Last night I met Melissa, a homeless woman from Hartford, who is currently transforming the way I think.
I was at a street fair as part of The Hartford Project, which is a city outreach put on by 20+ youth groups from all over Connecticut. Hundreds of teens spend a week in the capitol city loving and learning to love. Anyway, at the close of this street fair, a gospel choir from Hartford was performing, and I turned and saw this woman crying off to the side. Grabbing a friend, I went over to find out what was going on with her.
Melissa was sweet, but she was scared. It was easy to tell that she was moved by the music and she was moved by the message being presented. That was not uncommon yesterday, however. The whole atmosphere on the street was positive. All these kids and youth workers from the suburbs as well as the city had come to Hartford with a single agenda: love people. That climate dominated the day, so it wasn’t surprising that Melissa felt it.
But Melissa quickly began to share some of her story, in bits and pieces. She had once been married, we gathered, and had kids. Who knows, though, when she last saw them? Her foot was broken and she had a bandage on it, but she said her cane had been stolen earlier in the day. The previous night she had slept at someone’s house, who said she could keep her things there for a while. Those things were stolen and they included several medications. Undoubtedly, she was hungry and in need of clothes, but both of those needs she was able to fill at the street fair.
Naturally, I felt awful for Melissa. And we sent someone to search for a local who might be able to offer direct help, but they had little to give but directions to a local shelter. What I could give her, though, was prayer. So we prayed for her, and I felt the Father’s ache for her, the Father’s rich affection for her, and the hope that carried with it.
Then, as I drove home, I was struck by a theological reality that seems so crucial to occasions like these.
Generally, I’m a proponent of praying for specific and tangible impact in people’s lives. I believe God desires to heal all wounds, sickness, and disease. I believe the Father loves to bestow tangible blessings on His children in all forms, including cash, employment, cars, food, whatever. I try not to limit the ways in which He might pour out on people. And for Melissa, I prayed for her broken foot and I prayed for the restoration of her bag, containing all her medication. Had I the means to provide for her a place to live and a job, I’d have given that too.
But I also realized, later than I would have liked, that there’s a further hope that is more powerful than every evil she faces. The resurrection of Jesus, says Paul, is the down payment on the future resurrection of all who believe and live by Jesus’ way (1 Cor 15:20). But what a rich hope that must be for those in this world that literally have nothing – that on the last day of this age they will be raised in real, physical bodies that no longer carry the marks or strain of life on the streets. Whatever else this world may do to Melissa, however terribly the city may treat her, there is a vindication coming that will endure for eternity.
And I find myself happy today that her resurrection does not mean she’ll be sitting on a cloud strumming a harp, but walking the renewed earth helping the Creator to govern.