Church Under the Bridge (3/29/09)

Rev. Cliff WarnerCliffNotes

I was eager for our family to attend CUB, and thankful that our five year daughter would be coming with us. All week she had been counting down the days, and we prayed together that God would lead our experiences there. Characteristically, she was full of questions. She wondered if the homeless woman we encountered near our home would be there. She wanted to know why people become homeless and why they have to go to church outside when we get to go to church inside. Good questions. She wanted to bring something to share with those she might meet.

When we arrived the service was just beginning, and I was very ready to let God use me, and teach me, as He would. As I scanned the scene, I felt drawn to those on the periphery, those who stood back from the service for whatever reason, and stood alone. The first man we talked to was named Orlando. He was an articulate and appealing man of about 50, and I never would have thought he was homeless if he hadn’t volunteered it. Orlando spoke openly about his journey and his love for God. He had overcome much, and was three weeks away from moving into a new apartment and beginning his hot dog stand business. He seemed full of hope, and his easy ways and friendly demeanor helped us all to relax and settle in.

The next man I met was Richard. He invited me to sit by him on the back of a cart. Unlike Orlando, he seemed to live in much anguish and paralyzing fear. As we talked, I learned that he had been subjected to constant abuse as a child, and had spent time in foster care. It seemed that he felt at ease sharing with me, and I felt the Holy Spirit telling him we had much in common. He shared heartbreaking details of the hell he endured as a young boy, and I wondered the last time he was able to give voice to those deep wounds and stand against what had been done to him. Without a family in place, he drifted from Florida, to El Paso, to Austin, always alone. Richard told me he has walked with the Lord since he was a child. Billy Graham came to his town, and he met Jesus. He said his burden was heavy, but God would never place more on him than he could bear. I found that hard to accept; it felt like too much to me. As I prayed with him, I believe I entered into some of his pain, if only for a while. When we finished praying, I went to check in with my husband, and when I looked back Richard was gone.

Soon we met a woman who attends CUB every Sunday. She comes from Pflugerville and has fallen in love with the people. She said she’s seen lots of miracles and lots of heartbreaks, but this is her church home and these are her brothers and sisters. As we talked I began to weep. I’m not even sure why, but something was stirring so deep within me. I guess I want to be like this woman; I want to be with the least of these.