God on the Streets

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A few months ago I participated in a homeless count survey in Pasadena through Fuller Seminary’s urban initiatives program. It was part of a ten-year city plan to end homelessness in Pasadena. The survey included two sessions—a morning count and an evening count.  I was paired up with another guy and our survey area was from Colorado Street to Del Mar Blvd and Allen Avenue to Lake Ave. Most of the area was residential. As part of an assignment for a class, I wrote a reflection paper of my experience…

The homeless count did not go as I expected, nor did God speak to me the way I anticipated he would.

During the morning count, we only saw two people, both of whom were asleep. I drove home that morning not really thinking about homeless people. I was feeling a little disappointed that God did not speak some profound truth to me. What I had wanted from this experience was a revelation, a clear indication of what he wanted me to do with my life—a specific ministry. I was also worried that the evening count would not be much different.

Before leaving to do the evening count, I prayed, which I had neglected to do that morning; and further, I had all afternoon to check my attitude and correct it. I must confess my attitude that morning was not entirely what it should have been. But that evening was better. We drove our survey area instead of walking it and saw several more homeless people, though all but two of them were asleep.

Yet it was the first person we talked to… The encounter distracted me for the rest of the night. I had recognized the red sleeping bag from that morning. It was pressed up against a cement wall in a back parking lot. A half filled grocery cart stood nearby. We approached slowly but made our presence known so we wouldn’t scare the person. A black woman sat up as we approached. We could see her plainly enough in the light from a street lamp in the parking lot. She was very thin and looked to be no more than thirty, but was probably closer to 25. We talked with her only a little as we did the survey–it wasn’t much. As we started to leave, though, my partner made a brief comment to her.

It wasn’t as much what he said that surprised me, but the effect those words had, both on her and me. He told her God cares for her and that God is looking out for her.

I have never seen so few words have such powerful effect on someone. Upon hearing those words, I literally saw her countenance change. She looked as though she were fighting back tears. At the same instance I was unexpectedly touched deeply. I am not entirely sure if it was the words themselves or her reaction to them, but even now, as I think about those brief seconds, I find myself deeply moved. It was as though those words meant as much to me as they did to her.

Later that night as I drove home, I thought back to that one moment, trying, somehow, to understand it. I was not paying much attention to the music playing in my truck until suddenly I sensed God telling me to listen. It was so subtle and quiet his voice was practically non-existent, and at the time I did not realize it was him speaking. But I stopped thinking about the evening and listened to the music. I believe it was no accident the words I heard. It was from the song “Running With Your Heart” by Charlie Hall, and the words I heard, which still echo in my mind, are these:

“Fell what you feel, Love what you love, Go where you go, that’s what we want.”

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