Stephanie carried the hot meal as she and her friend Ashley climbed the narrow staircase to room 403. Ashley blushed at the obscenities spray-painted on the dirty walls.
"We’re not in Kansas anymore," she joked nervously.
Delivering dinners for Meals-on-Wheels was the last planned activity for their college group’s week long mission trip to the inner city. During their stay, they’d served in a soup kitchen, painted a church, and led numerous Bible Clubs in neighborhood parks.
When they reached the correct room, Ashley knocked on the door. "Meals-on-Wheels," she called out.
They could barely hear the frail voice’s response. "Come in."
Ashley pushed open the door and was instantly overwhelmed by the smell of urine. She turned her face to the hallway and tried to gulp some fresh air before entering the room.
"Oh my," Stephanie whispered to Ashley. The girls put on cheerful faces and entered the dark apartment. A small, wrinkled woman was sitting in a recliner, surrounded by dirty dishes and trash. The TV was tuned to HGTV.
"Hello, Mrs. Baker. Where would you like this?"
"Right here." Mrs. Baker patted her lap.
Stephanie handed the lady the plate. "You have a nice day."
Back in the hallway, Stephanie and Ashley took a deep breath of fresh air but didn’t move. They stood silently and then looked at each other.
"Are you thinking what I’m thinking?"
"We need to at least offer to tidy her apartment. I don’t think she can get up."
Ashley stuck her head back in the door. "Mrs. Baker? Could we help you by throwing away some of these old containers?"
"That would be nice."
Ashley and Stephanie returned to the smelly apartment and started collecting trash. In the kitchen they found a leaky faucet, dirty dishes, and sticky floors. Without saying a word, Ashley started bagging the garbage while Stephanie washed dishes. They worked silently until Stephanie’s cell phone rang.
"Are you two okay?" David, a member of their group, asked.
"We’re fine." She silently mouthed "David" to Ashley. "We’re in room 403 helping a woman tidy her apartment."
Ashley grabbed the phone from Stephanie.
"Hey, David, are you near the van with all the tools?"
"Yep. We’re right outside the apartment."
"Would you be able to come up here and fix this lady’s leaking faucet?"
"I’ll be right up."
David joined them a few minutes later, along with several others from their group.
The additional students quickly went to work vacuuming, mopping and dusting. They moved into the bathroom and scrubbed until the peeling linoleum sparkled. While they worked, Mrs. Baker sat silently in her chair, seemingly amazed at the young angels who had arrived in her apartment.
An hour later the friends looked satisfyingly around the room. Everything was clean, but the urine smell was still strong. They knew they were not finished.
Ashley, a nursing student, knelt at Mrs. Baker’s side.
"Mrs. Baker, can I help you bathe?"
A tear rolled down her check as she nodded her head.
The females in the group escorted Mrs. Baker to the bathroom, and Stephanie and Ashley carefully assisted her as she cleaned. Then they brushed her white hair and helped her dress in fresh clothes.
As they guided her back into the living room, they immediately noticed the fresh smell. A new leather recliner sat in the former one’s place. It wasn’t brand new, and duct tape covered a hole in the back, but it was clean.
David stood there with a sheepish grin. "I hope you don’t mind Mrs. Baker, but I replaced your chair. I remembered seeing this one for sale at the thrift shop across the street."
Tears filled the lady’s eyes for the second time.
"And Mrs. Baker, we’ve arranged for daily meals, instead of weekly," another in the group said. "The volunteers will make sure you don’t need anything when they’re here."
Mrs. Baker gently sat down in her new chair.
"We’re going to have to go, but could we tell you about Jesus?"
"First, let me tell you something. I’ve watched many TV preachers talk about Jesus. I’ve had people knock on my door wanting to tell me about Jesus. I’ve even read about Him in my Bible. But today, for the first time, I saw Jesus with my own two eyes. I saw Him in each of you. I want to know your Jesus."
There wasn’t a dry eye in the room as the students introduced Mrs. Baker to Jesus.
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