I went to Church Under the Bridge today.
If you don't know what that is...it's a church service for the homeless.
It's located under I-35, between 7th and 8th street. An area, that is well....pretty rough.
Anyway, God's been pulling on my heart strings for years about serving the homeless population in Austin.
My heart truly longs to help the poor, the needy and the downtrodden.
I have a heart for them...but, I also am scared of them.
Btw, this post is going to be real and ugly and show a lot of my worldly, human side.
I am apologizing for it now, but I also want to be frank because, well, I believe in being real...
And I can't sit here and act like I'm this perfect Christian who enjoys serving all the time, because I'm not.
So, here I go.
Like most know, I am a germaphobe.
In a typical day I wash my hands 20-30 times at least.
I'm OCD. I'm a neat freak. It can be annoying and obnoxious. I wish I was normal-ish...but, I am not.
Even in my own church, after we 'greet' one another or pass the offering plate, I either get up and wash my hands or use my antibacterial spray.
If you're sick, or I am...OR my kids...I will be sure to keep them away from school, day care and your family. I think it's being considerate, but I also may be one step away from putting my kids and myself in a bubble.
I'm programed this way. I can't help it. It's part of my personality.
For instance, I tend to give cash to the homeless (when I have it)...and when I do, I hold the money on one end, stretching the money out far and hoping I don't make skin to skin contact.
If I do, I grab one of the half dozen bottles of antibacterial in my car and squirt it all over myself and rub it up to my elbows like I'm going into surgery.
I am not cut out to be a nurse, to say the least. (Btw, God bless you, you beautiful and selfless nurses!)
SO what I'm saying now is this....
God is calling me to serve the homeless...and they aren't exactly cleaned up like a surgeon before surgery would be...(which is what I prefer). So how am I going to serve them?
Today I prayed the entire two hours at the service. I was terrified. People sneezed and coughed around me, and I just knew I was catching some disease.
A woman hugged me in the first 10 minutes I was there. She was sweet and wonderful, and bubbly...
And I didn't die after she hugged me.
Then, I met Reuben, aka Loco. He never left my side.
He was initially hitting on me. He thought I was in college. So I informed him I wasn't in college (my UT sweatshirt confuses people I think) and told him I was married and had two kids.
He informed me he was 62. (I do believe 62 would be TOO old to hit on a college girl, but I wasn't there to condemn).
But that didn't keep him from telling me how he needed to get back to church because all the beautiful Christian women he would see. He also told me he was there to 'meet a chick' but she didn't show up.
Reuben kept touching me, but not in a sexual manner. He just liked to nudge me when he made a joke. He shook my hand twice and he literally was standing a foot away from me for a good hour. We talked about the best places to camp around the city. And he complained about the women on the streets who wanted his money (he get a social security check).
And he didn't like it when people who had homes or lived in shelters who came to the Church Under the Bridge to get free food and coffee. I felt like Reuben was trying to justify why he was homeless. He told me he could get a home, but he liked to be mobile and camp instead. In fact, I think he was proud of taking care of himself in many ways. He didn't like it when people took advantage of the freebies. I think he may of been trying to impress me some.
He also mentioned he didn't have a dad as a kid and his mom died when he was 15.
I didn't know what God want me to do there...but I was there.
What surprised me was Reuben's knowledge of the Bible. He clearly understood who Jesus is. He even quoted me Scripture better than I could.
He did tell me he struggled with alcohol. That he was itching to get back to his camp because he left his whiskey there. He also pointed out many of the people's addictions he knew. Most seemed to struggle with drugs of some sort.
I'm a sheltered girl. I know drugs exist. And I know they are on the streets, but I don't usually hang out with people who do crack or heroin or whatever other vice they have...but, a lot of these people were visibly on some form of drug.
It was eye opening in many ways. I felt scared and out of pocket, but Reuben made me feel a bit better. He was shorter than me (which may of helped me not be so scared of him.) And he was genuinely a nice man. I think God let him approach me and be my buddy to ease me into being around the hundreds of homeless.
Reuben wasn't just another 'object' I saw on the corner of the street. He wasn't another piece of my urban setting. He was a person. A man, made in the image of God. Which, by the way, we also discussed.
I came back home after telling Reuben I'd see him again. He said that I wouldn't be back (because that's my business) but I assured him I would. I don't know why I said I would be back...but, maybe God made me say it to be accountable.
I plan on returning next Sunday. But this time I plan on serving breakfast through Mission Possible Austin.
After breakfast, if I don't see Reuben then, I will find him at the service.
Not sure what God is wanting me to do...but, I'll pray this week for answers.
Reuben asked me to pray for him and he said he would pray for me.
I am definitely going to pray for Reuben.
What I do know is this,
I came home to a warm home and ate a big meal (leftovers from our date last night) and I was sad.
I was sad, because I have so much and there's so many that have nothing.
I just saw hundreds of people who carried their homes on their backs.
Who hadn't had a warm, big meal like mine in ages...
I had security.
I don't know what God wants me to do, but now that my eyes are truly opened, things can't be unseen.
I know I have to do something.
Serving my flesh is fleeting.
Serving me isn't filling.
I may not be able to buy and do for everyone, but I can serve.
And I can learn to love.
And maybe God can help me get past my hang-ups.
Maybe next week I won't rush to jump into the shower once I get home.
Pray that I see the doors God opens for me and that I go through them.
I don't want to sit on the sidelines anymore.
Or in this case, my comfy pew or couch with my bottles of antibacterial.