Last night my friend Mr. S shared some of his story. Five years ago he was coming to our Wednesday night dinner at our church, and he mostly came drunk and belligerent. We even had to ask him to leave for a year for how he treated one of our volunteers. I remember during that time I took him out for breakfast one morning, and we had an interesting conversation about rap music and his “aspiring” rap career. He wasn’t ready for real help at that time, but he remembered our conversation (and especially remembered the food). A couple of years ago he was constantly looking for a job,dressing up in a tie and interviewing all over town, not having any luck, but keeping his head up.
And now, he has a job that he has held for almost a year. He has joined a local church. He is engaged to be married in May and he and his fiancé are going to pre-marital counseling. They are set to get an apartment in the coming week. He is always well-groomed, peaceful in spirit, and polite on Wednesday nights.
What his story tells me is to remember that it can take a long time for someone to leave the street life and the attitudes and behaviors that accompany it. It can take tough love, even discipline, for someone to see how their attitude damages themselves and others. But all that time, God is at work. It’s easy to see the same people over and over each Wednesday and feel like they are in the same cycle and situation that they were in last year and wonder if our prayers and our time is worth it. In fact, discouragement is one of the main ways that the devil seeks rob our hope and silence our work.
But God reminds me that our faithful love and service, in His hands, is powerful.A simple meal and a short sermon once a week matter. Prayers for the same requests over and over matter. God’s transformation is not always quick, it is not always according to our understanding.
I believe that there are going to be more stories like Mr. S’s coming soon. Our numbers overall on Wednesday nights are down a little bit, but there’s a consistent spirit of expectation, an expectation that we are going to hear from God. More and more people are coming hungry for the Word, as well as for the food, and I believe that God is answering my prayer to make us into a transformational community.