Wednesday, 07 September 2016 22:35

WHAT’S MY NAME?

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“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver and gold.” (Proverbs 22:1, NIV)


It all started when I offered a lunch and a prayer to the homeless in downtown Norfolk. Sometimes the lunch was turned down, but never the prayer. I ask for a name and whatever barriers or fears seemed to dissipate. Their name and prayer became personal. Calling on Jesus and laying that person by name at the foot of the cross becomes Holy Spirit filled prayer. I write their name in my bible and commit to pray for them. I know their name and we are blessed. 

 

Those early years talking, enjoying lunch, and praying with the homeless were the foundation of both ministries God led me to create, ABBA List then CAST, Chesapeake Area Shelter Team.  The first season of CAST, I met a guest named Horace. He was a tall African American man, a regular in CAST, seeking emergency winter shelter from the cold. When I visited the host church, he would greet me with a huge smile and we would always talk. I believe this must have been God-assigned. The Lord brought Horace across my path many times and at each church we would have conversations that slowly but surely allowed me a glimpse into his world. He told me about the balcony of an abandoned building he was able to sleep on. He bragged that he had a mattress and plenty of blankets. He smiled each time he shared his stories of a raccoon that he fed. Horace would tell me the story over and over again over the weeks of the CAST season and I would listen not sure he remembered telling me before or that he just wanted to engage and didn’t know what else to say. Being one of the leaders of CAST, I drop in at CAST host churches to see how things are going and to offer support. One night as I entered the church, the first person I see smiling at me is Horace. He covers His nametag with his hand and asks, “What’s my name?” For a split second I panic because I am not good with names, but the Lord is good and I remember the names of the homeless. I say, “Horace!” He smiles and says, “Don’t ever forget me.” It was his birthday that night and I remember feeling the surprise that Horace and I were the same age yet he looked 15 years my senior.

Weeks go by and Horace’s drinking makes him harder to handle in CAST. The man that sometimes hires him during the day to sweep his parking lot pays him with beer. But Horace manages to keep himself under control in shelter. We all try to help him keep it under control so he can have a warm place to rest his head.

 

Horace hints to me at times that he can sing and not always knowing what to talk about with him, I encourage him to sing, week after week. Then one evening at dinner, he announces to me he is ready to sing….right now, right there during dinner. So, I hush the group and Horace sings a beautiful gospel song in a deep baritone voice. It was beautiful. Afterwards you could hear a pin drop. It was one of those amazing moments, such a voice, such a gift. I could tell Horace was embarrassed yet pleased with himself. At that moment, I get to connect to his past. He is as all of our homeless guests are…someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son. Horace was no doubt the lost son of a Christian family with a gorgeous voice singing the songs he heard in church long ago. Now, he is chronically homeless, addicted to alcohol and drugs, and living day to day, hour to hour to survive. I see him a few more times over the final weeks of winter shelter flashing that familiar smile amidst the new church setting and ever increasing group of homeless guests. 

 

I hear rumors that Horace got in trouble and went to jail. Some say it was to dry out, others said to get medical care. I learn later that Horace was sick and died. I think about his porch, the raccoon, his isolation, his smile, his song. I remember his words,

“What’s my name? Don’t ever forget me.”

I have not.