Last Sunday, after a beautiful praise and worship service our church, Imago Dei, dispersed. We set out on a prayer walk, some of us went out in pairs, others sat on the corner and played music, while others went off on their own. Hubs and I went off by ourselves. We began with a very well kept house across the street and shortly found ourselves among some very run down homes, but homes obviously lived in. We saw things that were familiar to us and knew how to prayer, and then we saw things unfamiliar.
Although hubs and I were together, holding hands as we walked these historic, bricked streets, our approaches were different. You see, I’m a bit shy when it comes to praying and often do not pray aloud. Some people think this is something I need to get over, for how can I minister effectively if I’m unwilling to pray aloud? Well, as we walked, this thought had entered my head. How could I participate in the prayer walk if I could not pray aloud, but then I saw one of those unfamiliar things. A prayer formed in my head, in my heart and shortly thereafter hubs was echoing them aloud. It became evident we did not walk alone. The Holy Spirit was among us, telling us how to pray for these people. It also became evident to me that I did not need to be vocal in my prayers.
It wasn’t too long before we came to a pair of churches sitting catty corner from each other. One seemed worn down with years of neglect, but as we approached the front we realized it was an active place of worship. We crossed the street and sat on a brick wall outside the better preserved church and prayed over them both, obviously not just the buildings but the people who called these places home and the ministries that reached outside of their doors.
Once we were done, we realized we were close to a place hubs had done some work for, a tiny, yet busy, corner cafe. There, as we passed in front of the old building, I found my voice and prayed aloud. We passed new businesses and refurbished buildings as the district is trying to bring restoration to the area.
Soon, however, as we continued to walk south down Kansas avenue, my thoughts became distracted by the barrenness. No longer did bright signs hang from the lamp posts. The potted plants stopped. The colorful window displays no longer existed.
As we approached the south end of this road, there was a sense of loneliness, empty. Abandonment.
It’s empty, the gates are closed, locked. The smell of fresh lumber no longer lingers. Shrubs, left to their own devices, decorate the misshapened chain link fence. Odd, that they, if the lumber yard remained, would have have been cut at the roots and kept from growing. Lonely. Hopeless. Abandoned. Neglected.
So, why did we continue southward? Well, because the Rescue Mission resides south of the railroad tracks and we wanted to pray over the place, over the people. These people who have very little left to them. We walked to a parking lot across from the Mission’s Hope Center, a facility for families and my husband prayed to the tune of children’s laughter transmitting from Hope Center’s playground. I couldn’t help but think what a blessing the Hope Center is/was to homeless families, yet . . . . . how scarey to have very little outside the clothes on your back and the responsibility of children. My heart went out to these mothers and their children residing in the Hope Center. And then hubs said Amen. I lifted my eyes and there on the sidewalk in front of us was a young family. A mother pushing a stroller, a young boy and an adult man, who may or may not have been his father. I could not hear the words passed between them, but soon the man and young boy raced down the street toward the mission. A smile spread across the child’s face as he took the lead. A smile spread across the man’s face as it was obvious he was not giving his all in this race. A smile spread across the mother’s face as little feet kicked against the stroller.
These people may not have had much, but they were happy for the moment, as a friends, as a family. It warmed me. They did not seem abandoned, lonely, hopeless. But then a movement caught my eye. A lone woman wondering around in the grass until she stood on top of a large grate. She stared down into that hole. He body language was like that of the lumber yard, empty, abandoned, looking for hope in a dark hole in the ground. I wanted to say something, to touch her shoulder. You’d be amazed at how small human contact can lift a person’s spirit and give her hope. We were late getting back to the church. There was no time to speak to her, to shake her hand or give her a hug. I’d left my daughter at the church. She was counting on my to return on time. Besides, outside a small glance toward her, hubs showed no hint of leading by the Holy Spirit.
It wasn’t until later after we’d left church that hubs and I talked about the walk when we discovered we both felt the need to speak to this woman. Since we have no idea who she is, other than lift her up to the Lord, there is nothing we can do. Next time I think hubs and I will be more aware and obedient to the Spirit’s leading.
There are many thoughts that went through my head as we walked around the neighborhood, but the one spoken the loudest is that God cares for these people–the homeless, the drug addict, the alcoholic, the rejected, the abandoned, the financially down and out–even if the rest of the world doesn’t–God does.