Terrified and Homeless
I don’t believe I’ve ever had someone tell me they were terrified with such conviction on their face. In fact, it was the first time anyone has ever told me they were terrified and meant it. This is how I met a homeless man.
Before Christmas, I volunteered at the New Orleans Dream Center’s Saturday outreach program providing free medical, free dental and free vet care to those in need. The program sets up behind the old Shriners’ Jerusalem Temple on St. Charles Avenue next to the I-10 overpass. One Saturday a month Church of the King reaches out to the community providing these essential services though a core of volunteer doctors. I’d had heard about this outreach for nearly two years before stepping up to be a part of it; to be candid, I sincerely wish I had done it sooner…just over a month later it resonates with me like it was yesterday.
The Alaskan Assassin Helps the Homeless
The Friday night before serving, I made my call to confirm I was going. On that call, Pastor Fred informed me that he planned on walking under the bridge to meet the homeless offering free meals in addition to working the medical tents. I can’t explain it, but the prior few months I had noticed more homeless than usual as I drove around New Orleans and started paying attention to them. A series of events or nudges led me to wanting to see how I may help. One of those moments was totally random and helped tip the scales to get me off my butt. I met Sam Hogar, aka the Alaskan Assassin, a UFC fighter – he overheard a conversation a friend of mine and I were having at Starbucks about the film business and next thing we know we were talking about Sam’s acting career. Sam was not shy. More importantly, he then shared how he helps feeding the homeless in Houston where he owns a mixed martial arts gym. His comments about feeding the homeless with some of his staff when they leave his gym at night and how convicted they are for doing it was the part that got my attention, along with his nickname. The film discussion evaporated. Long story short, it was another nudge – a bizarre one. Then Pastor Fred asked me on the call, “Would you be interested walking under the bridge?” Yes was my answer.
Do I Really Want to do This?
To be blunt, I was physically uncomfortable as I prepared mentally to do this. I was leaving the safety and comfort of my own home early on a Saturday morning. I was thinking to myself, how does one go meet the homeless under a bridge? Do they really want to see me? Do they care? Is this really what I want to do?
The morning started off fine. We met with those in need under the tents to calm their nerves with prayer as they were preparing for their medical attention. Then about 10:30am, Pastor Fred grabs John, another volunteer, and me to walk under the bridge. If you’ve never done this before, you will never forget your first time- I promise. I can see clear as day the first huddle of homeless folks we walked up to. I was taking back as they were genuinely happy to see us wishing us an early Merry Christmas. I thought to myself that really should have been the other way around. One of the guys in the group was an inspiration as he was doing the same thing we were. One major difference though, he was living in the same spot as the others in the huddle a year prior. Today he has a job, a home off the streets, and a new wife. Here he was ministering to the same folks he once lived with providing hope and encouragement. We were blown away.
His Faith Carries Him
As we moved on to the next group about 20 or 30 yards away, a homeless man walked up to us by himself asking us for prayer. He looked all of us in the eye as if he had known us his whole life and told us he was “terrified”. He pulled out his drivers license to show us what he looked like just two years prior to being diagnosed with cancer. He was once well over 300 pounds, what we saw was a shell of a man maybe, maybe 135 pounds. He told us he was now at stage four cancer. He was shaking badly as he spoke to us and he was completely coherent. He gave us a little of his history letting us know he was a nurse for 29 years and loved helping others. Then his life went sideways with cancer. With no family to turn to, his health failing and his life’s savings exhausted, he was living on the streets. He was looking for directions to the hospital, direction and comfort. We prayed with this man as he asked us to and we wanted to do more. He got his directions and went off on his way. The part that sticks with me was his comment about being “terrified;” then letting us know how thankful to God he was for helping him survive one day at a time, literally. I can’t help but think where he is tonight as I write this. I wonder how his Faith was so strong?
The Need Is Huge
Seeing how many homeless were under the bridge was eye opening; it’s one thing driving by, it’s another entering their home made up of old blankets, cardboard beds, and makeshift tents. I will be back for the need is huge. I’m not sure at this point how I can help other than comfort, prayer, offering a free meal and raising awareness. I know Church of the King has a vision to help more of those in need as they get the old Shriners’ Jerusalem Temple fully converted into a permanent Dream Center; it’s going to take a village to help these folks and God’s grace to make that miracle happen.
My humble start to help with this is to let you know that if this blog post “nudges” you, Church of the King has other days set up this New Year to serve. I encourage you to join us this Saturday, January 11th at 9am or one of the following dates: February 8th, March 8th, April 5th , May 10th . We will meet at the medical tents behind the old Shriners’ Jerusalem Temple at 1137 St. Charles Ave. You can learn more at www.NewOrleansDreamCenter.org
No question this story will take more than one blog post. In an upcoming post I will talk about the other gentleman who walked with us under the bridge and his perspective as a very large investment banker who built a 5 billion dollar fund. In the meantime, pray on how you might help or plug into the mission work Church of the King is leading.
See the message below from the President of the NFL Players Association about the New Orleans Dream Center
Part 2 is now posted: “Terrified” – An investment bankers perspective.
Mission Chefs serves Missions across the US helping our Veterans and homeless