The Word on the Street - 10.4.2022
Updated: Oct 7
On the first of October, the remnant of Ian, which had caused so much loss of life and damage and heartbreak to Florida, brought only dreary clouds and rain to Harrisburg. But I remembered Hurricane Agnes, which had flooded the Susquehanna river in June 1972. Across the street, in the low-lying parts of Marietta, the water was up to the second floors of many of the houses. It was unbelievable, the amount of destruction that was inflicted by mere water, the flooding, the smell for so long afterward as the cleanup continued.
Wayne and Kim brought a canopy to shelter us from the rain, as we put out tarps, flashlights and batteries, blankets, hats and hoodies, socks and clothing for our friends. It is starting to get cold again, when homelessness becomes more dire. Despite the inclement weather, nearly everything was cleared out. We worked together, as brothers and sisters, even the smallest hands outstretched to help those who were suffering.
For Ken, today was another reminder that the church is one body, with many parts. A 63-year-old lady, new to the streets, asked if we had a tent. When we answered we did not have a tent, she asked where she could obtain one. She was told about a group who gathers on Sundays from 2-3:30 pm behind the courthouse. Someone from our group sent a text to the Sunday group, and a tent was waiting for our new 63-year-old friend the next day. We sometimes look around and think our ministry to the homeless is so overwhelming a burden, and for us alone it would be, had not God organized dozens of groups like ours, assigned us to different tasks, but all to the same purpose of helping the people of Harrisburg and beyond. We often think we are alone when we are a great cloud!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely… (Hebrews 12:1)
We had a new person join us on the street Saturday. Her name is Savannah and she is from Texas, where they say everything is bigger. That is certainly true of Savannah’s heart! She was downstairs in St. Patrick's, which had opened its doors to the homeless with the advent of colder weather, and Ken told me what a bold witness she was to the people gathered there! I wanted to see that for myself, because I am somewhere between bold and nervous in sharing my faith; so I went downstairs to hear her. She was listening to a man named Juan. But Savannah was receptive, attentive and respectful to him as he spoke.
Greg Koukl says that what people like to talk about most is themselves and so Juan became more expansive as he discussed how he had lived in Colorado, done business there. I asked him what brought him back to Harrisburg and he talked about growing up here, family still in the area.
I saw this as an opportunity, Savannah having listened to him so graciously bought us the space needed, and so I shared with him why I came back to Harrisburg in the winter of 1994 and the salvation testimony to which it lead, the reason God brought me back here from down south. Some folks, I guess, just need snow falling down from heaven on their heads like their sins to convict them and make them realize they are poor sinners in need of a savior!
Kim spoke with a man named Carl who told her he had been on the street back in 2014 for 7 months during the bitter cold months of winter, having lost his job and consequently his housing. He finally found a full time job that provided enough for an apartment and the basic necessities of life. Although his landlord arrived every payday with his hand out, he was able to make ends meet until most recently when all rental properties increases the monthly rent.
So, Carl came Saturday for breakfast, funds running low at the end of the month. He was rather embarrassed that he had come and found himself in need, but Kim assured him St. Patrick's would never turn him away.
Kim found him to be quite vocal about poor decisions and the mismanagement of funds. Many of our friends do receive funds on a regular basis but apparently use it for funding their vices, for which Kim advised Carl we would all answer to God for one day. Carl had an issue with alcohol, she learned, until he fell from a window and now has 7 pins in his back, along with hip problems.
Kim suggested praising God for keeping him together and for improvements in his health. He had to stop and ponder that thought, finally admitting God is indeed good. Kim is praying Carl will return next week so that the conversation may continue. She asks we pray with her for Carl's ears to hear the words we have been given to share, and that his heart would be softened, made flesh to receive God's gift of salvation!
There was a stillness, a palpable peace that flowed down from the stately evergreens on the hills surrounding the small rural cemetery where we finally laid my father’s ashes to rest last week under aching blue skies, after ten years’ residence on a mantelpiece. This is also the place where I would have my own ashes committed, the family plot since 1930, but my soul rather commended to heaven, to the same Lord who has kept me for many a year now.
It fell to me to say a word of prayer at the gravesite and so I shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with those from my extended family in attendance. Please pray they might have ears to hear, to receive the truth, and so dwell with us in the house of the Lord forever!
And that is the Word on the street.
And that is the Word on the Street!
For more information, or to learn how to join us in reaching people for Jesus, please email Living Water’s Director of Outreach, Mike Bongo, at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will get you plugged in! You will be blessed as you become a blessing to others!