I had a you-can't-make-this-up moment tonight.
My bible study goes out to Isla Vista, a student community next to UC Santa Barbara, once a month. We join our friend Ryan, who has been faithfully doing the laundry of homeless folks out there on the last Tuesday of every month. He calls it Laundry Love. We usually end up washing sleeping bags and many loads of laundry. Ryan has also negotiated a great deal with the Domino's manager next door, and gets a break on pizzas and soda for all the friends there. They get to do their laundry, eat some food and we hang out with them, building relationships through low-key conversation. I'm not gonna lie -- it takes some real self-discipline to get myself there sometimes. There are some tough conversations at times, with folks who are sometimes really at the bottom. Tonight I talked with a woman with 4 children who just cannot take care of them. Another woman simply cannot kick her alcohol addiction. Another man was so absolutely gone mentally it was difficult to watch and I can only wonder how he lives each day.
Tonight, as I stood chatting with someone, a man came up to me. He paused, stared at me, and then burst out, "You used to work at a house on Chino, right?" My eyes went wide. It took me a few moments to gather my thoughts, and then thought, yeah, when I worked for Young Life we had our office in a house behind Calvary Baptist Church, on Pedregosa and Chino. I left Young Life in 1995... so we're talking 15-20 years ago. I said, "Yes, I did. At the Young Life house."
And he said, "You're Kelly. You look exactly the same. I tell my girlfriend about you sometimes. Do you remember me?"
I paused, and thought, heck, I need to be honest. I did not recognize him. But to be easy on myself, in these past 30 years, I would guess I have know many hundreds of kids. But he fixed his eyes on me, and told me many stories of hanging out at the house and going to Wild Life, that is, before he got into a lot of trouble.
For the sake of his privacy, I won't mention the details shared. But he has lived quite a life. He has 4 kids now, and seems to be slowly rebuilding. I visited with him for quite awhile, met his girlfriend and 5 year old son, invited him to church. I really hope he comes. We hugged when I left... I gave a side hug, which is my usual when I am just meeting someone or catching up -- I don't want to overwhelm them. But he swung his other arm around and gave me a tight hug. I rubbed his shaved head and told him how happy I was to see him.
As my day is winding down I pick up my Bible, and read through today's reading in 2 Peter 3. Could it be more appropriate?
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
I was reminded again that staying in one place is such a powerful thing. We all have our own journeys, but if it is possible for you, I truly recommend staying in one place for the duration. I cannot believe how many amazing things I have seen by being here to see the fruit of seeds planted years before, and to be available to water them at times when they needed a little TLC. More importantly, I was humbled as I tried to imagine how hard it must be for the Lord to wait as we get lost the way my friend did for so many years.
Lord you are good. Thank you that you are not slow in keeping your promise. These verses, used in a worship song, are humming in my head as I think about tonight:
Psalm 36:5 Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens,your faithfulness to the skies.6 Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,your justice like the great deep.You, LORD, preserve both people and animals.7 How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.8 They feast on the abundance of your house;you give them drink from your river of delights.9 For with you is the fountain of life;in your light we see light.