A Stranger’s Journey
“Which of these three, do you think,
proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among
the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.”
And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.“
† LUKE 10:36-37 †
Click this link to listen to the song:
“The Twenty-First Time” by Monk & Neagle
You’ve probably walked by a homeless person on the street or, if not, have seen a person in need and although you felt compelled to do something you continued to go your own way without doing or saying anything to that person.
When you see a homeless person, there are different things that run through your mind. Should you stop? Should you talk to him or her? Should you give this person money? Should you take this person home with you? Should you buy this person something to eat and drink? All these questions fly through your mind in an instant, but yet you find a way to push them into the back of your mind and continue on your way. It’s easy to do, I know.
When you see a person in need, I bet you feel that same compelling, right? And the same things go through your mind. Should you help that child on the TV commercial? Should you help that person life that heavy item? Should you even think about going up to that person who is ‘different’ than you when you’re with your friends?
Should you pick up that man on the side of the road who needs a ride to the next town? Will he rob you? Will he pull a gun on you? Will he kill you?
I know the choice is hard! Trust me, you’re not the only one who wrestles with those things – we all do. Cain asked God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” So let me ask you a question: How responsible are we for meeting the needs of others, especially those we view as ‘outsiders’?
Look at the account of “The Good Samaritan” and you will see that the same thing was questioned in Jesus’ day. A priest wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asked him what the Law said. The priest replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus told him to do just that and he would live.
The priest then asked, “Who is my neighbor? He wanted to know who he was required to love and serve. Jesus answered his question with a story – a story similar to a couple nights I’ve had recently. Read this story in Luke 10: 30-37.
As I was walking into Ripley Walmart one night, I noticed a guy sitting outside in the freezing cold weather bundled up in a large coat. I just figured he was a guy waiting for his family or friends to come out, or maybe he just got through smoking a cigarette. Not once did it cross my mind that this guy was homeless. I went back a couple days later with a friend – again, I didn’t think anything about it. The week after, as I left Walmart with a couple different friends, I noticed him again and there was no doubt in my mind that he was homeless. The only difference, this time, is that I was compelled to do something. Thoughts flooded my mind: Do I talk to him? What would I say? Would he rob me?
Being raised in a small town most of my life, I’ve never dealt with homeless people. But I knew God was telling me to do something for this guy. I left without doing a thing, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t on my mind. That guy plagued my mind every single day. I did not go back to Walmart for a few days and then I went home for the Thanksgiving holidays. Again, he was constantly on my mind and the compelling was stronger and stronger. A friend sent me a message and told me that the homeless guy had been on his mind that week. Wow! “Are you serious” I asked. Was God laying this guy on our heart?
A couple days after we got back to the college, a few of my friends and me went back to Walmart. Sure enough, this guy was there. The whole time we were in the store, we were trying to figure out what to do or say. This time, I pushed all those thoughts out of my head. This time, I was going to do something. We bought some ready-to-eat food, some crackers, and a few bottles of water for him. We went out and introduced ourselves and gave him the bag of groceries. He told us about how he was looking for a job and was trying to get unemployment until he found a job. He just started opening up to us about stuff. We talked for a few minutes and then we prayed for him.
Fast forward just one week later. Me and a friend were going to the Casting Crowns Christmas concert at the BancorpSouth center in Tupelo. We left the school around 4:30 headed to Tupelo to eat. Around 5 pm, we stopped at the gas station located right before Hwy. 78 which we would take. I filled the car up and entered onto the highway ramp (gas was $1.26!). That’s when I saw him.
I went past him as he threw his hands in the air. It hit me again. That feeling – that compelling had come over me once again. But once again, those thoughts rushed through my mind. It’s too dark. Does this guy have a gun? Do I need to stop and give him a ride? What if he tries to steal my car? What if he kills us? I pulled onto the shoulder right as I entered onto the highway. With my foot on the brake, the gear in Drive, doors locked, and my window cracked – the guy approached us. You want to talk about being scared! I feared for my life – seriously. I had never ever picked a hitch-hiker up before.
“Hey, can you give me a ride?” Unlocking the door with fear, I replied, “Sure, hop in the back!” I knew that I needed to give this guy a ride but I was so afraid. I continued on the highway and we engaged into conversation with this guy named Bobby. Immediately, the fear I had melted away as I asked him where he was from (he lived far away). I asked him where he was going (again, far away from Tupelo). He told us that he was promised a job if he ever needed one in this place and he’s trying to get there. He went through a divorce with his wife, who cheated on him with his best friend. This guy was poor, but he used to be pretty well-off in society. He made a lot of money from where he worked. But one day the new owner came in and laid everyone off and brought in his own workers. So now, this guy is out of a job and his wife has taken everything – his money, his vehicle, his house, his savings – everything. He had $1,000 left in his name and the clothes on his back. He then started his journey – hitch-hiking until he gets to his destination. He’s been hitch-hiking for over 3 months now. You’re probably wondering why in the world he hasn’t got to where he’s going yet. I’ll tell you why. It’s because of people like us, who let fear and comfort rule over our decisions instead of letting go and stepping out in faith to help a neighbor in need.
Bobby took a nap until we arrived in Tupelo. We took him out to eat and then we dropped him off in Fulton, a pretty well-lit town where he would probably receive his next ride to where he was headed. But that’s not all that happened. We invested 2 hours of our time just talking and eating with this guy. We picked him up to help him, but God used him to richly bless us as well! A lot more went on – more than words could express. Just to think if we had not stopped to pick this guy up, we would have missed out on an opportunity to serve and be blessed – and also would have contributed to the rejection other people had already given him. Bobby told us that us stopping to give him a ride changed his whole day and showed him that not all Christians are the same. (He had been having bad experiences with other Christians).
Two days later – just last night – me and a friend go to visit the homeless guy at Walmart. Again we buy him a bag of ready-to-eat groceries and couple of drinks. This time, we spent an hour with him outside just talking with him and getting to know his situation better. This homeless guy, Kenley, began to let us know his experience with the Lord and how much He means to him. Wow! This guy is homeless and was praising God for taking such good care of him. Kenley asked us to keep his adopted father in our prayers because he’s in the hospital right now with some serious heart problems. We prayed for him and came back to the college to study for our 9 am exam today.
My experiences thus far have challenged me and got me thinking. All it took was a simple decision to take a few minutes (or hours) out of my busy day and some money out of my wallet to help out these homeless guys – these people in need – and completely change their day.
Jesus ended the story of “The Good Samaritan” by asking which of those three people was a neighbor to the man. The priest answered, “The one who showed mercy to him.” Jesus told him to go and do likewise.
I want to make something clear. This blog is not meant to boast of me or my friends’ works. This blog is meant to encourage you and have you examine your life to see if you are loving your neighbor as yourself. The focus here is not good deeds, but serving God and being obedient to what He leads us to do.
Let me end by saying this: There are so many opportunities that God sends us to serve Him by serving others, and so often we pass them by simply because we don’t want to give up our time or money. No matter how much time it takes, how much money we have to spend, or how uncorfortable or scared we are, we must embrace those opportunites and show Christ and love them like Jesus.