Ok, this is getting way too long for what it's worth. Anyway... so the guy wakes up startled. I - as nonchalantly as I can - ask him what he's doing here. "Sleeping." He says. Well, that makes sense. So I ask why he's sleeping here. Turns out, he just got out of rehab, and in Ann Arbor to get back into the shelter, you have to be out of rehab and clean for 30 days, or something like that. He'd been out, but had no place to go, yet. He was 29, a nice guy, and I felt like we could be friends. I asked him how he got in here, and he said that it was really cold outside, and he happened to try the back door and it was open. Made sense to me. We talked for awhile about his journey and what he had learned and how he was now trying to get straight and get a job.
Then came an awkward silence. He asked if I wanted him to leave. I supposed that would have been the right thing to do in terms of my job, but ringing in my ears were the words of Jesus: when you welcomed one of these, you welcomed me. What would Jesus really do? So, I told him to sit tight, and that I was going to think about it while I cleaned up the pump and water and I'd get back with him. I came up awhile later and told him to move downstairs where there was heat and I let him stay the night. I asked him to leave in the morning quietly and if I could help him in any way to get ahold of me.
I never saw him again, but he did send me an Easter card thanking me for a warm night's stay and good conversation. He got a job and was getting back on his feet, and by that time... was 6 months without a drink.
Buildings can often be a pain and can hinder or help us in ministry in a lot of ways. The church is the people, and not the building, but this was one night when this building and all of its awards served Jesus by providing a warm night's stay to a wanderer out in the cold. And it also made me rethink what buildings are for, what Jesus would really do, and has deeply affected my understanding of the place of the church in the world. Once [chance] encounter late into the night because of a flooded basement. Only God can orchestrate that.
Oh... and during all of this long conversation I forgot to call my wife, and since I was gone a lot longer than she anticipated and she was worried about someone being in the church, well... nevermind.
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