They came alone, by two’s and three’s, families with young children, from elderly to babies and everyone in between—380 of the homeless and needy of Wichita came to be fed at the Lord’s Diner last Friday evening. And those who serve there permanently said it was a slow night!
The Lord’s Diner is a bright, cheerful, spotlessly clean facility founded by the Cahtolic Diocese of Wichita and supported with volunteer labor from many churches, both Protestant and Catholic. Riverside Christian Church where my wife and I attend is one of the churches that sends volunteers and my wife and I were two of the volunteers.
As my wife and I checked in all of these people and greeted them, we realized how much we missed our work with the Bread and Cup Ministry to the homeless in Hutchinson that we had instituted during my pastorate at First Christian Church there. These folks are a special group of God’s children—the group that Jesus worked with the most in his ministry. And yet, while I enjoyed our time with them, I also was filled with a deep sadness about the large numbers of the homeless and needy, and especially the large numbers of children. I wondered to myself as they approached me about the untold stories of hardship, of loss of hope, of discouragement and of sadness that were written on many of their faces. However, we were verbally blessed by many of them as they signed in and we ireturned God’s blessings to them.
One man stands out that I observed while eating my own dinner. I was at a table where I could watch my wife who was alone checking in the last few people, I saw this very tall, lean man, with a kerchief over his long hair enter and sign in, and I remember thinking to myself “that is one mean-looking dude.! That man soon joined me at the table and taught me a lesson I will never forget. The first thing the “mean-looking dude” did was to bow his head, close his eyes and give thanks for his food—lips moving but inaudible. Then we struck up a conversation. He told me about a friend of his who had died and how he would miss him. Then he told me how he, himself, was blessed because he had found a place to live—a garage. He then told me how he felt that God had led him many times in the past to people on the brink of suicide and how he felt he was able to prevent them taking their lives by talking to them and taking them in for a time at his place of shelter. He felt it was his God-given mission and I assured him that was very true.
What a lesson that man was to me! Besides a reminder not to judge by appearances, the major lesson this man gave me was: God uses all kinds of people to fulfill and work his purposes of love for God’s children. This “mean-looking dude” was God’s Exhibit #1 for that lesson.
I pray God’s continued strengthening and protection for this man and I hope to see him again and tell him what a blessing he was to me!