As I walked out of the Family Life Center at Hope Ministries after teaching class today, I looked across the street and saw Bruce, a former Hope student. He called, and I waved. I called out to ask how he was doing, while he crossed the street. The closer he got I could tell something was not right.
He stepped up onto the sidewalk, his face swollen and red. Neither one of us was smiling any longer.
“I messed up,” he said. “I drank last night.”
It was obvious.
“Are you still drunk?” I asked.
We both knew what it meant: he was out. A person at Hope will not be kicked out for things like missing chores or getting into an argument or fight. Grace steps in as they evaluate how their choices and actions affect themselves and others. Solutions are offered and forgiveness is free.
But for many people at Hope, the situation is too fragile for some things to be allowed and people to be allowed to stay. So they can’t do drugs. And they can’t drink.
Bruce is out – at least for a period of time.
Then I saw Christ. He came alongside Bruce and me through his Body of Christians in the form of three other Hope residents, all former students of mine – first Joyce, then Ollie, then Tony.
Together we cried with Bruce. Together we prayed with and for Bruce. Bruce hasn’t slept or eaten in two days. Joyce gave him a bag of chips she just brought from the store.
Tony offered to let him sleep in the back seat of his car with a blanket he keeps in there. Bruce said he couldn’t.
You see, in order to protect those still in the program from making the same tragic mistakes, a person who is out because of drinking or drugs is not even allowed on the property. We were on the sidewalk. Without a pause Tony said, “Then I’ll bring it around and park on the street. You can sleep there.”
Jesus said, “Just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
The whole thing was over in fewer than 10 minutes, but they were 10 minutes that Bruce desperately needed right then.
Bruce was on his way to a soup kitchen where no one would know him. No one would pray with and for him. No one would hug him and say, “Bruce, don’t go. Let us bring you some food. God loves you, and we love you. Let us help you.”
Bruce was ready to give up. Had he not spotted me walking out the door right then – a little later than usual because a student wanted to talk – Bruce would have kept walking, and I don’t know where he’d be.
Instead, as Joyce and Ollie went into the Family Life Center, and I drove away, I saw Tony and Bruce sitting in the car – together.
I saw Christ today in three formerly homeless people, who now live at Hope Ministries, and who have been changed by the love and power of Jesus Christ.
Well done, Hope, for being an effective agent of change in these lives.
Well done, Joyce, Ollie, and Tony for loving your neighbor as yourself in such a selfless, tangible way.