KOH2RVA: Day 111

Have you seen this video? I love the way these First Baptist members bring heaven to earth by delivering Meals on Wheels. I’ve been with them once, and it really does make a difference to the people who receive these meals. They not only get a hot, nutritious meal, they get a friendly greeting, a handshake or hug, and often a “God bless you,” on the way out. Think about how much that improves the quality of life for each one.

My parents have been on the receiving end of this service when they were living in Summerville, South Carolina, and I remember what a huge difference it made for them. I’m going to try to bring a little bit of heaven to earth today by visiting them in Franklin, West Virginia, where they live now. Maybe I’ll ask them if they remember Meals on Wheels, and when I do I will be grateful all over again for these First Baptist “missionaries,” and the way they are bringing the KOH2RVA.

KOH2RVA: Day 73

This is Jack.

Jack is a guest of CARITAS this week, which is a Latin word for “charity,” but also stands for “Congregations Around Richmond Involved to Assure Shelter.” What it means for Jack is a warm, safe place to spend the night, and this week CARITAS is at Richmond’s First Baptist Church, where 80 of our homeless neighbors have found a warm, safe place. I was there to volunteer last night, and got a chance to talk with Jack:

Jim: Tell me about CARITAS.

Jack: CARITAS is a very nice place. It’s saved my life. I was sleeping outside. I knew about CARITAS because I was staying at The Healing Place. I didn’t want to go to CARITAS. It was summertime. I enjoyed sleeping outside.

Jim: How did you become homeless?

Jack: I was the manager of a convenience store. I was making $60,000 a year. I thought I would never be homeless. I had a house, a wife, a dog…but then I lost everything.

Jim: What did it?

Jack: Alcoholism. Alcoholism ruined my life. I started drinking when I was 11. My parents tried to help me get straightened out. Didn’t work. I “died ” three different times.

Jim: What have you learned from your experience?

Jack: I’ve learned a lot. Don’t ever look down on folks. When I had money, I used to look down on the homeless. I thought they were a bunch of bums. Hanging around parks, taking advantage of people. Since I’ve been homeless, I’ve learned that not all homeless people are bad. A lot of them are like I am; just trying to get by. No matter what you might think, we are still human beings.

Jim: What are your dreams for the future?

Jack: Try to get my life back together, and don’t forget where I came from. I’d like to give back what was so freely given to me since I’ve been homeless.

I probably passed by your church about 5,000 times, but the first time I came inside was when I became homeless. I come to Community Missions on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. I come to Grace Fellowship on Thursday night. I come to my AA meeting here at First Baptist. I want to come to services someday, when I get a suit and tie. I was baptized in Pine Street Baptist Church, on Oregon Hill. That’s where I grew up.

Jim: This year our church is on a mission trip called KOH2RVA. We’re trying to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia. Since you’ve been with us, has heaven ever come to earth for you?

Jack: I have the feeling God has led me here, that God wanted me to be in this church. I’m headed down this spiritual path, but I don’t know where it’s headed.

Jim: Well, I think it’s headed toward God. I think he loves you and wants you for his own. And look at you: you’ve already been featured on the pastor’s blog! What’s next?

Jack: I don’t know…Oprah?