It was early, at least for my family of night owls it was early. The house was quiet and everyone was still asleep as I slipped out the back door, started up the car and drove down the road toward a new adventure.
This morning while wondering what this new adventure would bring I picked up my Bible, opened it to where I had left off reading yesterday and asked God to give me something to calm my nerves, something to assure me that this was indeed his will for me. Something that would help me be comfortable with the idea of “the worst that can happen is I will feel stupid.” And as usual he had just the right thing to say: I John 2:6–”Whoever says, ‘I abide in Him, ought to walk, just as He walked.” Wow, this was as plain as day to me! It was my confirmation that I should heed the prompting of the Holy Spirit, should acknowledge all the “coincidences” that kept leading me to Compassion United, should go see CU’s head guy Luke, should confirm the email that he was interested in my help with his ministry to the homeless , should take the risk and step forward in faith. Should, should, should. Should explore this opportunity to serve others and try to walk as HE walked. So, with a lot of nervous anticipation, off I drove to the Conroe House of Prayer better known as the CHOP.
I had figured out exactly where I was going last night. Even did a drive by. But this morning my usual reluctance to try something without knowing all the details first had me seriously toying with driving around the block a few times to scope things out. But I’m supposed to be bold today, I reminded myself, Let my light shine and all that nonsense, remember? So, a bit apprehensively, I parked, put my purse in the trunk, (after realizing it would probably mark me as an outsider), after all homeless people don’t carry purses do they? Then, while repeating my verse about walking just as He walked, I moved forward. Me, the planner, the careful one, the one who makes sure all the details are worked out first so there are no surprises. I nervously put one foot in front of the other, opened the door and stepped into the intention of the Lord.
The place was large and open, maybe used to be a café of some sort because there were a few booths along the left hand wall and a bar and some stools by the front window. Rows of brown wooden theater chairs were parked in the middle of the room and several couches were placed around the perimeter. To the left of the door was a counter with a small fridge filled with water bottles and two half filled coffee pots and various coffee related items. Doors leading to unknown rooms as well as a men’s and women’s restroom were also along this wall. I quickly slipped onto the couch near the coffee, all the way to the end of the couch so as not to sit to close to the lady who was also sitting there. Center stage in this room was just that – center stage. A young man was playing a guitar and singing a praise song and several people were singing or standing with upraised hands. What an interesting group of people! Old, young, single, coupled, black, white, Hispanic. Even an aging hippie like me, his shoulder length wavy hair more white then dark. I finally asked a lady who looked like she was directing the making of more coffee where I could find Luke. I explained that we had been emailing back and forth and he was expecting me. She said he just went in the restroom and could I wait until after the service to meet with him. So I sat back down in my corner of the couch and tried to be invisible while I listened to the guy on stage preach a sermon on something from the gospel of Luke. I never did get the exact verse. After a few minutes the guy I had come to see (Luke) walked past the coffee pot and I tiptoed over to introduced myself. He shook my hand and agreed we would talk more after the service. When I had once again reached the safety of my couch seat, I began to fully absorb, inhale, and experience this place that God had led me to and discovered I felt safe. Not scared, not nervous, no discomfort, just that overwhelming sense of awe that comes when you know you are in the center of the Father’s will.
The sermon is almost over, and the preacher is asking for those bound by a cigarette addiction to come up and throw their cigs into a trash can and become freed from their addiction. Several people did just that and the preacher began encouraging others with addictions of any kind to come and physically or symbolically throw whatever bound them or kept them from being free into the trash can. A few more people threw away their cigarettes and a man maybe in his thirties with a white and brown tie-dye shirt, jeans and a bandaged hand walked forward and dropped his into the garbage can. People clapped and cheered. A large lady in a pink shirt and jean shorts kissed his lips, squeezed his hand and smiled as he sat back down at the booth with her. My eyes canvassed the room as I thought about what I should be throwing in that trash can. “There is much sin in this room,” God whispered. “That man has a problem with pornography, that one drinks, the women over by the window has had deep hurt in her life. She is angry, controlling, and her daughter is following in her footsteps.” But also clearly and emphatically he shared, “ I love these people, they have worth, you can help, this is where I’m asking you to serve.” And as he spoke I knew what I needed to throw into that trash can: timidity, fear, doubt. God had spoken loud and clear, who was I to hold back?
A man sitting in the last row of wooden chairs near my perch on the couch walked forward and said something to Luke who then made an announcement. “This man is proclaiming freedom from drugs, he has been clean for 15 days.” Everyone again cheered and clapped, the room seemed filled with community, helpfulness, simplicity. Am I being naïve? No doubt! But that’s what I saw and what my heart felt.
Breakfast was served and as everyone lined up I stayed seated and for the first time began to feel a bit conspicuous. But then the guy who had just gone forward leaned over from his seat and said, “I like your shirt.” I mumbled a thank you and then boldly said, “Hey 15 days clean, good job,” and he replied, “Yeah crack addiction.” I babbled something about all of us having something to overcome and that I hoped he could stay clean. He told me he was headed to Colorado. I wished him luck and we exchanged a fist bump. I realized how hungry all these people must be for just someone to talk to. Someone to pour out their troubles to, to help them process all of the many burdens that life had thrown their way and more importantly to point them to the only One who could truly meet all their needs.
Everyone was huddled together by now, eating breakfast in small groups and talking to each other; to Luke and to anyone else who would lend an ear. As I twisted and fidgeted in my seat and wondered when I would get to talk to Luke my “new-found-clean-for-15-days-friend” handed me a piece of paper. On it, written with black ink in a fancy script was the verse “He will never leave you or forsake you.” It was signed: “Sidney.”
“God told me to give this to you,” he said and as I inwardly wept for joy at this gift, I no longer felt out of place.
Finally! Here comes Luke who plops himself down next to me on the couch as if we’re old friends and opens up the conversation with “Wow, I’m tired,” and I’m sure he was. For the past hour and a half he had been managing things, talking, praying, trouble-shooting, and basically filling any need that presented itself. He must have been drained but that didn’t stop him from having a lengthy discussion with me and giving me a tour of the resource room. I can’t really remember all that we talked about but after the tour I left agreeing to get back to him about helping. And now I’m home, waiting for a chance to talk to Fred about it all. But talking will just be a formality. I want so desperately to abide in Him that…what choice do I have? I’m going to do this and attempt to “walk as He walked.”