Stories from the Homeless (6)

Once again we went to Philadelphia to meet with the homeless and learn something more about how blessed we are and how much we complain about things that just do not matter. I am seeing that issue pop up more and more in my life. I have been given so much. Why is it so hard to be thankful for all the things I have? Maybe, in time, I will reach that place where I am truly content in all God has given me. I can only hope for such a day.

It was a rainy and cold night. It was not the most exciting night to go out and serve the homeless. We had to go though. There are those who live out in this each night. Just because it is raining, it does not mean that they no longer remain homeless. They sleep during the rain, snow, and through the heat. Once again, I have realized that I am selfish. What else seems to be new?

I looked over in Love Park for Mont. I wasn’t sure he was going to weather out the cold night on his favorite bench or not. As I looked over, I saw a large lump covered in a wool blanket. Seeing a red coat and a golf cart-like travel cart, I realized it was he. I went over and called his name. He popped out from beneath his blanket and looked at me. His white beard was wet, and he looked tired. Still he took some time to say hi. We gave him some coffee and some chocolate chip cookies (these were his favorite). He thought about going down to the subway but figured it would be too loud there. He decided to sit on his bench and sleep. I let him go. Knowing he had his blankets, his gloves, and warm clothes to make it through the night, I gave him a hug and allowed him to resume his evening ritual.

We then went down in the subway. I had never gone down there at night before. I wasn’t sure what I would find or what situations might arise. As we went down, there was a ton of trash everywhere. The smell was rancid and people hugged the walls all around the main area that we were at. We found a corner that we could set up our food and clothes pile for the homeless. One of the homeless guys who we had come to know told us to allow the guys to come to us. Many of them were drug dealers and doers. If I tried hard enough, I could smell traces of pot. As I looked around, I found a couple that were sitting by themselves away from the drug dealers. Gabby and I went over with Gary and began to talk to them.

It was difficult to understand them. They were from the Ukraine and had traveled to the US. It took me about 25 minutes to understand how they had gotten here and why they had come. Their English was so broken, I had to come down to their level and quietly listen to each word. His name was Vistali and his wife was Galena. They were most likely in their late 50’s to early 60’s. Having each other as a “mattress” and a cardboard box as they cushion, they sat and talked to us. They were in fact Christians from the Ukraine. They had come to the US because they believed God had told them to come and “walk like Jesus.” As Galena was talking, she reached into her purse and pulled out several bulletins from different churches from around the US. There were bulletins from Chicago, Atlantic City, and Massachusetts. I had finally come to find out that they had been walking around the United States for the past seven months and two weeks living among the poor. They had sold everything they had in the Ukraine because they believe God told them that they were called to bless the poor. So, they were obedient and did what the Lord had told them to do. Tonight they found refuge in a subway in Philadelphia.

As I continued to listen, I began to wonder if I would be willing to sell everything that I have (which isn’t that much), and go to a country that God had showed me in a dream or something and live among the poor. I am not sure I could do it. I hope I would though for the sake of the Gospel. My admiration for this couple had grown more and more as I continued to talk with them. Vistali opened his Bible (covered in a plastic bag so it would remain nice), and showed me a verse in the Psalms that said, “He that blesses the poor will remain in good health.” He then said, “You understand?” I did.

After some time, we left the Subway and went home for the night. I do not think I will ever forget that night. It was something that has convicted me. I hope it has blessed you. God bless


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