It was another cold night in Philadelphia. They call it a “code blue” because if someone were left outside though out the night, they probably would freeze to death. Because it was so cold, many of our friends were most likely going to be down in the subway. It would be a lot warmer down there. So we went, not knowing whom we would see or what situations we would run into. All we knew was it was really cold.
As we entered the subway, we began to set up near the bottom entrance. There were a lot of people tonight. They were cold, tired, and looking for something warm to eat. I believe we made their evening. One man who pushed himself around in a wheelchair (and only had one leg) came over and almost began to cry because we had hot soup, coffee, and hot chocolate. He was truly thankful that we had come down to spend time with them – even though he seemed a bit rough around the edges and all.
As I looked around, there were many people who were bundled up for the night. There was a small line forming around the hot coffee and around the soup area. Everyone seemed polite as they waited for a hot cup of chicken noodle soup.
There was one gentleman who was off by himself so I went over and said hi. He spoke Spanish but I could hardly understand him. He would mumble a bunch and made it difficult to hold even a conversation in Spanish with him (which I probably could have done if he was in his right mind). The only thing I could understand was that he was from Cuba and that his family still lived there. He wasn’t sure where he was and wanted to go back home. Mentally, he seemed “out of sync” with the world. My friend, Otto is from Venezuela and thought the same thing while trying to communicate this gentleman. All I could do was pray for him in hopes that he would understand why we were there. It really was a sad situation. I left the man to mumble away as he walked in circles around the subway. I wondered if he understood anything I had just said to him. I guess just being there and providing something hot to eat was good enough. So I prayed for him.
As I walked over where those who were pouring hot chocolate were stationed, my good buddy, Keith was there. He came over and gave me a big hug. He had a rough week. His wife had gotten herself out of a good shelter because she wanted to be with him on the streets. He was not happy about that because it would be so cold and she had it real good there. No longer could he try and make money at night on his own. She would have to be an additional concern to him as he tried to make some money off the generosity of those who passed by him. He said he felt good though because, despite having his wife to be concerned about, he had great health food in his belly. He always seems to thank God for that. I wish I did more often. Sitting with Keith, he told me that he was hoping to get 25.00 for a crap hotel room for the night. Even though there were probably mice running around, there was also a shower and a bed to sleep on instead of sleeping on the street. I went in my pockets and pulled out 5.00. He was so thankful. He told me that his wife would hold the money so he went upstairs where she was trying to panhandle people for cash and gave her the 5.00. She looked at me and then looked at the money and smiled. We talked for a few minutes and then had to leave. People were coming down into the subway and she was going to work her “magic” – as Keith called it. Soon she would have another 20.00 from a few younger ladies who stopped and listened to her story. As they left, I looked up and saw a smile on his wife’s face. She had made the other 20.00 needed for the night. They would not be sleeping on the streets. Rather, they would be sleeping in a hotel room for 25.00. At the expense of a hot shower and a bed to sleep on, the condition of the room and the mice that most likely would be running around the floor made no difference to them. They would be just fine if they knew they could have a place to sleep out of the cold night air.
We gathered as a team to pray for our evening soon after and I noticed that there were a lot more homeless people with us tonight joining us for prayer. I just smiled. God is really that good. I never know what kind of impact we make when we go down to Love Park or the Suburban Subway. Sometimes I feel as though we just go down and give out clothes, food and hot drinks and leave. Other times, I feel as though we actually reach the heart of a new friend who’s home is found on a bench or over a vent with a cardboard box. No mater what the case may be, I know we are being Jesus-ish to those we minister to. I don’t always know why but I know that God has us there for an awesome reason. I just love it