As I pulled into my church parking lot for the second service one recent Sunday morning, I was struck by what I saw: An unusually large number of homeless people seated on a grassy area near the driveway.
Granted, seeing homeless people at my church isn’t unusual in itself. There’s a robust population of them in the town where I live, and for the last several years, the leaders at my church have made a point of providing a free gourmet breakfast for them every Sunday morning, along with a shuttle ride from and to the local mission. There are no strings attached—it’s simply a way to serve and honor people who need to see God’s heart with skin on it. They come from all kinds of backgrounds, and many of them are pre-Christians. Sometimes, I’ve caught a whiff of what a few of them were smoking as I drove by. (Yes, I live in one of those states!)
But what I’ve been noticing lately is how many more of them there seem to be than when I first began attending the church—and how many more of them are staying for the services, instead of simply taking their leftover food outside to wait for the shuttle, as many were in the habit of doing.
And I’m seeing them change right in front of my eyes.
A few weeks ago, a hard-bitten-looking guy standing in the back of the room went forward to give his life to Jesus. Another guy who’s clearly spent some time on the streets is consistently one of the most joy-filled people in the very large room: He’s got a smile for everyone, and hugs for most. He lights up the whole place through the window of his heart—and it’s amazing.
I’ve lived in small, homogenous towns and large, diverse cities, and the differences can be striking—and sometimes uncomfortable. Let’s face it: Real life is a messy affair, and as humans we have a tendency to stratify the issues we deal with from the ones with which we have no experience, whether that be homelessness, addiction, sexual or gender-identity issues, or what have you.
But something incredible happens when we stop doing that—when we, the salt, let ourselves be shaken out of the comfortable cellars of our lives, when we stop sending the “other” people to the “special” ministry down the street, and simply let the Body be the Body. We find out there really are no “special” problems, and that God has never encountered an impossible case. The Spirit flows, and in that process, everyone gets touched, healed and transformed.
He’s good like that, you know.
Originally published in the January/February 2018 issue of Citizen magazine.