Sometimes we can glamorize caring for hurting or difficult people. There are probably some heroes who have found peace in the pain, but I am not there yet. It’s truthfully difficult for me to love the unlovely. I am asking God to change me every day to show a greater, more consistent, and unconditional love to certain community members here.
Facebook is a common way for people in our community to contact me. Not everyone has a phone here. Or if they do it is constantly in the cycle of connected, disconnected, reconnected, disconnected and so on.
Recently, a friend messaged and asked if I could check on her son. Kevin* (whom I also know well) has been at death’s door for a while now. For several years, I have seen the life drain out of him with every drink of Smirnoff or wine. I can barely remember the Kevin I knew three years ago. He strutted around like a peacock, as men often do in their prime, with chest out, back straight, and a nice smooth strut. Demonstrating with every stride his youthful strength.
Quickly driving to his home, I walked up to the paint-chipped front door and knocked. No one answered. I knocked again. This time I heard slow irregular footsteps coming toward me from inside. Kevin opened the door. He was almost unrecognizable compared to his former peacock prime. There he stood, eyes yellow, dry skin flaking off his face, his legs staggering not from drink but because his muscles could barely hold him up anymore… and yet his smile welcomed me in.
Matching his steps, we ambled sluggishly down the hallway to the couch. I nodded a hello to a lady wrapped in a blanket across from me apparently couch surfing. Suddenly Kevin vomited into in a nearby bucket already half-full, and I see evidence of blood in his stomach.
“You don’t look good Kevin,” I said. “You look really weak. I’m not sure your body can take much more of this.” He nodded in agreement. “I haven’t been able to keep anything down – think I’m dehydrated. I was just about to call you and see if you could bring me a soda,” Kevin added.
“I think you need more than a soda, though I can go get you one of those,” I responded. “You truly need help Kevin. But you need to want it.” He paused for a while, and then asked if I could take him to the clinic. “I need some Gravol medicine for the nausea.”
“No problem,” I answered. “Let’s go now.”
Kevin grabbed his jacket and we paced back through the dark hallway, outside to the driveway where my truck was waiting. I supported his arm to help him navigate through the door to his seat. Fortunately, I remembered to roll down the passenger window. As I backed out of the driveway, Kevin thrust his head out and continued to heave up whatever contents were left in his stomach.
I prayed he would be admitted to the hospital, and he ended up being taken to one nearby for several days. Returning home, he thanked me for literally saving his life. Even so, as rewarding as it might seem to know you’ve had such a key role in another person’s survival – it left me completely drained.
I can see why in our “safe” neighborhoods, it isn’t uncommon that we try to avoid having people like Kevin near us, our school systems, and every other social context. It is so much easier to create places for them away from us. They are often isolated to shelters, tent cities, and rough inner-city areas, because it demands discomfort and depth of love on our part that mirrors the immeasurable love that God shows us all.
“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Ministry is Messy But Prayer is Powerful
Dale Smith, Executive Director
John 1:14 is a verse that tends to get read more around Christmas time – “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” There’s so much amazing truth in that little phrase, but one thing that is so striking is the fact that Jesus, the eternal King of Heaven, God the Son, became a man and lived in this sinful, filthy, smelly world. Jesus wasn’t shy about getting his hands “dirty.” During his ministry he touched lepers, hung out with tax collectors and even washed his disciples’ nasty feet. He lived among the lost, loved the hard-to-love, and ministered in the mess of their world in order to proclaim the truth to them.
The missionary life is a calling to “incarnational ministry.” Reaching those in darkness means going into the darkness with the Light. Will you please keep our missionaries in your prayers? Those who are serving in difficult places desperately need them. Pray that they will have love for those who are hard to love, and not be afraid to place themselves in the middle of messy lives, despite how uncomfortable it might be for them.
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