Last summer I discovered a young couple (19 & 20 years old) living in their truck in the shade of a big oak tree at our church – where I’m the still-new pastor. I talked with them a bit, learned a bit of their story, and offered water and restrooms whenever they needed. I invited them to join us in worship on Sunday mornings and was thrilled when they did. He’d been part of the church’s youth group for a time—before my time—when we’d had a guy who connected with the skater crowd; but he was there for the skating and the food, not for the God-talk. She had her own views of God, some rooted in the Bible, but many from her own mind (not unlike many of us!).
They had hopes and hurts: both were looking for work; both had a lot of brokenness in their families; both had struggles with drugs and emotions and mental health. But they were looking for a place to live, and hoped to find it within a few weeks. When she had to leave town with the truck for a few days, he asked if he could set up a tent on an out-of-the-way part of the property. I agreed. But days turned into several weeks, even after she returned; and though they took good care of the area, with the dry heat of summer and the possibility of sparks from the engine, I knew we needed to send them on their way.
I knew they’d both gotten work at a local pizza place and some time later I stopped in to ask about them. They didn’t work there anymore.
It’s been months now. They’ve crossed my mind on occasion but I haven’t seen or heard about them. Until yesterday.
Sitting alone in my office in the afternoon, I looked up when I noticed a car pull into our parking lot. The back door opened and … there he was. When we saw each other through the window, a big smile crossed his face. I walked out to greet him and we both spread our arms wide and hugged each other. “I found God!” he said. Back when he’d sat through our church service, it was pretty much a courtesy; he wasn’t much interested in God. “I was trapped in my sin,” was about how he put it.
Somewhere along the way he decided he didn’t want to go on living the way he had been. And somehow, he figured he needed God. And he found Him. He discovered Teen Challenge, too, which is a Bible-based organization that helps teens—and young adults—recover from life-controlling issues through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Yes, He’s still in the business of healing. And he—my young friend (and new brother)—is about halfway through the Teen Challenge recovery program. And seems to be doing pretty well.
They’re not together anymore, he and she. Last summer, that would have been a big blow. Now he has a relationship with Someone who has given him real life. Full life. Eternal life.
As Christians who try to faithfully and simply show Jesus’ love to others, we don’t always get to see if the seeds we’ve planted (or watered) will sprout and grow. Yesterday I got a glimpse of a small green shoot popping up through the soil.
(Note: I published this first on Facebook notes on 2/2/19.)