Tuesday, October 7, 2014

People To Love

My friend Camille owned a thriving travel agency in Denver. Living out God's plan A calling on her life, she looked for opportunities to serve and share her faith with her employees and clients, and she did so effectively. As a result, her customers received far more than good travel plans.

Camille was attending a thriving inner-city church, which was a fair distance from her suburban home. Church in the City is located in the heart of Denver on East Colfax Avenue - a street known its many homeless people, drug addicts, and prostitutes. But for the most part, this Kingdom laborer lived a safe and predictable life. Then one morning everything changed. Camille sensed God calling her beyond the four walls of her church building to a nearby street corner frequented by homeless people. Who would have thought that God wanted a red-haired, freckle-faced woman from the suburbs, who knew little about the street, to bring His love to people very different from the ones she encountered in her normal everyday world? With the blessing of her pastor, she committed to obey and began praying like crazy.

She knew that prayer is not something you do for the work of God - it is the work of God. Her first action step was praying that God would protect this plan and these people from any satanic attack that would neutralize her efforts. And she asked God to use her to bring His abundant life purpose to as many people as possible. Her praying was bold, and it needed to be! As she prayed, God poured His love into her heart (Romans 5:5).

Camille had a deep understanding that prayer is the way God prepares hearts (our own and others'). Before her first day on the street, she began earnestly praying. Eventually the time came for her to put her prayer into action. She traded her safe seat in the church sanctuary for an unfamiliar street corner. It was scary venturing outside the safe environment of a church full of "easy to love" people - to engage unpredictable new places and people. But god was leading her step by step into this unknown adventure. Answering this divine calling meant dying to self and coming alive to a life motto she would embrace again and again: ALL for the King...for His Kingdom!

By faith, Camille stepped out of her comfort zone, knowing those who risk nothing gain little.

Her friend Gail joined her, and together on a Tuesday morning that rocked Camille's world, they gave away free doughnuts - and a generous helping of God's love.

In her first venture into the unknown, Camille got out of her car, box of doughnuts in hand, and began walking toward a group of homeless people she'd seen earlier. Although very aware that she looked much different from them, she pushed past her fear and self-consciousness.

"Here, have a doughnut," she stammered as she offered her trembling box of doughnuts to the bystanders who suddenly stopped talking and were staring at her.

"What's the catch, lady?" a voice offered back.

She paused and then shared what God brought to her mind.

"God loves you, and I've been praying for you. He told me to come and give you doughnuts today. I'm here to serve you. Is there anything specific I can pray for anyone about?"

For a moment, she lingered in the awkwardness of their silent stares. No one knew how to respond.

Finally, someone broke the silence. "When will you be back? Is this gonna be a regular thing?"

"Yes. Every Tuesday morning, right here at this intersection, you can have free doughnuts, friendship, a listening car, and prayer," Camille explained.

The next Tuesday a big homeless man named Jack confided that he was headed to the hospital in a few days to have a growth surgically removed from his neck. When Camille asked to pray for him, he refused. Jack then shared that years before, a church wounded him.

After listening intently, Camille responded, "Well, Jack, I'm your new friend. I'm not a church. And I'd like to pray for you, if that's okay. Can I?"

Street people can often discern the attitudes and motives of the people around them. Jack sensed Camille's humility and genuine concern. So in a gruff, stoic John Wayne - type voice, he replied, "I guess you can." Camille then prayed a simple prayer for Jack, the doctors, the hospital and his recovery.

The next week, Jack was standing at the street corner, but something was missing. "Jack, where's your bandage?" Camille asked, looking for evidence for his surgery.

"When you prayed for me, the growth dissolved," he answered in a matter-of-fact voice.

Camille's jaw dropped. "It did?"

"Yeah," Jack retorted, taken aback by her surprise.

Camille was shocked.

"I really didn't have that much faith," Camille confessed later to me. "But God was confirming to me that if I did my part, He would surely do His."

Every time she returned, she felt God's presence and pleasure in her service to the poor. These strangers became Camille's friends and a special group of people to love.

Every Tuesday for fifteen years, Camille has served God's life-changing love to about 130 of her friends on East Colfax. And her friends love them and respect her as well. She serves them breakfast, give them hygiene items, and distributes an assortment of high-quality supplies from T-shirts to leftover Starbucks baked goods. Camille wants to bless them by acknowledging their dignity and worth. She treats them as people whom God loves and values - people with a hope, a plan and a future.

"It's simple," Camille says. "The Holy Spirit runs it. I just keep on showing up."

But she also admits, "God had to teach me patience, faithfulness, and humility- which always usher in His presence because He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (1 Peter 5:5).

God's call to take a risk and offer her efforts unto Him has required that Camille relinquish any desire for specified results or acceptable social responses.

After investing years of hugs and listening to people's stories, countless prayers, and advocating again and again on behalf of her friends, she has remained faithful. She shows up every week for the people she loves.

God has done the rest!

Now, in a donated storefront building, Camille leads a weekly Bible study for fifty street people who want to know more about Christ, and every week God shows up in various ways. Some of her friends have plugged back into life and society. They know they can count on her - and God can too. She's a special laborer who keeps coming back, again and again. Consistency is vital when God gives you people to love.

Camille has crossed countless social, ethnic, economic, and religious boundaries in reaching out to Denver's neediest people. Today, eighty-eight lives are off the street because one ordinary woman covenanted with God to move past her typical boundaries and find common ground with an uncommon group of people to love. Just like Jesus.

(From Dwight Robertson's "You are God's Plan A [and there's no plan b])

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