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Category Archives: Homeless
Got to buy dinner for a homeless dude in old city Philly last night. To read about other homeless adventures, click here. Items selected included
- a pound of raw bacon
- 1/2 pound cheddar cheese
- bottled water
I refrained from giving him the following:
- fermented beverages
So this guy was I think more confused than anything else. I think all this Jesus Camp blogging has made me feel like a hypocrite unconsciously – I told the dude “Jesus loves you” and all I could think about was the Jesus Camp thing, and I totally got slimed. Plus, the dude obviously wanted a beer, I suppose he would have appreciated the sentiment more had I got him one… we don’t act on our feelings, right?
Well, when I saw the Junior Mints during my prayer time in the pavilion Monday, I knew something was up.
Sure enough, I was wrapping up and getting ready to leave. It had been raining. This dude comes from way across the street dragging 3 or 4 foldup carts of all sorts of stuff. So I’m faced with the preferred short term option of just leaving versus hanging around long enough to find out what I might be supposed to do. The former option does produce a bit of guilt.
However I had a religious thought from something I read somewhere about how when fasting you are supposed to “minister primarily to the Lord”, and not others. I figured that might get me off the hook. I stuck around anyway and asked “is there anything I could do for you?”.
Turns out he needed to go to a hospital on the other end of the suburb, not that far. He asked if I had a truck, which I do not. He had a LOT of stuff, but had a gift for packing that I don’t have. I think the Lord imparts this gift of packing in increasing measure according to the number of offspring one is blessed with. So as a bachelor approaching the mid-30’s I have little anointing in this area.
Behold, Steve was a able to pack what was probably 13 cubic feet of his stuff into my trunk and backseat of my Honda Accord. This is because he has kids. So off we went to Holy Redeemer hospital, which is in a swanky area.
The emergency room has its own valet, which posed some potential issues. How does one basically abandon a homeless guy and all his stuff in front of a valet? Fortunately this dude must not have been paid enough, since he decided against fighting that battle.
So I got to pray for Steve, who was much more grateful than was Lonnie. I told him that even though he doesn’t have much of a place in society, that he doesn’t need to prove his worth to God. God has a plan for him and has gifted him in many things, including being able to stack tons of junk into a tiny Honda.
So please pray for Steve, he has adult kids out there and some grandchildren, and I sensed God really wanted to reconcile him with them. He was welling up a bit and I think God was really touching the guy. Pray for Lonnie, too!
I got to buy lunch for a homeless guy.
Now it has been about 4 years since the last time I was able to do this, when I lived in Cleveland. Now Cleveland is a much smaller, friendlier city, and I came close to perfecting a technique on how to separate the “sheep from the goats” in the panhandling arena.
Now because I am a follower of Christ, I take his words seriously regarding giving to those in need – feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the incarcerated. I do not need to be of a particular political persuasion to have compassion for the poor. So when someone asks me for food on the street, I attempt to take them up on it. It is just so fun to buy lunch for someone who is hungry, because it is better to give than to receive.
And it can be a lot of fun too. I remember a game show called “SuperMarket Sweep” in which people have to stuff lots of food in their shopping cart. What I do is a pathetically scaled down version of the “bonus round” of that show. Without being disrespectful of the person I am helping or their plight, thinking of this interaction in terms of a game show helps me maintain an upbeat persona that assists in maintaining gentle control over the whole situation.
Unfortunately, there is a high proportion of people who choose their words rather sloppily, for when I take them up on their request for “food”, they flip-flop on me and expect “money for food” or “money” or something like that.
This guy, Lonnie, was soliciting “food” from a row of cars I was behind at a stoplight, which is a common occurrance in Philly. An effective means of fundraising for many seemingly legit organizations too. Very hard for motorists to avoid them.
Anyhow, he asked for food at my window just as the light turned green. I was running out of time, fast. I realized that I might have an opportunity on my hands to provide for the needy and even that it could be an “angel” (see Hebrews). I want to be faithful in my almsgiving, and took him up on it.
“GET IN THE CAR!” I said.
(Disclaimer: I am obviously very unique in this view. This is potentially dangerous. However I drive a 17 year old Honda and realize the key to panhandling situations is to 1. take control nicely of the situation and 2. allow the other party to be free to decline their original offer at any time, while 3. confessing Psalm 91 often)
So I took him to a tiny Philly corner market and announced to him that I would buy him all the food he wanted there, up to $10 worth of food. He immediate counter-offered to simply subcontract the allocation of these funds, to which I referred back to his original terms of request, “food”, and told him it was his decision whether he wanted food or not. Also I mentioned that I am not actually in control of the money, it is not “mine”, I am just a steward of it. I think he may have been annoyed by this, but he was the one who got us into this situation.
As we walked to the end of the block upon parking, he again attempted to solicit funds for cigarettes and a fake Rolex that was being sold on the corner. Again I referred to the original verbal terms of our agreement.
Here is where it got interesting: in Cleveland everyone, male or female, who I bought food for knew what to get: the Rotisserie Chicken! It made sense when I thought about it. Well remember, this is Philly, home of Rocky. I underwrote a gallon of milk, coke (a 2 liter of it), and 2 cartons of raw eggs. I thought “how is this guy gonna hard-boil his eggs?” But then I remembered that Rocky DRANK the eggs.
Lonnie only used up about $7 of food, and I attempted to avail him of the full amount. Turned out that he made a last attempt to cash in for the $3 that he didn’t use but it was too late and outside the terms of our deal.
The low point of the interaction was that he refused my offer to pray off his nicotine addiction. I said “I don’t mean to be disrespectful of your struggle, but I will pray for you and believe that God will break off the need for cigarettes”. He didn’t take me up on it, but I went ahead and prayed for him behind his back anyhow.
In my car at the next light, I turned my head toward a building and read the engraved words, “A HOUSE OF PRAYER”, zoomed out and it was a beautiful church with that verse on it. Go figure!