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Poor Management

April 14, 2018

“Do you play chess?” she asked, as she rocked back and forth on the cardboard spread out on the sidewalk. “Life is like chess. You have to know what move the other person will make so you can be one step ahead.”

________

This is the second of six-weeks being spent in Queens, NY for missions training. This week’s focus has been on poverty, so last night we went out in small groups to reach out to the homeless “living” along 5th Avenue in Manhattan. Across the street from the impressive, black Trump Tower, we met Liz*.

Adding the packed meal we’d brought to her already nice sized stash of offerings given by others, a fellow student sat down and began asking about Liz’s story. Her husband had died, leaving her penniless. She has been living on these same streets for 11 years. I listened as she told the other student bits and pieces of what it has been like on the streets. “I’ve just been in the wrong place at the wrong time sometimes. A man tried to rape me once, but I stabbed him and escaped. After all the shops close, the drugs and prostitutes come out. You don’t want to be out here then. Bad things happen.” As she tells us about the evil, she hugs her legs close and rocks. Pain and abuse are practically written on her forehead.

I look down and read the paper sign displayed to the street in front of her:

Widowed, husband died with no insurance. Lost everything. Can-u-help. God bless.

The verses come to mind about how God helps and cares for the widowed and fatherless. But I’m rocked. Where was God for this widow? What good can God do for her situation now? Will being converted get her off the streets and provide her a home? Where are you God? And what can you do for this widow? The questions linger and I have no words for her, so I say nothing.

Then a man stops, briefly bemoaning her predicament in a tone that obviously has no idea what this woman has truly been through. He pulls out a hand full of money and begins searching. He flips past $10’s and $20’s, finally he offers her a couple of single dollar bills. A whopping $2.00 to ease his conscience. For the second time since coming to New York, I’m angry.

Here we are in the middle of Manhattan on the infamous 5th Avenue, the hub of social class and fads. We see dazzling couples in their suits and gowns that are probably worth thousands; an Armani store is on the corner; rich folks roll by with chauffeurs navigating their Rolls Royce through the traffic; someone walks by with two bags full of Apple products. Wealth runneth over…and there are people living on the streets for 11 years, for whom we can only seem to “spare” $2.00? O God, forgive us. Forgive me.

Leaving Liz, our three-person group keeps moving through the streets and around the blocks. There weren’t many homeless out anymore (hopefully because they had somewhere to go for the night), but we did find one man. We saw him from across the street, rummaging around the cardboard on the steps of the lovely St. Bart’s church, but he didn’t look homeless. He looked pretty decent actually and we would have kept walking, but the young man in our group (who certainly has the spiritual gift of evangelism) holds back. “I’m gonna go talk to him anyways.” As he climbs the steps, myself and the other girl continue to prayer walk along the immediate sidewalk and pass out tracts. It turned out that this man was worth millions, but lost it all and had only been on the street for a few days.

We waited as their conversation kept going and going. I looked up and saw the two of them talking through the “Good News” tract which shares the path and plan of repentance to salvation. I sat on the steps and prayed some more. Lord Jesus, do a good work here! In due time, our teammate came back down the steps with his characteristic “can’t-wipe-the-smile-off-my-face” from having shared the Gospel again.

“It must have gone well!” I said.

All he can do is smile broader. “Wow…” he says dumbfounded, “that is the first time I have ever led someone to Christ. Wow…” You could have powered a city block with his joy.

Do I still have questions? Yes. But I can take those questions to the Lord and I know He will make them clear and show Himself mighty in all things and situations. God did make a difference for the homeless that night. Did the homeless man’s situation change as a result of becoming a Christian? No. But will his life be different as a result now that he has the peace, love, joy, comfort, protection, guidance, and hope of Jesus? Absolutely. Jesus makes all the difference…Jesus is the difference.

***

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.

–Luke 4:18-19

 

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