It was an especially cold night that night. I was so grateful to have on the extra warm clothes I had, and I was still cold. We had served many cold and lonely people that night. Things were just staring to wind-down a bit.
As I ventured to the other side of the tables, I wondered down towards the end where all the clothing, blankets and other life necessities were being served.
There he was, bags flung over his shoulders. It appeared he had found some of the things he would need that night in his attempt to keep from freezing to death as he made his bed among the cold and lifeless streets.
As I approached him, my heart sank as I thought of the night he would endure. "Did you get some soup", I asked him. A very gentle reply came back to assure me he had.
Oh, what could I say or do to show him I cared about his life. "Sleeping out tonight", I asked. The sad reality came back at me that he would not sleep in the shelter that night. As all the shelters were filled to over-flowing that night and many were sleeping out that night.
"Are you from here?" I asked, trying to engage him in conversation. Then the words came from his lips that would be repeated many times through the next 15 or so minutes as he shared with me his story, "I'm goin' home."
His name is Joey, Joey had just spent the last 8 1/2 years of his life in the Montana State Pen. Stealing cars and transforming them into other cars had been only good while it lasted.
Originally from Portland, Oregon, he had left behind a wife and a child, then 2 years old. His wife had remarried, but oh, his boy. How he'd missed him. "I'm goin' home", he said. I caught his determined spirit, and began to share in his earnestness.
Then he began to off-load the cargo he'd been carrying around. What was his plan I thought to myself. Then he reached into his back pocket to pull out his wallet. I bet I'm gonna see a picture, I thought. I was right, he flipped open his wallet to a young boy with a beautiful smile looking back at me. "Wow", I said, " He looks like you."
"I'm goin' home", he said. "They taught me how to make a sign today and ask for money", he told me. Then pointing to the green bills folded-up and tucked into a special place in his wallet. "I made $27 today, I'm trying to get enough for a bus ticket, I'm goin' home."
Oh, what could I do to help this poor man who had only returned to "normal" society 2 weeks ago, to regain hope and trust in God. He had a pocket Bible, he shared that God had been his source of strength through it all. "Just a minute", I said as I ran to get a small offering towards his cause. When I returned I handed him $20. He stood there, beside himself, he was now more than half way there. Almost enough for the ticket home.
My husband had now joined our conversation. I asked if we could pray with him, he put his arms around Mark and I and bowed his head on ours as we huddled there in the street and prayed to the Almighty God for guidance in Joey's life
I pray for Joey, this world is a hard place. I know it won't be easy for him to try and melt back into society. But I pray he will never let go of God.
For me, Joey taught me something that night. His earnest desire and determined spirit,"I'm goin' home." May that be our desire. To go home with Jesus when he comes. May there be many there in that heavenly home because we cared enough. By God's grace may I be there to see Joey again and to tell him, "Joey, we're home!"