A few months ago I wrote of my desire to get out into the world a bit more, to experience people who didn’t share my beliefs and interests, people who I may have nothing in common. I decided to volunteer at a soup kitchen in a city a couple towns over from me. I wanted to reach out to hurting people, to be Jesus to them in any way I could.
I never expected that some of these people would show me the love of God, that some of these people would put my own faith to shame.
As I write this I’m thinking of Bo. He’s in his forties, tall, a bit shaggy. Thanks to two bad car accidents that damaged a disc in his back, he walks with crooked legs and arms. Bo does not always talk very clearly. His fingers don’t work right. But his mind is sharper than the best knife in the soup kitchen.
It was 12:56 p.m. last Tuesday when Bo came into the kitchen. I’d seen him around before but never talked to him.
The kitchen closes at 1:00 p.m. so there were a couple sighs from the volunteers (including me). This guy had to eat a chicken dinner fast or I wouldn’t have time to go grocery shopping before my kids came home from school.
But God was about to change my perspective. With a crooked finger, Bo signaled me over.
“What can I get you?”
I’m thinking his answer will be coffee. Extra sugar.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“Hi Heidi. I’m Bo.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Bo.”
Bo glances around, then looks back at me. “You wanna know something?”
I really don’t want to know anything. I want him to stop talking and start eating his chicken thigh so I can go grocery shopping.
“My birthday is 3-16.”
“Are you hinting for a party?” I tease him, immediately nervous for what’s coming next. I’ve been volunteering at the kitchen for a few months and I’ve gotten several inappropriate comments.
“No, no, no. No party.” Bo’s forgotten his food. The kitchen staff is tapping off the seconds on the clock with their feet. “You know why I’m happy my birthday is 3-16? Because of John 3:16.”
The guy sitting next to Bo tells him to be quiet and eat. But Bo ignores him.
Now he’s got my attention. “I know John 3:16.”
Bo’s eyes light up. “You do?” He elbows the guy next to him and his voice becomes louder, bolder. “You want to know what John 3:16 says? God loves the world so much that whosoever shall believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life!” He jabs the air with his finger to get the point across.
And I am inspired and in awe and ashamed all at once. For here I am, rushing this man out the door when I had vowed to be Jesus to those I met. Here I am expecting dirty comments from this man who preaches God’s word more boldly, more fervently than I ever had.
Where is my own faith? Why did I decide to volunteer here in the first place?
Jesus. How quickly I forget. And while I intended it to be my faith shining in this place, God had other plans.
Bo smiles at me and I thank him for sharing. I’m reluctant to hurry him along even though the rest of the volunteers are probably wishing I’d just walk away from him. I want to hear his story, know more about his faith. Bo tells me he studied to be a lawyer, then turned a criminal, and now…he’s the best thing of all: a Christian—God’s child.
And never again will Bo be just another face looking for a meal. He is my brother in Christ, the one who showed me true faith in a soup kitchen.