This post is an account of something that happened to me last year on Mother’s day.
That Sunday’s message was on Mothers. I sat attentively and thoroughly soaked up the words.
We know Mom’s lives are filled with all manner of sacrifices. When you have a baby on your lap, you know the sacrifice of walking out be-times in one church service. This Sunday, I was musing how blessed I was, to be able to sit and enjoy this whole Mother’s day message without disturbances. No restless baby needed my attention. (Not that I would mind the sacrifice, coupled with the joy of another baby on my lap again!) But this year, my high tempered 2 year old sat with his Daddy. My daughter was old enough to sit quietly beside me while I focused on the message. Inwardly, I thanked and praised God for this special privilege. Not many minutes passed until I was interrupted. I had just thought today was about blessing; not sacrifice.
Jerald had taken Reece out for a potty stop. The little boy was also wrought with that typical church thirst, so they used the water fountain close to the kitchen. Suddenly, Jerald became aware of someone rooting through the kitchen cabinets. Definitely no one from church either! Unsure of what the best thing was to do, he walked over to the disheveled, rough looking woman and asked “Can I help you?” The starving vagabond kept right on searching the cabinets and curtly responds, “why do you ask?!” After a few more tries, Jerald realized she was oblivious of his presence. That’s when he decided maybe another woman would be able to help out this homeless lady. So it was, he enters the auditorium, taps me on the shoulder and asks me to come.
I was promptly alarmed when he proceeded to explain the situation. A bum off the street making herself at home in our church kitchen was not a normal occurrence! “She’s snappy,” he warned, “be careful!” He hung around to watch from a distance.
My fears and prayers ascended simultaneously as I approached the homeless woman. I proceeded with caution and tried to appear casual. “Hi,” I said, but received no response. I walked around the bar, stopped next to her and tried again. “Can I help you with something?” “No, I’m fine!” she snapped. She stirred tan colored liquid in a glass as she spoke. Empty creamer cups were scattered across the counter. She tipped her head back and drank a few more cups of creamer. I was dubious. What in the world should I do?! Will she lash out and give me a whop if I keep insisting on helping her? She was wearing men’s work boots and an army-green colored back pack. This was loaded to capacity with who knows what kind of paraphernalia.
I scanned the fridge and cabinets for snacks. I offered her monster bars that I had brought that morning to share with a friend. This lady needs the food far worse, I thought. But she turned it down. I offered her packets of instant oatmeal but got the same response.
I left the kitchen for a few moments. I was intimidated by her demeanor. “Lord, help me know what I should do,” I prayed desperately. “This woman needs help and she can’t just be left on her own destroying the kitchen.” With confidence from God, I reentered the kitchen and made myself in charge. While I was gone she had opened a packet of oatmeal and was stuffing it into the empty creamer cups, dumping it into her mouth, trying to eat the dry stuff! OK, this woman is for real starved! I decided.
Once more I asked if she wants oatmeal, to which she surprisingly agreed. Grateful to be busied, I set about making several packets. This hoodlum emitted a putrid oder that penetrated the whole kitchen! It wasn’t Jovan Musk either. But God supplied the grace I needed to not mind while I was right next to her. Soon, I noticed she was messing with a large coffee percolator. She definitely wanted coffee but had no clue how to run a 30 cup percolator. Neither did I want to see her attempts! I quickly got the 12 cup coffee maker over and said, “Here, let’s use this one.” I poured in about 8 cups of water- plenty for now and some to send with her, I thought. Next, I asked her how strong she wants it, because I myself am no coffee drinker. She opened a drawer, pulls out a cookie scoop- “About like this,” she says. “One?” I asked. “Yeah,” she muttered. And I laughed to myself! I don’t know much about coffee but I do know this is gonna be some weak stuff!
I sliced apples I found in the fridge and placed two monster bars on a plate. I was going to feed her as well as I could, despite the sparceness of food in a church kitchen.
By this time Jerald had got another church brother back there to help. (He was once homeless himself, so we felt like he knew better how to handle the situation). He had the homeless woman sit down at a table and tried visiting with her while I fixed her plate. He reminded me to pray with her when I take her the food. A good reminder for this flustered cook!
As soon as the coffee was ready, I took her a large cup along with plenty of creamers! As soon as the oatmeal was finished, I took her a big bowl of it along with the apples and bars. I set it down and asked if I could pray with her. She mumbled something incoherent. I took to praying and she took to eating. Whether she understood, I have my doubts. As she ate, I sat nearby, desperately racking my brain as to what I could converse with her about. I didn’t want to appear like I was feeding her, then wanting to get away from her as soon as possible. “Where are you headed?” I ventured. “I’m going that way,” she replied, with a nod of her head. I assumed she meant out of Auburn. My social attempts seemed dismally lame. She mumbled around and chuckled to herself. The doubtful person I am, I wondered if she was laughing at me. There was no sense in her talk and no eye contact. It was a one sided conversation with an abundance of offers for more food or coffee, to which she always accepted. I asked if she’d liked food to take with her. Her ready reply was “No.” I should’ve known by now to not even ask. Still, I packed up several apples, a partial pack of Saltines and half a dozen monster bars in a gallon ziploc. When I handed it over, she gave no recognition. But when she got up to leave, that bag was securely clutched in her arms.
As church dismissed, people came back trying to visit with her, but didn’t get anywhere. Repeatedly someone would ask her name. For this, she always responded “I’d rather not say.” Hmmmm, maybe she wasn’t as drugged as she appeared??
Our church ministers were trying to figure out how to best handle the situation on our hands. After some discussion among the brethren, they didn’t feel it was wise to take her into our homes unless she would provide legitimate information- i.e. clarify who she was, where she was from or what her mission was. People were leaving, and we couldn’t just let her sit at church. So two of the brethren offered to take her in the direction she was headed, to the next bigger town of Rockport MO. There they dropped her off at the McDonald’s/truck stop.
Besides the bulging pack on her back, she was pulling a red wagon heavily loaded with mishmash. As the men loaded her wagon into the back of their vehicle, they spied 3 deceased birds amongst the bags. We can only imagine what the motive was behind hauling that sort of carnage!
That was the last we saw of her, but definitely not the last time we thought of her. I prayed for her and kept thinking of her that night when we had a thunderstorm come through. Where was she? Huddled beneath the bridges? Did she get a ride on to the next town? I felt guilty that night as I crawled into my clean, soft bed. I was snug and dry. I had food to eat. I had family. I had love. Most importantly, I knew Jesus! So rich am I! How could I ever dare to complain?!
Questions still haunt me today. Where was she really going? Was she truly walking for weeks or months? Our small town is not a place we typically see tramps. We have no idea where she was coming from. It was all so mysterious. I have my doubts, but I’ve wondered if she could have been an angel unawares? (Hebrews 13:2)
While we felt she was heavily drugged, we certainly don’t know if this was the case. We have no way of knowing her true situation. For whatever reason, God brought her to church that very Sunday and asked me to serve. I’ve often wondered since then, why He chose me.
Maybe it was to teach me a thing or two. This is embarrassingly true but Jerald tells me I’m a little like that homeless lady…. Sometimes I’m in such a distressed state of mind, I act like I don’t need help. I even refuse help or at times make no comments when in reality I need help! (you know how we women sometimes think our men should know what we need or want without us asking?!) “Now you know what it’s like!” He tells me with that chuckle in his voice.
Maybe it was to teach me more about sacrifice. It was a sacrifice for me to miss the remainder of the message and especially the testimonies. That morning there was an extra lot of testimonies. I so much wanted to be in there listening.
It’s not often that we as stay at home Moms get to interact with the vagabond type of needy souls. Yet we’re surrounded by needy people in the form of our families. But I reminded myself, it’s not any more noble to feed a poor beggar than it is to feed my own family. They are both service for Jesus, just the same. When you feel you aren’t reaching out to those wandering mendicants behind the cardboard signs, remind yourself of this. You’re serving Jesus just as much by serving your own needy people. God calls Mothers to live a life of sacrifice. And He’s got significant variety of sacrifices to go around. Some days it comes in the most unexpected ways.