Saturday evening, an image was imprinted in my mind that is never going to fade.
“Don,” a homeless man who was looking rather worse for the wear, came by the church building just before the Saturday evening service started. The service was being held outside on our patio, and Don strolled up and stood on the sidewalk, kind of looking things over. I walked up to say hello, and saw bruises and cuts around his eyes, deeper than the dirt that covered his face, and noticed his scruffy clothes and the aroma of alcohol and sweat.
“Hello,” I said, “I’m Andy.”
“Hello. Don.” We shook hands.
“Good to meet you, Don. Come on over and have a seat. Church is going to start in a few minutes.”
He hesitated a bit. “Oh … okay.” As we walked to the chairs, he asked, “Do you have a marker I could borrow?”
“Sure, I’ll run in and get you one.” Which I did.
As the service began, I looked over at Don. Sitting in the second row, near the center of the group, he was using the marker from the church to write on a torn piece of cardboard. He was writing, “Homeless. Please help. Vietnam vet.” The image of Don scrawling out his plea for help on that torn piece of cardboard with that borrowed marker in the midst of the worshiping congregation will be with me for a long, long time.
At the end of the sermon Don raised his hand. When I acknowledged him, he told the story of the cuts and bruises around his eyes. A young man, he said, had thrown a bottle at him while he was sleeping in the park. He ended his testimony by saying, “But I forgave him. I gave him to God.”
Don sort of wandered away sometime just before communion was served. When I saw the attendance pad from Saturday night, I saw that he had signed in. In the address column he had written the word “Homeless.”