Church Under the Bridge: March 22nd, 2009 (by Dena Seligman)

Rev. Cliff WarnerCliffNotes

I felt like the clock was ticking, as if I had no time to waste. All I knew was I wanted to serve in some way….I felt very comfortable, completely safe and well protected. I felt the Holy Spirit moving me to “be available & approachable”. I started by helping to set up the food tent and putting out trash bags but my heart wanted to be with the people. I wanted to hear their stories and be open to any opportunity to be of comfort or pray with someone.
Art & I approached a woman in a wheelchair who told us she had been coming there to worship for over a year. Being a stroke victim, she was no longer able to walk. She drives her electric wheelchair all the way from 12th street every Sunday and says the fresh air is good for her and CUB is better than “regular churches”. I couldn’t imagine making that much effort each Sunday to attend church.
I walked around, praying the Lord would give me someone to talk with about anything at all. Eventally Jimmy approached, a young man in his 20’s who was looking for Duane, the man who would later deliver the sermon of the day. Jimmy said he was a severe alcoholic, and Duane had prayed with him 5 yrs ago. He had entered Rehab, had been sober for 4 yrs, but during the past year, he had “backslidden” quite severely. He said he knew the Lord, but also knew that alcohol was the devil’s tool and wanted to get well again. He had not been to CUB in several years, had recently lost his job but today was a new beginning for him. He had made the decision that very morning to leave the home of a woman he was staying with and make a fresh start. Jimmy said the woman was into drugs and her behavior had been stumbling block to him. His plan was to come to CUB and enter Rehab again, but his heart was troubled. He had great faith that he was going to get sober, but he had tears in his eyes as he told me how he worried for the little boy he left behind….not his son, but the child of the woman on drugs. I visited with him for a while and he eventually allowed me to pray with him, for the boy, for the woman and for him. I had an uncle named Jimmy who died of alcoholism this past summer…God knew exactly who to send to me. I saw Jimmy again later. He had found Duane and now needed a pen to exchange numbers with an old buddy. But this time I think God sent Jimmy to save me. His timing was such that I was being approched by someone who was “not so pure of heart”. He introduced me to an old “street buddy” named James, who had just come out of Rehab. The three of us walked away to find a pen and it removed me from an uncomfortable situation. I had noticed him talking to James & assumed this was a man with one of the local churches. James was doing very well, clean, dressed nicely and now had a job cutting yards. He really liked it and it made him feel good. This was very encouraging to Jimmy. They exchanged phone numbers and I told them I would be praying for both of them. I am still praying for them and my heart tells me Jimmy and James will be fine.
I met a man named Clarence, so full of the Spirit of God, he could hardly contain himself. Clarence was preaching the word to anyone who would listen…he was a bright light in this place and you could tell he knew the Word of God! He wore a great straw hat too! Very Cool!
Toward the end of the sermon, my eyes caught sight of a young mother and her toddler off in the distance. The little boy was dressed in dirty clothes…rags really. Everything she owned was in a stroller and the sweet, angelic faced little boy never strayed more that a few feet from her as she tended lovingly to him. It tore my heart out as I thought of my own daughter and grandchild not much older. How on earth did she get here? I could not take my eyes off of them. Everyone was packing up and going home but I didn’t want to leave. I had nothing with me to give them but wanted so much to help. I prayed, “Lord, tell me what to do”. I wanted to go to her, offer to go buy him diapers, clothes, anything he needed if she would just wait. I could hardly stand it and was about to go to her when I saw a woman approaching. After a few minutes the little boy emerged from the woman’s van, rags gone, new clothes. Thank you sweet Jesus! I remembered I had some women’s clothing in my car from cleaning out my closet, so I walked over to see if I could help. I introduced myself and the young mother, Sharon was so grateful to go through the clothes while the lady watched her little boy. The lady who was helping her turned out to be Rita, the co-founder of Bags of Grace. I introduced myself to Rita, gave her my card & told her how I had watched her and how my heart soared when I saw that baby boy come out of her van with new clothes. She hugged me because she knew…we mothers and grandmothers know. I didn’t have any baby clothes in my car…she didn’t either. She had just seen them much earlier, left and come back with the clothes. I almost cried. I asked Rita more about Bags of Grace & she gave me her card. They give out more than 4,200 care packages a year at CUB and many more from the windows of their cars. I immediately thought of the City School aprogram my son did throughout Pre-School…they called it ‘shopping at the store for the homeless” and they would fill up their bags, add gifts of art or letters and then give it to someone with their parent’s help. She also told me about the programs at Mission Possible and their Tuesday ministry at NYACC (12th & Chicon). Our hearts were knitted together in that parking lot and we visited on the phone & through email during the week. I’m planning to implement a trial run of Bags of Grace with Christ Church in May.
As I left CUB, I happened to pass Clarence, he openend his arms and offered me a last hug and said, “God bless you” I couldn’t resist accepting. My dear brothers and sisters, I went to Church Under the Bridge to give…but all I did was receive. My heart was and still is so very full!