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I Was Hungry and a Stranger

A young woman about 20 years old had been living on the streets for about five years because of her abusive alcoholic parents. She was a pleasant-looking young woman behind the tattered and dirty clothes, oily hair, and dirty makeup-free face. Somehow, she had managed to avoid the alcohol and the drugs so prevalent on the streets. She had a little old Bible that an aunt had given her when she was 11 years old, that she kept in her canvas bag that held all of her belongings.

She got by, like most homeless folks, with rummaging for bottles and cans and asking strangers for spare change, but she never gave herself up to prostitution or stealing.  She tried to live as close as she could to how the Bible instructed.

For years she had watched people go to the church a couple blocks away from the place she slept alone at night in the bushes. She would sit in the parking lot and listen to the muffled music of the worship service.  She watched the people mingle, laugh, and hug before they got back in their cars and drove off. She dreamed of being like “those people”.

Finally, one day she decided that she would take the money she had made from her begging and buy the prettiest dress she could find. The following Sunday she got up, gathered all the courage she could muster, and put on her dress. She had no place to take a shower and no makeup, but she tried her best to clean her face and do something with her hair.

She tried to sneak in so that she wouldn’t have to shake hands with greeters. Of course, there was no place to hide so she walked straight through the foyer. She found a seat in the back corner of the sanctuary.  She sobbed through the entire service. The feeling was so rewarding.

She found herself hesitating to leave at the end of the service because she wanted to get all she could out of being there. When she decided to get up and leave, the foyer was still very busy.  It took some effort walking alone through the crowd of cheerful people. She finally did.  As she walked away, a young teenage girl noticed the color of her dress and asked her father who that lady was walking away.  He glanced quickly and then looked more intently as she exited the parking lot but did not know her. As the family was driving home in the same direction as the girl, they noticed her going into the bushes a couple blocks away in her dress.

This family just happened to take in foster kids who were preparing for independent living when they turned 18. The following Saturday morning, this family went in search of this girl as their curiosity had increased over the week. The dad went into the bushes, where he saw her enter the previous Sunday. He saw her sleeping there with an old blanket over her and her Bible open beside her. Not wanting to startle her, he gently kept saying hello from a distance. She awakened to seeing him standing there. Before she could speak, he quickly asked her if she had come to their church the previous week. This lowered her anxiety, and she hesitantly said yes.

The dad ended up putting her in a motel for the night, and the mom gave her some nice clothes and some makeup from home. Sunday morning, they picked her up. When they saw her, they could barely recognize her because of the difference. After church that Sunday the family took her out for lunch, and by the end of it, they had invited the girl to come live with them, kind of like an adult foster kid, I guess. Within a year, she enrolled and was very successful in Bible college, …. Today she is living on her own and is the children’s ministry director of an even larger church in that community, which has a huge outreach program for homeless people that she helped initiate. (From Homeless to Home, Sean Harder, www.sermoncentral.com, Illustrations)