Tuesday, November 08, 2005
A Bowl of Soup
I had a crazy night tonight. I'm preaching in a week and a half on John 15, where Jesus explains that he is the vine and we are the branches. So Bibletrialogue, our weekly study at the Quiet Storm, was on my text. We had a great discussion, but it was short, a band was playing at the shop this week so we had to finish by 8pm. We left but were talking outside the door. Across the street from the Quiet Storm is one of Pittsburgh's most notorious bars, and lots of people were out on the street this night. One man, just out of the bar, walked over to us and started talking. He smelled strong of alcohol and seemed very on edge, like he could get very angry very easily. His words made no sense at first, as he went on though he began talking about love, love for his daughter and the love that parents have for their children. After he told us about the hardships of this 21 year old daughter we asked if we could pray for her. He said yes, but somehow praying for her made him angry. He ended by saying his poeple didn't need us in his neighborhood. His anger began to come out as he told us our praying would do nothing for the people there and we should go someplace where we could actually help people. We left for home, not feeling too good about ourselves.
As I was driving home I decided Alyssa would like some of her favorite organic wine, of course I would like some too. The wine shop is right next to Panera Bread. I got the wine and on my way out a woman approached me asking for change. I'd had just about enough of strangers on the street and almost ignored her. But I never do that, I always try to offer to buy people food when they ask for money, but I never just give money. No one has ever taken me up on food, they always just want money, maybe for drugs or alcohol, I don't know. This night was different. When I said I'd buy the woman food her eyes kind of lit up, though they were still dull, dark and sad. I had never seen that happen before when I offered to buy anyone food. She told me she didn't want to go in to Panera because she hadn't showered in three days, but I could go in and get her some soup. I bought her a bowl of chicken noodle soup. I stood with her for a couple of minutes and listened to what had happened to her. How she couldn't pay rent anymore. How she was staying with a friend who smoked crack, and so she left. She told me the women's shelter wouldn't take her in because she didn't have any kids. She knew where to go for lunch in East Liberty, but she could only beg for food at night. I noticed she was holding a little gold medalion with an angel on it, she told me it was her gardian angel. I asked if I could pray for her and she said yes. As I prayed she held my hand and pressed the gardian angel medalion into the back of my hand. I prayed and she began to cry. I knew that this was ministry, this was what Jesus wanted me to do tonight. But I felt frustrated. As I left I didn't know what to say. She actually wanted help and was looking for it, but all I could do was give her a bowl of soup. That's all she wanted from me, but I wanted to give her something more or take her to a shelter or provide her with the money she needed to pay her rent and utiliities.
It was a strange night for me. Two very different encounters on the street with strangers.