If you are in Christ, you have been called to take the gospel to the poor, the unloved, and the unreached. But for many of us, that is a difficult and fearful thing to do. Well just know you are not alone. But as we seek to be the head, heart, and hands of the gospel, I believe Christ will give us more wisdom, more boldness, and more trust in His sovereign reign.
Andrew Alaniz is the leader of our Oikos Microchurch. When he shared this story with me, I knew it needed to be told ….
As we walked over to Moe's to enjoy kids eat free night, we saw Shorty sitting in a chair, with an opened can of SPAM, taking a nap. Shorty is a homeless man that lives in the 5 Points area of Birmingham.
I felt the Spirit urging me to invite him to join us for dinner, but I ignored it because that would complicate the evening. I quenched the Spirit. Have you ever seen someone in need and thought to yourself I should probably help them right now ... but .… I am convinced that is quenching the Spirit in many cases.
So we went in and ordered and sat down to eat. As we got the kids situated with the food, I sat down to eat mine and felt an overwhelming urge to go get him and invite him to eat with us. I even told Anna (my wife), I am really feeling compelled to go get him. Then, the Lord showed me so much grace as I literally lost control of my body, a physical force stood me up and walked me outside to ask him to join us. I honestly don't remember much of that walk, its hazy.
So I sat him down with us, next to Asa (my youngest son) and asked him if I could buy him a burrito. I felt that it was extremely important that my kids see that neither me nor Anna were scared or apprehensive, and in turn they were not. He said yes and I did, and in fact I was unaware but the Moes staff watched the ordeal and gave me 50% off his meal.
So what did I do next, I called a friend in our community who is experienced and gifted in ministering in these situations (he’s known as Rainman). Because that is what I do when I have a (truly) schizophrenic homeless man sitting at my dinner table. I ask for help 🙂 I spoke to Rainman a few times and he was helpful in providing ways to talk to him and deal with him and he actually knew the guy personally.
I clearly felt the Lord leading me to take him in for the night. I was scared, not for me, but for my family, anxious, stressed, and I just didn't even know where to start. The biggest weight was that the burden was solely on me, I didn't have time to discuss with Anna. I assume most couples make decisions together, at least we do on almost everything. The burden of my wife and my children's safety and well-being was solely on me. It shouldn't have been, I should have given it to Jesus, but that is where it was. And it was affecting me physically, again I was fighting against the Spirit. Which became obviously clear.
He asked me to take him to a hotel, and I could have, but I knew in my heart that wasn't what I was feeling compelled to do. So we took him home. Anna sat on the floor of the van because there weren't enough seats and we drove home. I kept thinking Luke 6:30 as he asked us for a place to stay and knew I couldn't deny him regardless of my apprehension, even though it was still there.
I could tell immediately that he had mental issues, and if I were to guess I'd guess it was schizophrenia, but no other radars went off about this man. He was polite, talkative, maybe a little too much, ha.
So we got home, let him take a shower, I gave him some pants and a shirt and washed his for him. We normally do bedtime in the kids room, but we went out in the living room, and he listened to us read a chapter in The Magicians Nephew and say prayers together. We asked if we could pray for him for anything. As we took the boys to their room, He asked to watch a movie, and of course all of ours are kid friendly so he watched, ironically, The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe.
As I laid in bed, I could feel the physical weight of taking this upon myself. I couldn't help but worry that the kids were in such proximity to him and would I hear if something happened. So I prayed, something Anna and I don't do enough together. I held her and we prayed for him and others in our microchurch and I prayed against the spiritual attack because I was certain where the fear was coming from. Sleep came, and the night was uneventful at least out of the ordinary of a 2 yr old coming to our bedside 2 or 3 times a night.
I got up and got ready for work, gave him a toothbrush and some deodorant. I made myself a sandwich for lunch and made him one to take with him. I brought him to Seeds Coffee to hang out for the day because I wasn't comfortable leaving him with Anna and the kids at the house and without a car.
I have sought council and prayed today. I’m asking the Lord for wisdom on next steps. Ways we can be Christ to him. Trying to understand the tension of being a faithful and Godly husband and inviting the homeless poor into my home (Isaiah 58).
I wanted to share this because I know I am not unique in these thoughts, and I want to walk with you all in this. We see these people, these image bearers every day, and if we love Christ we will love them, but what does that look like. Each encounter won't lead to this situation. Our priority is not to provide for his every need, he knows where to find help with that. He needs people to listen, community, hospitality (a bed and shower every now and then) and the usual places won’t typically help with that.
Much of this wisdom is from brothers who I’ve talked to, and it was very encouraging to me and I praise the Lord for that. Sharing a meal is a blessing because dinner is hard to come by, breakfast and lunch are provided in Southside. Sharing a conversation can be even more valuable. Sharing affection, trust, and speaking value into a person can be something they haven’t experienced in decades.
I am a changed man from this experience, and I want to encourage you all that you are not alone in feelings of fear, anxiety and apprehension in any situation. I think its probably the same for people whenever they’re developing relationships and reaching out to people who are very different from them. Let Jesus take those feelings and submit to the Spirit, what good is it to pray if we don't provide the things needed for the body (James 2). I so want to stop trusting myself. I once heard it said, 'who are you to think you can keep your family safe'. Why should I think I can, if God wants them safe they will be and if God wants them to be in danger he will put them there without any help from me. I need to give that to Him, and instead focus on listening to the Spirit and following Him.
I have more questions than answers. More fear than boldness it seems sometimes. But God has given us the ministry of reconciliation, and I pray He continues to grow and transform each of us into the image of Christ.