pray for her because she just lost her baby. She didn't say how, I'm assuming now that she had a miscarriage, but I don't know for sure. Somehow I was not thinking miscarriage at the time, but the death of an infant. I still really don't know and she didn't tell me. Anyway, I started praying and thanking God that we know this baby is in the arms of Jesus now and is safe and one day we will see her (yes I said her not knowing the gender of the baby either). When I finished I could tell that they were both visible moved (I think he was fighting back tears in his eyes) and thankful for me praying. I know losing a baby is such a heartbreak and I remembered a story I read from some missionaries running an orphanage in Africa that I shared with them. I looked around the house for the book I read this story in so I could quote it, but I couldn't find the book so I'll have to go on my best recollection of how it went. These missionaries had started accumulating a fairly large group of children of varying ages. Many children were living at the local trash dump and some children and particularly infants are brought to them because the parents have died. A lot of children are homeless because of the aids epidemic in Africa. At one point over a 10 or 12 day period 8 infants died. The woman missionary, Heidi Baker, was devastated and cried out to God asking "Why has this happened?" The answer she received was, "All I ask you to do is to love these children into my arms." It was an answer that didn't answer the question of "why", but gave her a specific task and mindset. It helped and got her focusing on loving the children as they came to her and not focusing on her personal pain. It occurred to me after reading the story in their book, that this is what we are to do with everyone we meet. Love them into the arms of Jesus for as long as we are with them, infants to adults. It's not complicated.
Bree and husband and their car.
Remember you can click on the image to enlarge
Well, shortly after this I continued on the trip. I found another group of people on another small street off the 10 frwy and Los Angeles St. I drove over to the burned out church at 27th and Peloma and prayed in front of it and gave out the last of the food. By now it was completely dark out and hard to find homeless people who were still walking around. Most have found a place to bed down for the night.
I began this blog with a verse from Isaiah. It was quoted by Jesus in Nazareth in the local synagogue as he began his earthly ministry. Part of Jesus' ministry was to heal the broken-hearted. His Spirit still heals today. In Jesus' Sermon on the Mount he proclaims, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." His Spirit still lives today. Hallelujah. Praise the Lord. --Until next time. John