Homeless In San Diego

The barista called out, “Kirsten your latte’s ready.” I smiled and thanked the familiar young woman behind the counter as I grabbed my drink. This was my home away from home. Daily I came to partake in the friendly atmosphere of this coffee shop, mingle with employees and regulars, always open to meeting a new friend. Yet I never expected a homeless man.

When I headed toward the door I stopped to chat with Dan, a recently retired military commander, who occupied the comfortable leather chair on many mornings. I asked, “What do you have planned today?”

He said, “The usual,” which meant not a lot.

“You know what you should do?” Not waiting for him to answer I continued to boldly tell him to go down to the San Diego Rescue Mission to find out how he could volunteer. In the middle of my conversation the door flew open and a tall scrubby bearded man with filthy clothes and worn out shoes plopped down on the leather chair next to Dan, separated only by a small table and a different life experience.

Knowing a God encounter when I see one, I turned to the unfamiliar man slumped over and said, “Can I buy you a cup of coffee?

He lifted his head when he heard my voice, our eyes met, and he nodded with enthusiasm, “Sure. I would like that.”

When I handed the man the coffee he politely thanked me for the kind gesture. Delighted to make his day I asked, “So what brings you to this community?” And that’s when I learned his story. He had lived in this area twenty-four hears ago before his parents sold their home to move to Ohio. At the time Mark was twenty-five years old and still living at home. When his parents packed boxes to move across country Mark loaded a back-pack to walk a different direction. And he never stopped. What became comfortable became normal.

I discovered that Mark knew God’s Word by reading the Gideon Bible he had stolen from a motel. Aware that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty of his sin he confessed, “I like my beer, but I know God wants me to stop drinking and start helping people.” Sitting inches from him I heard the clarity of his mind, coherent of his past, and self-aware of his pride that prevented him from getting help.

I proclaimed, “God has a plan and a purpose for your life. You’re going to clean-up real well. God is going to use you in a mighty way to help others. Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit when you invited Jesus into your heart. You need to start taking care of what God has blessed you with. It’s a miracle you’re even alive. God has protected you all these years.”

The weathered face of this forty-nine year old man grinned under his large crooked nose and said, “You have no idea what God has saved me from,” nodding as he reminisced in his thoughts, “I’m very thankful.”

Talking to this man convicted me of how much I had to be thankful for. We had taken two different paths, but God had brought us together in a coffee shop for a purpose. Dan stood up to leave, shaking his head with a smile. Then with a furrowed brow Mark looked into my eyes and asked, “Do you have to leave too?” disappointment filled his voice, “I thought you could hang out with me all day.”

We laughed and I said, “Let’s go outside.” As we walked toward the warmth of the sun I asked, “Can I pray for you?” He welcomed my prayer. I laid my hand on his shoulder thanking God for my new friend. I asked God to protect Mark, to give him courage to go to the Mission to get the help he needed, to be delivered of his desire for beer, and for God to use him in a mighty way.

When my prayer ended I recognized how his countenance had changed from when I first met him. After he promised to go to the Mission I gave Mark a hug, filled with joy that God could use me, I hoped Mark would take the steps in the right direction to make a new normal.

For more information on how to help the homeless go to http://www.sdrescue.org/.

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