Officer Brewster brushed his holster with a light, reassuring touch as the drunk vagabond staggered across the street. 'This neighborhood is the pit,' he thought. 'What a waste of humanity!' The downtown district had battled the homeless problem for years but it seemed to be getting worse every day. Sure, times were hard but Brewster just couldn’t imagine anything that would bring a human being to this kind of degradation.
He looked at his watch. Ten more minutes. A frown momentarily crept in but he quickly replaced it with his public servant's smile. Without meaning to, his eyes wandered toward the old lady sitting on the ground under the maple tree. She had found some birthday candles in the trash and was busy melting wax and securing each candle to the middle of smashed beer cans. 'Poor Tillie,' Brewster thought. 'She’s gonna be heartbroken.' Tillie was the one bright spot in his dreary beat. She had shown up three months earlier and had become a tenant of the park, one salvaged piece of treasured trash at a time. Although her eyes always seemed a blink away from a tear she never had a negative thing to say about anyone. And now she was headed for an almost certain fall. He looked at his watch again. 'Five minutes,' he thought. He put his hand gently on the old woman’s shoulder.
“Tillie, they aren’t coming.” Brewster watched Tillie’s eyes flash brightly. “Nothing would please me more than to see even one of them show up, but…” He let the sentence just float away into the air because he could see that she wasn’t listening to his warning anyway.
For a week now she had been excited about her church’s Home Group meeting. She had been attending the meetings for several months but this was the first time she had invited the group to meet at her “home.” He could almost imagine the looks of shock when Tillie explained where she lived. 'Poor Tillie!'
Brewster looked around the park. Other homeless vagrants were beginning to gather a short distance from Tillie’s make shift camp. 'Oh, great! I didn’t need this!' A glance at Tillie told him that the vagrant guests had been expected. 'She invited them!' he thought. 'She is going to look like a fool when her rich church people don’t show up.' He looked at his watch again. Seven o’clock. He found himself regretting what he had to do.
“Tillie, it’s seven o’clock. I’m gonna halfta’ disperse this crowd if the church doesn’t show. I don’t want to trample through your hope garden but they just aren’t coming.”
“They gonna come.” Tillie adjusted a candle that had tilted slightly and then she lit it. “They gonna come ‘cause these people I invited need to hear the truth about Jesus. They don’t trust the church so I decided maybe they would come to my home for our Home Group meetin'.”
“I would love to think you were right, Tillie. All I’ve ever seen in churches is hypocrites. That’s why I don’t go to church anymore. I’ve been that route. They are all the same!”
The old woman smiled, lit her last candle and stood to her feet. She looked right at Officer Brewster. No… she wasn’t looking at him. She was looking past him. Brewster turned to see what she was looking at. Across the street was three newly parked cars, one a BMW and two of them Caddies. The doors on all three cars were opening and richly dressed couples were beginning to pile out of their carriages. Each had a bible in their hand and every one of them was looking at Tillie and waving like long lost friends.
Tillie put her hand on Brewster’s shoulder like he had done to her earlier. “Officer,” she said softly, “You must have been goin’ to church for the wrong reason!”
Brewster watched the gathering crowd of vagabonds and Christians seat themselves on the ground next to each other. He had never seen the likes! This was the way he had always thought the church should be but…
“Tillie?” Brewster asked. Tillie flashed him a glistening but toothless smile. “Tillie, would you mind if I join YOUR home group?”
He hadn’t expected this. It all seemed so clear now. He had never found a good church because he had never found Jesus. Brewster smiled to himself.
'I have the feeling that’s about to change!'
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