Published in The Mustard Seed Sentinel, 9/25/21~
“The [Benedictine] monks went into barbarian areas to evangelize, and if the barbarians killed them off, the mother house would send more brothers out. Slowly, these men laid the ground for the rebirth of Christian civilization in the West,” Rod Dreher.
I’m waiting for cold weather. Summer hangs on. But the birds are gathering. Earlier this week, my husband pointed out the first foliage he saw that has begun its transformation from green to glory.
Cold is coming, but there is a warm feeling in the frosty cold. Oxymoronic, I know. A chill allows me to wrap a blanket around myself or warm the kitchen with sweets from the oven. Warm cookies and hot tea and maybe a movie or a book. Peace and comfort. Sounds nice.
The world swirls around us in chaos and violence. We find peace when we shut it all out.
God calls us to peace. But He doesn’t call us to dwell in silence and solitude. He calls us to the barbarian world.
To the world of people who are hungry, lonely, or cold in a way that is unpleasant and seemingly unending. He calls us to take our peace to the chaos. To take Him to the lost. To light a candle in the darkness.
There is a time to go to the world and speak truth. And sometimes the world comes to us. Once, part of the world came to my friend.
Years ago, Anne was working in her office, a storefront pro-life presence near her home, when a young couple walked in and asked for help. They had spent the last of their resources to come to our city for a promised job that fell through. They found themselves without the means to obtain a place to live. Anne let the couple stay in her office while she worked on finding housing for them.
She paid the security deposit and first month’s rent on an apartment and gave them some provisions until assistance benefits began. Eventually, the couple moved to a new area and found solid financial footing. Their problem was temporary, and Anne’s companionship carried them through it. Her investment of some household supplies and two months’ rent got this couple back into the mainstream of society.
Anne had long since grown from taking in lost puppies to housing unwed pregnant girls and sponsoring Vietnamese refugees. Over the years, she welcomed many road-weary travelers into her home. When my husband Paul first came to Altoona to meet me, he was a guest at Anne’s house.
Anne was the face of the Church extending her hand to those in need. She didn’t just look for people to help. They came to her. She served the ones God placed in her path.
One afternoon, my phone rang. Another friend of mine Cindy had encountered a homeless couple who had come to her office seeking help. Cindy and her husband, and my husband and I split the cost of a hotel for a week for the couple.
It had been 19 degrees Fahrenheit the night before they came to see Cindy. They had been out in that all night. I thought of how easily I could escape the cold and how awful it would be to be trapped outside in it.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn asked: “Can a man who’s warm understand one who is freezing?”
We wanted to be among those who understand.
We helped them a few more times before they disappeared. I don’t know what happened to them. But I do know that, for parts of a harsh fall and winter, they could feel warmth.
When we go to bed tonight, 17 more (on average) Americans will be homeless than were yesterday. And 17 more will become homeless tomorrow. And on it goes.
Long-term homeless people have a life expectancy of 50 years.
And today, tens of thousands of college students are homeless.
A few years ago, I learned that one of the students sitting in my classroom was living in her car. She disappeared before I could offer help.
Many people around us are homeless. Some will escape from the poverty they experience. Some will disappear to the streets for the long-term, to a shorter lifespan, to a prison of the elements—too cold, too hot, too wet.
We may not single-handedly be able to help them out of homelessness the way Anne helped the couple she encountered. But we can bring them encouragement. We can be a light along their way.
Every homeless person is a prodigal or a wounded traveler. Each one is our neighbor. Individuals can help. The church, acting as a local congregation and in union with others, can offer the companionship and community the homeless need to give them a chance to escape the net of poverty.
Portions of this article are excerpted from Restoring the Shattered: Illustrating Christ’s Love Through the Church in One Accord.