This Outsider

"They kept their distance but raised their voices calling out, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" Luke 17:13 The Message

We've all seen the signs, "Homeless, help please, God bless." And if you're like me, I turn my head, check to see if my car doors are locked and then pray.

I'm not praying for the person holding the sign, I'm praying for the traffic light to turn green so I can get out of there before (God help me) the sign holder approaches my car. I'm a "missionary" but - until recently the majority of my "mission" work was overseas. I was notorious for going "where no man would go." The farthest jungles of Africa, remote Russian villages where orphanages housed hundreds of children, even leper colonies in India, those were the places I was comfortable. Thirty-six hours travel time - no problem! No running water - I can bathe with wet wipes! Sketchy food - granola bars are a suitcase staple. But... the lost, living on the streets, and under the bridges in my town... somebody else will cover that territory.

Until now.

At what I considered the "Eleventh Hour" (twelve days before the largest Christmas Party for the Homeless) I was elected Committee Chairman of Veteran Partners; my responsibility was to bring in organizations for the event to assist homeless veterans who would be in attendance.

"Lord have mercy indeed!"

With the help of dedicated friends of the ministry we were able to serve over 700+ Veterans. We gave out "The Greatest Warrior" pocket New Testaments designed specifically for soldiers struggling. We passed out faith-based "dog tags" with Scriptures and Psalms. We presented "Certificates of Appreciation" (for their military service) and wrote the names of the recipients on each one. There were Gospels of John in English and Spanish handed out to all who walked by that weren't military.

My associate proclaimed the day, "National Hug-a-Vet" Day, so as often as we could, we hugged and we hugged, and we cared and we cried. No chance for the signal light to turn green or a nearby floorboard for me to avert my eyes.

Prior to the day, I suppose I saw "those Street People" as modern day "lepers." The outcast from society, the people no one would get near, and certainly not touch! In Biblical times, leprosy was seen as a "curse." If you had it, you deserved it. And frankly, when I see some cardboard plea for assistance I confess, I judge; "they" must "deserve" to be in the situation they're in.

"Taking a good look at them, He said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." They went, and while they were still on their way, became clean." Luke 17:14 The Message

Thousands and thousands of people walked past us throughout the day. We interacted with the massive crowd. I said "Merry Christmas," more in 8 hours than probably in the last five years combined! Since we were relatively the "First Stop" as the guests made their way into the Convention Center, I had no idea what happened when the throng rounded the curtained corner and disappeared into the 300,000 square feet of services provided.

There are many accounts of Jesus' healing recorded in the Gospels, but when I reread the story of the ten Lepers, I noted Jesus told them to "Go show themselves to the Priests," BEFORE they were cleansed. They had to move out of "hiding" by faith, and believe something would be different by the time they arrived at their destination. In the process of doing what He asked them to do, they were changed.

Somewhere, along the way to the Dallas Convention Center, doing what He asked me to do (at the Eleventh hour), I was changed too. The outward signs of disease vanished from the ten, but in my case, perhaps it was the inward "scabs" (an ugly word, for a process of healing) of indifference, judgment, distancing, and fear, that fell away.

"One of them, when he realized he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting with gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus' feet, so grateful. He couldn't thank Him enough - and he was a Samaritan." Luke 17:16 The Message

As the afternoon hours ticked by, fewer and fewer people made their way through the "Partner Services" area. We asked everyone within earshot, "Are you a Veteran? Are you a Veteran?" When we got one of the last, "Yes ma' m, I am," answers of the day my associate and I jumped up for the embrace. "It's hug a Veteran day," we said with a chuckle as we surrounded the frail frame of a hero. Our Military Liaison, not wanting to miss the action of honor, said, "Hey, I'm going to get in on that! Let's make a Battle-Buddy Sandwich!" And when we did, the Last Soldier wept.

"You, don't know how bad I needed that," he said. We continued the makeshift sandwich of servants until he composed himself.

"Where are the nine? Can none be found to give glory to God except this outsider?" Luke 17:17-18 The Message

It's two days until Christmas. I didn't send out any Christmas cards, I failed to get out my traditional donor "Thank You," gifts, my friends and family will probably think I've forgotten how much they mean to me with my lack of attention to the Season. But somehow, I sense it doesn't matter that much to them REALLY, and I've accepted I can't let my flawed sense of getting Christmas "taken care of" rob me of the joy I feel at my Master's feet.

I'm counting on the promises found in His Word that proclaim:
"Ill bring home the homeless..." Zephaniah 3:19 The Message

This Outsider is Glorifying God,

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