“There’s someone on the phone — they need a place to stay tonight.”
“OK, I’ll talk to them.” When I pick up the phone, I never know how the conversation will go. Even though I’ve heard the request before, it’s never the same experience.
“Hey, how can I help you?” The story was familiar but unique. Evicted, no transportation, friend picking them up tomorrow to drive them back up north, need a place to spend the night. He and his wife were at the hospital last night until they were asked to leave the ER waiting room. Now they were waiting at a gas station, calling around to find someone who would pay for a motel room.
In the “olden” days, you would work your way through the yellow pages listing of churches in the area. Today, I guess you google “churches” and find out who’s in the area. Then you start calling until you reach someone who will help you out.
I had about an hour before a scheduled visit and had just finished up a sermon for tomorrow, so I agreed to come and get them and take them to a motel. It wasn’t out of my way and it’s not a lot of money and mercy is a good thing, so I headed out the door and down the road.
On the way, I though to myself, “Shouldn’t you be more careful?” I mean, you have no idea who is on the other end of that conversation. You have no idea what they are really up to. You are just going to go there and pick up a guy and his wife and take them to a hotel?
Then I thought, “Oh, stop it. What are they going to do, rob me? I was going to give them the 11 bucks in my pocket anyway. I’m meeting them at a public place. If they look creepy, I’ll figure something out. Why don’t you try trusting God? He made sure you had extra time today. He’s got your back, you know.”
I pulled in, walked up and met one of the nicest couples I’ve encountered in a long time. They had come to Florida from Pennsylvania, couldn’t really make it here, and were headed back where they had family support. They had been married just over a year, were feeling very alone, and very, very grateful. After a short ride, the very kind hotel manager got them situated, I had a chance to pray with them, and we parted ways.
What would I do if I were in that situation? Who would I call if I had no where else to turn? I have no idea. They had more courage and faith than I did today, humbly reaching out to a stranger, any stranger, for help. I think God is starting to get somewhere with me. My gut more often tells me “have mercy” than “be careful.”
And I didn’t even see it till just now: this is Christmas. A couple from out of town looking for a place to say. No baby, but maybe someday. You know what? This is even better than being in a Christmas play or live nativity!