I stood off in the corner, trying to look inconspicuous, waiting for my friend Terry.* Looking around, the saggy ceiling screamed of water damage, drooping in several spots. The cement floor, clean but mostly uncarpeted, contained a few large rugs covering the many years of scuffs and cracks.
I looked over as Terry in need of clothes and food, sat sharing with a caring kind woman. Tragedy had hit Terry’s home when a small fire broke out in her kitchen. Prior to the fire, she had been struggling to feed her four children on food stamps. The previous night at church, as I sought out the church’s food pantry, we had been directed here – a Christ-centered mission in the inner city.
With my arms across my chest, a woman stepped through the door. My heart broke. This woman looked worn and weary, her hair in need of brushing, wearing oversized, tattered clothing. As she walked in, she looked from side to side. Spotting Carole, the Mission’s Director, she made her way over to her. Carole turned around and looked into her eyes. Without hesitation, Carole reached out and grabbed her, holding her in a long, caring embrace. As the hug ended, the weary woman’s whole countenance changed. Carole reached out and hugged her again and again. By the third hug, this weary woman smiled, and her face took on a glow.
Tears streamed down my cheeks. Could I do that? Could I hold and hug someone unshowered and unperfumed, wearing less-than-clean clothes? As I searched my heart, I knew I couldn’t.
But God didn’t look at the exterior of this lady -- or anyone else. God looks beyond our physical appearance and the manner of our dress.
So, the Lord started a work in me, pouring His love into me in a whole new way.
One night after a powerful teaching at church, I asked the Lord for His will for my life. I had been praying far too long about what I thought the Lord wanted me to do, but failing to pray for what He wanted.
Walking toward the front door, of the large church where Carole and I both attended, I spotted her. “Hi, Carole.”
Carole turned around. “Oh, Annette, how are you?”
“Annette, wasn’t that a powerful message tonight?”
“Yes, it really spoke to me.”
“Me too.” Carole smiled. “Annette, will you please pray about coming to the mission? I believe you really have a heart for the people there.”
I swallowed as my heart skipped a beat. Before I had a chance to even think, the words tumbled out. “Yes, I’d like that.”
As I walked away, fear started to rise, and I couldn’t believe what I had just agreed to. But I showed up, and the Lord started birthing something new in me. He let me look past everything you see with your eyes, giving me a love for the people who come to the mission – the poor, the downtrodden, the lost, and the hurting.
I thank the Lord that He changed the direction in my life – That He in His infinite wisdom and grace, redirected me to where He knew was the perfect place – the Christ-centered Mission in the inner city.