It was an unusually cold day for the month of May. Spring had arrived and everything was alive with color. But a cold front from the north had brought winter's chill back to Indiana. I sat with two friends in the picture window of a quaint restaurant just off the corner of the town squire. The food and the company were both especially good that day.
As we talked, my attention was drawn outside, across the street. There, walking into town, was a man who appeared to be caring all his worldly goods on his back. He was carrying, a well-worn sign that read "I'll work for food." My heart sank. I brought him to the attention of my friends and noticed that others around us had stopped eating to focus on him.
Heads moved in a mixture of sadness and disbelief. We continued with our meal, but his image lingered in my mind. We finished our meal and went our separate ways. I had errands to do and quickly set to accomplish them. I glanced toward the town square, looking somewhat halfheartedly for the strange visitor. I was fearful, knowing that seeing him again would call some response. I drove through town and saw nothing of him. I made some purchases at a store and got back into my car.
Deep within me, the spirit of God kept speaking to me: "don't go back to the office until you've at least driven once more around the square." And so with some hesitancy, I headed back into town.
As I turned the square's third corner, I saw him. He was standing on the steps of the storefront church, going through his sack. I stopped and looked, feeling both compelled to speak to him, yet wanting to drive on. The empty parking space on the corner seemed to be a sign from god: an invitation to park. I pulled in, got out and approached the town's visitor. Looking for the pastor? I asked. Not really, he replied, just resting. Have you eaten today? Oh, I ate something early this morning. Would you like to have lunch with me? Do you have some work I could do for you? No work, I replied. I commute here to work from the city, but I would like to! Take you to lunch. Sure he replied with a smile.
As he began to gather his things. I asked him some surface questions. Where you headed? St. Louis. Where you from? Oh, all over; mostly Florida. I knew I had met someone unusual. We sat across from each other in the same restaurant I had left earlier. His face was weathered slightly beyond his 38 years. His eyes were dark and clear, and he spoke with an eloquence and articulation that was startling. He removed his jacket to reveal a bright red T-shirt that said "Jesus is the never ending story."
Then Daniel's story began to unfold. He had seen rough times earl in life. He'd made some wrong choices and reaped the consequences. Fourteen years earlier, while backpacking across the country, he had stopped on the beach in Daytona. He tried to hire on with some men who were putting up a big tent and some equipment. A concert, he thought. He was hired, but the tent would not house a concert but revival services, and in those services he saw life more clearly. He gave his life over to God.
Nothing's been the same since, he said, I felt the lord telling me to keep walking, and so I did, some 14 years now. Ever think of stopping? I asked. Oh, once in a while, when it seems to get the best of me. But god has given me this calling. I give out bibles. That's what's in my sack. I work to buy food and bibles, and I give them out when the spirit leads. I sat amazed.
My homeless friend was not homeless. He was on a mission and lived this way by choice. The question burned inside for a minute and then I asked: what's it like? What? To walk into town carrying all your things on your back and to show you a sign? Oh, it was humiliating at first.
People would stare and make comments. Once someone tossed a piece of half-eaten bread and made a gesture that certainly didn't make me feel welcome. But then it became humbling to realize that God was using me to tough lives and change people's concepts of other folks like me.
My concept was changing, too. We finished our dessert
and gathered his things. Just outside the door, he paused. He turned
and said," come ye blessed of my father and inherit the kingdom I've
prepared for you. For when I was hungry you gave me food, when I was
thirsty you gave me drink, a stranger and you took me in." I felt as
if we were on holy ground. Could you use another bible? I asked. He
said he preferred a certain translation. It traveled and was not too