By Missio Participant Gene Anderson
It’s been raining for a couple days now.
It let up for a bit this morning, but it stormed hard last night and it started again this afternoon.
And the homeless citizens of St. Petersburg, Florida are still homeless.
And stuck out in the rain.
It’s Monday night and folks from The Missio Dei and Eckerd College were engaged in our Monday night mission called “Love the Poor”. We make and distribute meals to homeless people throughout the St. Petersburg area. We don’t ask them to come to us, we go to them. We meet them in their space, not ours. We leave our comfort zone to be with our neighbors and fellow citizens in a city that is recognized as one of the toughest cities for homeless people in the United States of America.
We worship with dirty, wet hands.
We feed, hug, pray, laugh, and cry with our friends.
We join in solidarity with our homeless neighbors because they are us.
I want to tell you about a couple of the folks I met tonight. Of course, I’ve changed their names. But hear a bit of their stories:
“Billy” is 29 years old. He has been homeless for 9 years. He sleeps next to City Hall and is very proud of his bicycle. He woke up in the rain last night, but was able to dry out his socks and sleeping bag after the sun came up. That is important. If you can keep your socks and your sleeping bag dry, that’s half the battle.
Billy is about to start a GED class at a center for adult education. He says his reading skills (9th grade level) are good enough to pass the test, but that his math skills are rather weak, especially with respect to percentages and fractions.
“Nashville” joined us in a prayer circle tonight, along with several other homeless folks. He led a prayer and dropped the F-bomb about 3 or 4 times during it. It wasn’t that he was trying to be disrespectful, it’s just the way he talks and it came from the depths of his heart. After we finished praying, I tapped him lightly on his chest, smiled, and told him God hears our hearts and not our words. Then I offered him a couple smokes. We had a smoke together and he told me he didn’t mean to cuss during the prayer. I laughed, told him I was a minister and told him I’ve done it myself a few times. He smiled and laughed back. Then we gave each other a long, full body hug as he began to cry a little bit on my shoulder.
His prayer was the finest prayer I may have heard in my entire life.
It’s time to pray, to worship, to minister, and to love with dirty hands.
It’s time to become “Mission Men” and “Mission Women”.
It’s time to truly love God by loving and being with our neighbors.
No matter who they are or where they sleep.
“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58 NRSV)