Hospitalized and Homeless

Yesterday, Parker and I went to see Paul in the hospital.

Paul is a homeless guy.

They had to take him at the hospital when he complained of having chest pains. He called our church and said he was scared. He was scared that if he died no one would ever know. I can’t relate to this crushing loneliness.

Paul has a Masters degree in Art.

We stopped by to check on Paul, listen to him and pray with him. Paul talked almost non-stop for almost an hour. His loneliness and neediness was evident. I was reminded of what my wife and I often teach in pre-marital counseling and marriage class, “listening equals loving”. So we just listened to Paul talk about everything from guitar playing, to art history, to Jamaicans that smoke lots of weed. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t awkward.

Does not the Biblical call of love teach us to do the “awkward” thing sometimes?

Luke 14:12-14 – He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

Sounds pretty awkward to me, but don’t miss the blessing that comes as well.

Yeah, yeah, we need to have a careful conversation about what is the best way to minister to these types of people. I get that. That another post for another day. But may it not be an excuse for our lack of action and compassion in this area.

Call me a mystic if you want, but I could see Jesus in Paul. Remember, we worship a homeless guy (Mark Driscoll is good at reminding me of this). Did not Jesus say that we minister to HIM as we serve the poor, the outcast and oppressed (Matt 25)? I want more of Jesus in my life. Perhaps doing this type of thing more often is a way to get more of Him. I just wonder…

Paul did not have a heart attack, but he might have lung cancer. He is having a biopsy today. I told him to call and let us know the results. I hope he does.

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3 responses to “Hospitalized and Homeless

  1. I think that awkwardness is where most of ministry happens. So many people think that ministry is a “plan” or a “way of being the church,” but much of the ministry we do simply happens by accident like conversations in this situation.

  2. christopherlake

    Zach, as I wrote over at your own blog, serious kudos to you and Parker for living out the Biblical truth of “love in hard places” (thanks to D.A. Carson for those great words) with Paul. You guys did a wonderful, God-glorifying thing, and I applaud you for it, as a brother in Christ.

    Here, I want to ask some questions for you and the other brothers about the practical side of ministering to people in Paul’s situation. To your knowledge, is Paul a Christian? It seems that he might not be, from your post, but it’s unclear to me. If he is a Christian, is he a member of DSC? If the answer is “no” to both of these questions, where do you think the line should be drawn– if it should be drawn at all– between ministering to believers’ needs in the church and non-believers’ needs in “the world”? Do you think that the Bible gives any sort of special priority to attending to other Christians’ needs (especially fellow local church members), and then working to meet needs of other people, or should we in the church be working concurrently, as much as possible, to do both equally? Do you think that the church, as an organizational entity (meaning, not simply idividual members of a local church, but the local church itself, collectively), is called by God to meet needs of non-believers? If so, when do we know where to “draw the line,” as obviously, we can’t necessarily help every single person in a direct, person-to-person way? I’m asking these questions sincerely, not being sure of the answers myself, but wanting to hear what you and others have to say. I think it’s great that you and Parker ministered to Paul; I’m just unsure as to the larger questions of how to minister to people in such challenging situations, when there are SO MANY people in desperate need, and they may or may not be Christians, depending upon the individual situation. Obviously, we are called to minister to non-Christians– I’m just not sure what it should look like in each individual situation, especially in the context of the local church’s mission in, and to, the world. Thoughts, guys?

  3. Perhaps the most helpful thing you can do for Paul in this moment is listen – help him use this time of illness as a time of reflection as well. Help him get connected with a social worker at the hospital, and convince him to follow that person’s advice. It can be hard for the homeless to trust other people, but there are many services availale is they can make that leap. Sometimes the leap is only one of faith, other times it involves adherence to specific rules, or just openness to change. This is a typical path out of homelessness, but it starts, always, with caring.

    I hope that you continue helping those in need regardless of faith. There are many that need a listener and advocate.

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