Alumni Blog: How One Homeless Man Changed My Life

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This story comes from 2009/2010 Alumni Caleb Butler. This post was originally written in February 2010. Caleb served at Louisville Rescue Mission – a homeless rescue mission.

And now to him who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating – to our one God, our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all time. Yes!Jude 24-25, The Message

ONE WEEK IN CHICAGO

It was my first genuine encounter with homelessness.
I often reflect on my time in Chicago with the youth group.  It was the summer of 2006.  We stayed one week in a church that was actively involved in ministering to the homeless.  The church was only supposed to serve dinner one night of the week, but our youth group served three nights that week because we wanted our homeless friends to keep coming back!  We also took carloads of sandwiches to Lower Wacker, a notorious underground community of homeless men and women in Chicago.  It was my first genuine encounter with homelessness.  God used the weeklong mission trip to change lives in our youth group; I just had no idea how radically He would use it to change mine.

 JUST FIFTEEN MINUTES

Little did I know, those fifteen minutes would forever change my life.
I will never forget meeting Del.  I went to Lower Wacker the first night while others stayed at the church to serve dinner.  When I got back that night everyone was saying, “You have to meet him!  He’s so sweet.”  Indeed he was, beaming with life, always smiling, talking, and laughing.  Our youth group fell in love with Del.  Our hearts were broken by his story, a Gulf War veteran who returned with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which quickly ended his marriage and forced him into homelessness.  PTSD also caused Del to stutter badly, but even though his voice wavered, he didn’t waver in his faith in God.  The second night I made it a point to sit by him at dinner.  We talked for about fifteen minutes, and I especially remember him saying in all seriousness, “What does Bible stand for? Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.”  Little did I know, those fifteen minutes would forever change my life.  It’s funny how God works.

YOU JUST NEVER KNOW

I will ask him what caused all of it and he will say, “It was a fifteen minute conversation you and I had over lunch one day.”
You know where the story is three and a half years later, or I wouldn’t be writing this to you.  Here I am serving with Love Thy Neighborhood. I never expected to spend a year serving the homeless, but God put a humble man named Del in my path.  Maybe years later I will run into one of the homeless guests from Jefferson Street Baptist Center in a different setting.  He will tell me how he gave his life to God and how things have been so different since.  I will ask him what caused all of it and he will say, “It was a fifteen minute conversation you and I had over lunch one day.”  Maybe.  Maybe not, but I am still called to be faithful in loving my neighbors and to expect God to work.

MY PRAYER

May we faithfully look for opportunities to love the least of these, whether it be an exhausted coworker, a lonely next door neighbor, or an impoverished addict.  May we faithfully pray for open eyes and a pliable heart.  God has a sense of humor; He may surprise you.

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