by Louise Willard
About three years after I was saved, I had an experience I would like to share with you. God used it to teach me something about myself and to help me deal with some things that were hindering my walk with Him.
One day while eating at a fast-food restaurant someone out in the parking lot caught my eye. There was a man dressed in dirty, ragged clothes sitting on a curb. He was eating a bag of potato chips as if he had not eaten for days.
He had long hair and a beard; both were tangled and matted from many days on the streets. His shoes were so worn that I didn’t see how they were staying on his feet at all. It was hard to tell his age because of the beard and the weariness and despair in his face. I would have guessed him to be in his sixties, at least.
My husband was with me and the pastor from the church we had just started attending. I pointed the man out to them and asked them if they would go talk to him and see if they could do something to help him. Their response was anything but enthusiastic, but they did go out to talk to him.
I watched from the window and could hardly keep back the tears when I saw the look in his eyes as they talked to him. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but there didn’t seem to be much happening.
After a few minutes they came back in. I asked them what had happened. It seems at first he was afraid, but when he saw they weren’t going to harm him, he listened to what they had to say. Apparently, they told him he needed to be saved and invited him to church. Then the pastor gave him a small book of the gospel of John. That was it!
I was so hurt for the man I just couldn’t let it go at that. Despite the protests of the two of them about how unsafe and un-lady like it was for me to go out there to talk to him, I was out the door.
I gathered my skirt around me and sat right down on the curb with him. He turned to look at me with a surprised look on his face. I asked him if he would like to come home with us and have a nice home cooked meal. He could even spend the night if he wanted to. We had plenty of space and, though we didn’t have much, we were willing to share what we had.
His face softened and without hesitation he simply said, “Yes.”
By that time, the others were coming out of the restaurant. I told them he was going to come home with us for the night. They looked at him and then looked at me as if I had lost my mind. I guess it showed in my face that I would not back down, or maybe God intervened and would not let them prevent it from happening. I don’t know, but in a few minutes we were headed down the road towards home.
We had an old country house in Elizabeth, W.Va. It had eighteen rooms. It was badly in need of repair but we were able to get it at a very low price. It had been on the market a long time and the owners were anxious to sell. We had only been there for a few months and all of the rooms were not furnished yet, but there was an extra room with a bed and a small dresser where he could spend the night if he decided to stay.
As we pulled up in front of the house my youngest son ran out to meet us. When he saw the homeless man get out of the car he jumped up and down with excitement. He kept shouting over and over,
“Mommy’s got a friend! Mommy’s got a friend!” Why he decided it was my friend, I don’t know.
We settled in with each child pitching in to do their part to help make the man feel at home. He was very dirty from being on the streets and not having any way to clean up. Understandably, he carried quite an odor. I didn’t know how to encourage him to take a bath without hurting his feelings. After a little while it became obvious that something would have to be done.
Finally, I decided I would just take my chances and speak to him about it. I told him I realized it had probably been a long time since he had the luxury of a bath so I was going to run him a nice hot tub and get him some clean clothes to put on. Off I went without ever giving him the chance to say no.
We had a big bathroom right off the kitchen so I set everything up for him and returned to get him.
He had a big bundle of stuff that he had carried with him. He never let it out of his sight. When he went to the bathroom to take his bath, he took the bundle with him. I gave him new underwear, a shirt, pants, a pair of socks and showed him how to lock the door. He looked nervous, but I guess the sight of the tub full of hot water helped him overcome it.
I went back to the kitchen and gathered up everything I had left in the freezer and refrigerator and began to put together a dinner. We didn’t have much, but I didn’t worry about it. I fixed it all! The Lord will take care of tomorrow I thought as I mixed the last of the flour for biscuits.
When everything was ready I was surprised at all we had come up with; BBQ Chicken, mashed potatoes, some vegetables, biscuits and even some homemade jelly from the last canning season.
He still had not come out of the bathroom and I was beginning to get concerned. Suppose something had happened to him while he was in the tub? I was starting to the door to knock, when he came out.
What a difference! The clothes were a little too big, but he seemed pleased to have them.
The kids all climbed into their seats and we sat him at the head of the table. When my son reached for his hand so we could say the blessing, he took his hand and bowed his head.
As we passed the food around to him he took very small portions as though he was afraid of taking too much. I assured him there was plenty more on the stove and then he seemed to relax.
Before he started to eat he did something very strange. Without allowing us to see anymore than he could help, he pulled wads of clay and match sticks out of his nose and placed them in a paper napkin I had given him. It was pretty awful to see but he explained that he used the clay and matchsticks to protect himself so, if he was beaten, his nose could not be broken. He told us sometimes people would pretend they wanted to help him but then they would beat him up.
He had been beaten many times and had even been struck by a car. He explained his bent legs and awkward way of walking were because of injuries that had never received treatment.
We shared the Lord with him and found out he had been on the road for many years; homeless most of his life. His grandmother had come to this country when he was very small. She was a Christian. He knew much about the Bible but hadn’t really accepted the Lord as his Savior.
After dinner we sat and talked for just a little while. Everywhere he moved in the house he carried his bundle with him. He would put it on the floor and put his foot on top of it. I guess to keep anyone from getting into it. He was very protective of whatever treasure was in that bundle. It was all he had.
I could see he was getting very tired so I took him upstairs and showed him to the little bedroom at the far end of the hallway. He thanked me several times. The door to the room had a large lock on it and I told him that he could lock it so that he would feel safe and get a good night’s sleep. He thanked me again and I left.
All of the other bedrooms also had strong locks so I told everyone to lock their doors and call me if they needed anything.
The next morning I was up first so I made breakfast and packed up the last of the chicken and biscuits for him to take with him. We drove him to the train station, prayed with him and he hopped a freight train out of town. I never saw or heard from him again.
As the days went on I asked the Lord what He wanted to teach me in all of that. I knew we had told him about the Lord, but what was the Lord telling me? He said,
“Did you see how he protected that bundle? He didn’t want anyone to touch it. It was all he had. Then, as he began to trust you, he would move away from it. You even gave him some things that were better to put in it.
You are doing the same thing with your “bundle.” You have all of your beliefs and doctrines and plans, and you carry them with you everywhere you go. You won’t step back and allow me to get into it and add anything or remove anything.
As you learn to trust me, you will release those things to me and I will sort and separate those things and give you something far better. Just trust me."
It took me years to do that. I finally did. Over the years He has taken away so much that was painful and far too heavy to carry. He has given me things that are much more valuable. It was a wonderful experience and the lessons I learned were so amazing they still affect my life to this day.
Are you carrying a load of unnecessary burdens? Give them to Jesus. “His yoke is easy and His burden is light.” Just trust Him. You will find that He is trustworthy!
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Louise, A wonderful story. My husband and I have bought food for those on the streets but we have been afraid to bring them home. A woman here in town did the same thing you did. The man tied her up in a chair and set fire to the house. Fortunately, she was rescued by her neighbors without injuries. This was the same man whom we had bought food for a couple of weeks before. The Lord wants us to help others but you have to be careful in this day and age.