Here’s a story submitted by Richie Hilbert, a member of Richmond’s First Baptist Church and one of the most reliable sources of cheerful spiritual energy on the planet. When she told me about something that had happened in our homeless ministry a few days ago I said, “I love it. I want you to write it up. You can be my guest blogger.” And so she did. And so she is…
By all appearances it was to be a normal Monday morning at Community Missions, First Baptist Church. Joy, fellowship, and service always define the interaction between guests, staff, and volunteers; January 4, however, we had an encounter with One who is always in attendance, but especially evident on this day – the Holy Spirit.
It began with what I will call an experiment. Monday morning Community Missions has traditionally started with a short devotional by Phyllis McIntyre, followed by a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in unison. This morning we asked if one of our guests would like to offer the closing prayer. There were 3 who volunteered; one approached the front of the room. As he began praying I could feel the emotions welling up inside of me, and I wasn’t alone. This was a homeless man praying on a 25 degree morning. He lifted us all up with thanks to God for the many blessings granted us and for walking side by side with us every minute of every day. He prayed with gratitude that the Lord loves us that much.
It was glorious.
There was more in store for us! As it happened, this was also the first day Susan Stratton joined Community Missions to pray individually with any guest who desired such a personal experience. Two men did. As her prayer with the first drew to a close, Susan thought, “This precious soul might be interested to learn that my life is not perfect, that in fact I have cancer and am in a battle of my own.” She inquired whether he would pray for her, and was subsequently prayed over in such a meaningful way that she was moved to tears. How perceptive of Susan to ask; how beautiful of our guest to pray.
A little while later, the second guest came to Susan for prayer support. She offered up his petitions, following which he asked, touched by her words, “Do you see the gleam in my eye now?” This guest received his clothes, food, etc., but before leaving the building found Susan again. I looked over my shoulder to see this tall, portly man enveloping Susan’s petite little frame in an immense bear hug, uttering with a big smile on his face, “Thank you so much.”
The Holy Spirit was hovering that morning, and it was a blessing to be a witness to it. Heaven came to earth on January 4th, 2010, and earth was the better for it.