Some friends and I met a man named Warren a few months ago at the Union Gospel Mission (UGM) during SALT, the school’s street and homeless ministry.
Over the past few months, we’ve seen how he’s struggled to find friends in a city he’s completely new to, to find some sort of shelter he’s comfortable at and to find a job. Despite the struggles of adapting to a new city where he doesn’t really know anyone, Warren is always willing to give us prayer requests and discuss his journey with God.
A few weeks ago, while we were talking to him, a man with a bike entered the place we were in and said “hi” to Warren.
“Hey,” Warren replied.
“Sorry about what happened,” the man said.
“You do what you gotta do,” Warren said.
We watched as they had a brief conversation of catching up. The man then left, and we asked if that man was a friend of his.
“That man stole my bike,” Warren said. “If I was the old me, I would have beaten him up. But I’m a new person now.”
That same night we asked if there was anything we could for him, and all he requested was a flashlight, some soda, and a Bible small enough to not be too burdensome when he walked around so he could do a daily devotional from the Psalms.
Something I’ve found so inspiring during my times with SALT is how some of the people we’ve come into contact with at the UGM have always been so hopeful and faithful to God despite their discouraging situations.
Before someone accuses me of taking us all on a guilt trip, I want to be clear that not every experience to be had during SALT is an encouraging experience.
There are times when we go to UGM and people look away or decline our snack bags and conversations. There are times when we can see the disheartening mental deterioration of those who stand outside and talk to themselves and others about irrelevant and nonsensical topics. One night, while we were at UGM, the police and ambulance had to come because a man tried to commit suicide.
We’ve been to the pit-stop of frustration, where the problems seem to be bigger than the people; where the heroin addict gives up trying to quit while giving up hope in Christ; where a man lost his faith in the Lord the same time he lost his son; where a man discusses the absence of God because of his own absence of shelter and stability in life.
This pit-stop isn’t just a stop for everyone. For some, this pit-stop becomes a place to stay, a desolate destination of dedicated discouragement. For others, it’s just as the name implies: a stop. While some people remain stuck because they’re reminded of how big their problems are, others move on because they’re reminded of how big the Lord is compared to their problems.
I’ve met people who, even though they don’t have anywhere to stay, or anywhere to work, still make prayer a priority. They acknowledge how necessary God is to move past the problems they face.
People like Warren, struggling through poverty and yet remembering to be faithful, are reminders of what it means to pass the pit-stop of frustration— where the doubters visit and the faithless stay. They, instead, find their way back on the road of hope. A road which starts and ends with a carpenter, a crucifixion and a covenant.