During the summer, traditionally, Wednesdays are "Manna Day." Manna of Life, a ministry we partner with, does an outreach every Saturday: they make soup and sandwiches, gather juice and fruit, then visit three different sites to serve both day workers and people who are homeless. Since our summer teams aren't in the city on weekends, we do the same outreach ourselves on Wednesday mornings.
The route we take is the same each time: first a gas station at Westchester Square; then the Living Room, a homeless shelter in Hunts Point; then another gas station not far away down Bruckner Boulevard. We know what time we need to start making sandwiches in the morning, what time we have to leave, and what are the best times to get to each site. We've done this many times before. That's not to say that it's always the same, but we know basically what to expect.
Today was different.
We had the youth group from The Spring BIC in Chambersburg, PA. At the first gas station I saw a man over at the corner of the building, slumped to the ground, unkempt and disheveled, drinking a can of beer, several bags next to him. He looked pretty obviously homeless, though you can't know that for sure unless you talk to him. I grabbed one of the guys from the team and went to ask the man if he would like a couple sandwiches, some juice, and a banana.
He cautiously accepted the food, and I asked him his name. Jimmy, he told me. As soon as I got near him I noticed the dog tags around his neck, and I mentioned them to him and thanked him for his service to our country. We talked for a little while, and we were able to give him a Bible and pray for him. I also told him that there are programs specifically for homeless veterans, but that he needed to take the initiative to seek them out; they won't know he's out here unless he tells them.
This was the first time I had met a homeless person at this gas station. Normally all we encounter is a group of day workers, men who wait around for someone to drive by and offer them work for the day. Sometimes there are fewer guys there, sometimes more. When we meet only a handful of them at a given site, we hope that they're gone because they found work.
I stepped away from Jimmy and walked over to where the rest of our group was. As I did, a couple of them were saying something to the driver of a white SUV that had pulled up right in front of us. They offered the man a banana -- the items we bring are for anyone who wants them -- and I heard him ask what we were doing. We told him, and he seemed impressed, saying he thought it was great that we were doing it. He said that he doesn't go to church as much as he should, but identified himself with a church not far from there. Then he grabbed something from inside his vehicle and handed it to me: a folded wad of cash more than an inch thick. He said he wanted to bless us because we were blessing other people. I thanked him earnestly and told him that the money would go right to this, to what we were doing here. He drove off, and I don't remember if we ever got his name.
He had handed us $346 in cash. I don't know what that money was or where it came from, but I know that it will be used to meet the needs of even more people now. I don’t know all what was in that man's heart, but I believe that the Holy Spirit had moved him to do what he did.
Later in the day, at the second gas station where we fed the day workers, a white delivery van pulled up to our group. He called through his window to some of the team members, who spoke to him and then waved to me to come over. Apparently the man had extra bread. He had an order of rolls canceled at the last minute, after he had already made them, so he was driving around to different restaurants and offering the bread. He saw us and offered two good-sized boxes if we wanted them. Since we were near the end of our time, I only took one box.
We were able to hand out the entire box to the day workers at that gas station, offering basically as much as they wanted. It was a big blessing to be able to offer those guys more, because often we run out of things at the last gas station. Today, we had more than enough.
I told The Spring's youth group that people back home must be praying for them. We've had people donate to us before, people who have seen us around the city and applauded what we were doing (though we know and always say that the glory should go to God), but never have we gotten two out-of-the-blue contributions like these. God is good.
I could talk about the power of prayer, about how God blesses us even when we don't deserve it, about how we simply need to walk in obedience and see where God takes us, about how He will provide in remarkable ways. Instead I will simply praise God from whom all blessings flow.
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." -- James 1:17
"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." -- Ephesians 3:20-1