Church Under the Bridge: Sunday, March 8, 2009 (By Ben Marsh)

Rev. Cliff WarnerCliffNotes

All week long I felt excited and nervous about what the day would bring. I road down with Andy and his son Hanson. What a great leader Andy is, father of 5, husband, very open and calm. I felt uncomfortable and out of place. I’m not where I want to be in life and didn’t feel worthy to minister to others. I remember it said “It doesn’t matter what your going through, only where your going to.” I love sayings like that, they really refocus me.
Upon arrival there were about 10 other Christ Church members and 30 or so people waking up and mingling. We prayed together briefly and set about paying separately. More and more people keep arriving. It was starting to feel like an event. The Church Under the Bridge(CUB) van arrived and one of the parishioners immediately climbed onto it and started opening a hatch that revealed a speaker. I was impressed by his involvement in the setup. Andy asked that I great people as they were newcomers to Christ Church. That sounded easy enough to do. I later learned that I was the newcomer.
I walked around for a little while not feeling comfortable and decided to just get to know some of the people. I have always found it easy to talk to people in Spanish. They are both surprised that I speak their language. I sat down and talked to a man from Mexico City named Francisco. What a good attitude. This man has lived here for 10 years. He has no family here and hasn’t heard form them since he left. At first I thought wow that must be tough, then he told me about some of his friends. He has been coming to CUB for several years and went to another service yesterday by a different Church in Saragosa Park? Constantly smiling Francisco while we talked he told me about where he’s living. He also mentioned what he thought of the services and the importance of Christ in one’s life.
I quickly realized that I could learn just as much from these people as they could from me. They have had many things happen in their life that have led them to this point and many might have turned away from Christ. Most of the people I talked to attended CUB regularly for psychical and spiritual nourishment.
While talking to Francisco a man from San Antonio talked with me for a while and listened. I wanted to share my hope for the future and prayed that it might be contagious. I sat down next to an elderly couple and only got the man’s name. Joe was quite the gentleman getting coffee and breakfast for his partner.
As I sat next to Joe a man started signing with the gospel. He knew all the words and I talked with him briefly. I noticed how some of the people there took better care of themselves than others and even showed up in their “Sunday Best.” This man called himself James Bond. I must have looked like I was pretty comfortable talking with Joe because at first he politely refused a cup of water I offered him. Once he found out I was a volunteer he said sure. After I gave him his cup the gospel started into “God is an Awesome God,” my daughter’s and my favorite song. I was the only one there doing the hand motions! By that time I was so moved by all the people and their stories I felt right at home.
As I walked on another person spoke up to me about her two boys. She had heard me and Francisco talking about family and my daughters. I sat down next to her and she spoke to me in brief sentences. She told me of the names of her kids Danny 27 and Stephen 14 both living with her mother. She told me she had her own place and I told her that was great. It’s obvious that a lot of the people here wanted others to know that they had a “place”. They didn’t always say that they had a home but that they had a “place,” did they want to feel like they weren’t lost or “homeless?” I’m not sure but I did find that interesting.
I talked with another man named Rafael and he told me how he has been looking for work and I got the courage up to ask him if he would like to pray together. I don’t think I’ve done that for anyone except family. I stumble through some good sentiments asking God to provide for Rafael and for him to keep faith and courage.
To this point I have been speaking in Spanish with everyone except for James Bond and a few good mornings with others. I don’t know how much effect Christ had through me to this point and maybe that’s why I brought up the butterfly effect to the next man I talked to Refugio. We don’t always see the effect that we cause in other’s lives. Do we need to see it to keep going? The butterfly effect is actually a formula that I remember from a movie so I think I was close when I said, “A butterfly’s wings in one part of the country can have an effect on the climate in another.” If this theory is true then each of our actions could have a similar effect on those around us too. The pay it forward principle illustrates this as well.
Refugio which in English is Refuge(great symbolism) really lives up to his name. This man has lived here for 24 years and has been on the street since he was 10. He used to drink a lot and now mostly lives for others. He has steady work but share’s his fruits generously with others even at the dismay of his family and friends. He told me how important it is to get out of the house. What a metaphor that was for me. Our house could be our comfort zone, our own thoughts or just our daily routine. It’s so important that we get outside of our selves so that we may be a positive impact on others and as Refugio said “get away from our negative thoughts.” I prayed with him too that Christ’s spirit would continue to work in and though him. That he would continue to be a blessing for others and a guiding light. This man is a true hero who on a regular basis minister’s to others that live on the street and provides for them in their times of need. We talked for more than half an hour and Andy had to pull me away so we could go pick up our kids from Church.
What a blessed way to end the sermon, talking with a true disciple of Christ! The whole service was quite amazing we had several from Christ Church volunteering and ministering to the congregation under the bridge. The other churches that were regularly there were a great example of reaching out to others. I felt encouraged by them and the members of Christ Church.

Thank God for a wonderful experience. I pray that our effect is not lost on those that we visited and that we too will forever be touched by their lives. I began a few relationships and will definitely be returning to meet with them again. I pray for those at Christ Church that have to the opportunity to go next week what a blessing you will be. That you bring the spirit of hope with you and come back renewed with hope.

God Bless