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Aaron Johnson: The face of the homeless

For a full year of my life, I had the privilege of being on the ministry team at First United Methodist Church in Guntersville, Alabama. That year was full of wonderful opportunities to get to develop relationships with new friends and deepen relationships with old ones.

One day I was sitting at my desk, pondering some deep concept of theology when she appeared. I mean I was sitting there deep in some thought, that really didn’t change the world, and she just walked in.

At first, she was invisible, just a voice. The voice was loud enough to catch my ear and cause me to look up to see nothing. Then she appeared.

Walking around the right side of my desk was a living three-year-old doll. Taken aback to see a child without a parent attached, I rolled my chair back in surprise. She never slowed her pace and without a second of hesitation crawled up into my lap. Looking up at me she asked, “What is your name?”

At this point I am a little nervous. In a matter of seconds, a hundred questions raced though my mind.

Not the least of these was the fear of being found alone in my office with a little girl, whom I didn’t know, in my lap.

Before the thoughts could process, her older brother walked around the desk. By older I mean a year or so older. With the same calm and purpose of his little sister, he crawled into my lap and asked the same question as his sister.

I told them my name and asked theirs. Like little adults they answered. My next question was obvious, “Where is your mother?” The brother replied, “She is out there talking to a lady.” His little sister leaned on my chest and I thought she was going to sleep. Sometime around this point I melted into something I can’t describe.

Then I heard the voice of their mother calling them with a hint of panic in her voice. “They are in here,” I called out. She walked to my door and with a smile that communicated both love and relief she apologized. “Oh no! I am loving the attention!” I replied.

Their mother was busy talking to Shirley Chupp. Shirley was on staff and she did professional counseling and oversaw the homeless ministry.

Shirley and the lady walked in and explained the scene in a way that still stabs my heart.

That morning. the mother was busy preparing breakfast for her husband and children when a loud knock came at the front door. Her husband was preparing for work, so she answered the early knock. To her surprise, there stood a policeman. He asked for her husband and she called him. As her husband comes to the door a deputy from the sheriff’s office drives up.

To this dear lady’s shock and surprise, one was there to arrest her husband, the other was there to evict them. In a matter of minutes, a perfectly normal life for this mother and her two children, became a homeless nightmare. It is a short walk from normal to nothing.

With no other place to turn, they turned to the nearest homeless ministry, Room In The Inn.

Room In The Inn is a ministry where local churches open their doors to the homeless in their respective communities for shelter in the evening. The churches rotate the ministry each day. Thirty-one churches can cover an entire month of homeless ministry.

Rather than sitting empty all week, I favor using the facility in a way that will impact lives. Hope you will discover how you can touch the homeless.

I never saw those two children again. But I will never be the same after seeing them that day. My eyes still tear as I think of her blonde hair and curls and his jeans and t-shirt.

That is the face of the homeless for me.

Aaron Johnson is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News. He is pastor of Christ Redeemer Church in Guntersville.

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