A few days back, the MC received a call from a concerned pharmacist about a man she had just dropped off at the ER. The patient had gone into a local pharmacy where it was discovered that he needed immediate medical attention. She gave him a ride to the hospital where he was sitting when I met him. When the call came into the center, the urgency sensed from the other end of the phone was apparent. "He said he hasn't eaten for four or five days. Can you please just bring food?"
Usually, these types of calls are answered by Denay, the gatekeeper of the MC. She is the one who you are blessed to speak with first if you come by or call us. It was a chance encounter that I picked up the phone this day, and rather than try to rationalize this man's ability to get something to eat by hospital staff and work within my regular wheelhouse of problems and solutions, I felt a call in my spirit to simply take the food directly over.
I walked into the ER and spotted him immediately. While I had never seen his face before, the countenance of someone who has been sleeping on the street and not eaten for days is something I see often. Conway has a lot of food to offer but if you are new to the homeless scene, you might not know that there is a food pantry in our town every day, several on multiple days. It takes resources to guide someone in his situation to the right outlets, and these were resources that he knew nothing about.
I quickly approached him and started pulling stuff out of my bag so I could open them up and get some food in him. He didn't know who I was, only that I was a concerned person who came with food. I couldn't stay because I had left another family waiting for me back at the center. But I at least wanted to let the man know to call me when he was finished so we could talk some more after his medical needs were addressed. I told him that I would leave my name with the admissions nurse so that they could call me after he was ready to leave.
He was so busy eating that when I stood up to leave, he grabbed my hand almost as if he had to show me something. He then pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket. Written on it were the words "Conway Ministry Center" in big letters along with our telephone number. He handed it to me and still holding onto my other hand, I sat back down next to him and said, "Oh sir, I am from the Ministry Center," and he immediately began sobbing like a baby. Ugly crying, right there in the middle of a busy ER.
"You came! You came!" he cried out as he pieced together the fact that the only answer he had for when it was his time to discharge was already sitting right there with him. I suddenly understood why God had impressed on me that I take food to this man rather than call the hospital social worker and alert her. He needed to know that someone was there with him. He needed to be reminded that he was not alone, not forgotten, not just some number to be met in triage next. He needed what so many of our clients are desperate for: to be seen, to be heard, and know that they are loved.
I left with determination that morning. I was going to find him a shelter somewhere. By the end of the day, he found his way to the Ministry Center and we worked on finding him a shelter to go to. I was so happy that there was a boarding house not far away that had a bedroom available and wish with all of my heart that this story ended on that sweet note. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
I sat down and started talking with him about where I had found for him to go, he confessed with me that he was struggling with some things, drug addiction being the big one. I told him that the home that he had the option of going to was in partnership with a drug treatment facility and that if he spoke with the director and was honest, the program might have an opening for him and not simply a room he could rent. That became his goal as he recollected the last few weeks that had been especially hard on him.
I called the facility the next morning and heard the news that my new friend had caved to the pressures of the demons he was battling and didn't last the night. I was so sad to hear this news, but even still knew that God had a plan that day. In the New Testament, Jesus repeatedly met people where they were. In their sin, in their mess, in their heartbreak, that's where he would oftentimes go. Much like the man so desperately wanted someone to see him there at that hospital, Jesus did. He always does. He needed a tangible reminder from somebody who wasn't looking to condemn like the Pharisees would have, but rather to offer unconditional love. That's how God uses each one of us who hover under the shelter of the Conway Ministry Center umbrella. Staff...volunteers...all of us...we can make an impact in this community.
The CMC staff love to write and enjoy telling the story of the Ministry Center in our own unique way.
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