“I felt like Jesus when He was being tempted by Satan. Satan took Jesus up to the top of a mountain and told Him to look out over everything. Satan told Jesus that he would give Him everything - all Jesus had to do was bow down and worship him. That happen to me! I went down to hang out with all of my old friends and they told me that I could have it all; Money, a pick of girls to do whatever I wanted with, and a place to stay. All I had to do was sell some drugs. How could I do that? How could I ruin these kid’s lives with these drugs and my body that God gave me?”
Anthony was sitting in a folding chair at The Relief Bus’ location in East Harlem this past Saturday afternoon. One of our volunteers had been talking with him. When they heard that he had been homeless for the past three weeks, they asked if he would like to talk to me and he agreed.
I invited him to come into the office. The front of The Relief Bus is set up as an office. It is comfortable and has a table. Tinted windows and closed doors provide a place of privacy, where people we meet on the street can have an opportunity to let their guard down and share what is happening in their lives without the fear of others hearing and either judging or taking advantage of them and their situation.
Anthony began to share his life with me. I found out that he was once part of a large family that included 7 other siblings. But now, at the young age of 39, he is alone. Because of the rough neighborhood and other health problems, everyone else had died - the last of which was his mother in 2012.
He doesn’t drink or do drugs. He said he smokes weed on the occasion, but that it isn’t a problem, just something to do when there is nothing else to do. He was into drugs and selling when he was younger, but he was proud to say that he hasn’t done any of that or been in jail since 1996.
The past few years he has been doing construction jobs and working seasonally doing advertising for a tax preparation company. He had a good place to live with a woman from the Dominican Republic, but she went back home 3 weeks ago and he has been sleeping on trains and in parks ever since.
This is what lead him to visit his friends down on the lower east side - the same ones he knew in the early 90’s. He said they were in the same place, doing the same thing.
My heart broke for Anthony. I teared up while listening to the brokenness and defeat in his words. Other than knowing what NOT to do, he didn’t know what TO do or where to go. Luckily, I was able to take the time to listen, encourage, and share some ideas with him.
I wrote out a roadmap of options for him to do. Through our partnerships with several organizations, like the Bowery and NYC Rescue Missions, Mainchance Drop-in Center, NYC Food Bank, and the Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless (ACE), I was able to show him options for moving forward and out of his hopeless situation.
After I finished talking with him, writing down information, referrals, getting him a metro card, giving him my cell phone number, and praying with him - he was in tears. I asked him if there was anything that he could think of that I could possibly do for him. He said I had done plenty. Before he left I gave him a good hug and told him to call me if he ever needed anything.
Then he left to head downtown.
Anthony came to the bus broken and hopeless.
He left hope filled and with joy!
This is a inside look at what I (and all of us on outreach staff at New York City Relief) do daily during our outreaches. Anthony is one of 4 office visits I had on Saturday and 12 I had on the week! Office visits are often emotional and heartbreaking, yet in turn they are the beginning stages of hope - and to see that hope glimmer in someone’s eyes, it’s amazing!
***Later that night, I received a call from Anthony letting me know that he had made it downtown and was going to have dinner at the Bowery Mission and head on to Mainchance Drop-in Center for the night to be inside and get a shower.
Please pray for hope and perseverance for Anthony (and everyone we meet with at The Relief Bus). Finding hope is amazing, keeping it takes daily miracles. You and I have the opportunity each day to provide simple miracles for everyone we encounter.
Walk humbly. Have grace. Be slow to speak. Listen Well. Smile! Ask others how they are doing and stick around for the answer. Buy a coffee for the person behind you.
Love whomever God puts in front of you!
It’s the little things that often make the biggest difference.
Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, support, and for those of you that come out and volunteer alongside of us. It’s one thing to know that we are doing what God has called us to do - it’s that much more encouraging to know that others want to come along and learn along with us. :)
Much love my friends!