Yesterday I decided to go with Bayside Community Church’s Adopt-a-block (AAB) – an outreach to the low income neighborhoods in Bradenton, FL. It was a good day to interact with the community and try to share encouragement and love, but nothing out of the ordinary happened; until I noticed this young man standing by himself.
I asked him where he was from and learned that he had been homeless for some time. An ex Vet, who had been in and out of trouble with the law since leaving the military. Formerly he had been addicted to drugs and was now “squatting” in a home that was vacant. He found a mattress there, and being nine months clean and sober, tried to stay out of the way when drug dealers would come in to use the home to make their trades. I was reminded of these survival shows on cable, but at a whole different level of danger. We called two shelters, but neither had openings. A third one didn’t return our call, so I decided to take him there. On our way, we stopped by the vacant home where he retrieved all that he owns – a half bag of clothing. As I was driving I thought to myself, what am I going to do if we can’t find a place. I couldn’t bear the thought of having to drop him back there and drive away.
I found out Bayside’s Sarasota AAB for some reason this week serving lunch, so we drove off so he could get some free lunch. While there, I told one of the leaders of our dilemma, so she said a prayer for our efforts. I don’t know many people in desperation mode, who will ever reject prayer. So we prayed!
He knew of a day labor place, where he could secure work, so we stopped by there and lined up work for Monday. The place that we couldn’t reach by phone also didn’t have room for him when we showed up at their door. So last resort, I took him to the Salvation Army where he could have a roof and some meals. I asked if this was alright. He said, “I am just happy for the ride. This is so much more.” Thinking I would need to pay for him for a few days, we joyfully found out that he gets 10 free days. He knew he had used his free days up on a previous visit, but somehow was given a fresh slate of days. I am thinking – it was all those prayers! This isn’t the end, but gets him to his first paycheck. We will keep in touch.
As I left him there, I gave him a Bible. He said he had read the Bible before, but got stumbled in understanding parts. I told him to stay in the New Testament for now and write down questions – just read every day and pray. I also told him to start putting a plan together – a direction for his life. He said he always wanted to be an architectural engineer. I said start there and work backward, to focus on what you need to do to get there. Right now, today, we are taking care of step one – food/shelter.
I told him that I do investments for a living, where we succeed when we find winning companies that are undervalued and have great potential for growth. I told him that today I was making an investment in him, because I believed in the greatness that he has inside.