Some time ago, I was walking down a trampled street of Detroit with another officer, and a homeless man approached us and asked, "Do you have any spare change?" As I reached in my pocket to see if I had some coins, I felt that my pockets were completely empty. I had no change to give him. All I had to offer this homeless man was a prayer from the pocket of my heart.
So we stopped at that very moment, bowed our heads together and began to pray. I offered a prayer of hope that this man’s future in God would get better. After I prayed, the man thanked us for taking time to pray with him and said, "You both have given me a new hope to believe for a better tomorrow."
Although I was unable to share some spare change, we were able to share with him what he could abundantly receive from God by giving him hope in the face of an unpleasant situation. Today this man has a place he can call home, because he placed his hope not just in The Salvation Army, but in God. "In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you," John 14:2.
Our shelters are a mere stop for the homeless in their journey toward re-entering society. Life for many homeless people can be very irregular; many of them have dropped off the face of the Earth, to be remembered no more. What they need is a godly dose of hope in the midst of their uncertain situation. My prayer is that the hope I have in God will be seen as I work and witness to homeless people. "My hope is built on nothing less / than Jesus’ blood and righteousness / On Christ, the solid rock, I stand / All other ground is sinking sand," wrote Edward Mote in "The Solid Rock."
God is our solid rock and on him we can depend; this is the hope we must give to his people as spiritual anchor, whether they are homeless or not. "There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off," Proverbs 23:18.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson once said, "keep hope alive," but for these who live in our shelters, it is the hope for tomorrow in Christ that keeps them spiritually alive today and into the future. You see we cannot be another failure on their path to recovery. We must be for the homeless a shining light of hope, which has the power that leads to a better life in the days that lie ahead. God wants us to be people who can inspire hope in those who are lost and in need of societal approval. God is calling us to accept others with unconditional love and reinforce the fact that they are somebody. The Lord has not created a junky human being. Homeless or not, remember, we were all created in his image, and therefore we all have value in his eyesight.
My father once told my siblings and me when we complained about something, "Be thankful for the roof over your head, the clothes on your back and for food on the table, because there are people who do not have those basic blessings of life."
I know that there are homeless people in our community who do not have pillows to rest their heads on, food to eat or clothes to wear. They cannot be forgotten, as the Lord tells us that the poor will be with us always. We need to tell them that God has a home for them in heaven and that God needs to take up residency in their hearts. Our prayer about the homeless should be: Help me, Lord, to not judge homeless people I see on the street. Instead, enable me to ask them this life-changing question: Do you want to be saved and have a home forever in glory? We have enough lost souls wandering throughout our community who need to know Jesus Christ. God has called upon us to share what we have and stand up for the lost and help them find a heavenly home in Jesus Christ. In Romans 12:13, we read, "Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality." If we open our door of hospitality to the needy, God will extend a helping hand to us in our time of need.
Have you ever lost something and never found it? I have, and I am here to tell you that it is not a good feeling. On the other hand, I have lost my keys and found them five minutes later. What a joy it was to get those keys back into my hands. The hope we provide the homeless is the fact that though they may be lost, they can be found in Jesus by having a productive relationship with him. There is nothing that our Lord can’t find; he is everywhere at all time and nothing under the sun is hidden from him. The hope for tomorrow that we offer homeless people is that they are forever seen by the eyes of God. In 1 Corinthians 2:9 we read, "However, as it is written: 'No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.'"
I believe that our shelters are safe places where the homeless find a godly home from the chilly winter cold or the blistering summer heat. I am thankful that Jesus endured the cross and saw that through his suffering those without hope would have a foundation for overcoming trials. "But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish," Psalm 9:18.
Hope for tomorrow begins today for a homeless person looking for rest, renewal and restoration. Hope is of God. It is the light at the end of the tunnel where we see the future blessings God longs to give us. Even though we do not control our future, we should know that God has our future in the palm of his hand.
Hebrews 6:19 says, "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." The anchor is Jesus Christ upon which we need to cling and never let go. The Salvation Army of hope and healing in mid-Missouri sees success where others may see failure, sunshine where others may see shadows and storms. To all in need, remember these words from Jeremiah 29:11, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
Maj. K. Kendall Mathews is the regional coordinator for The Salvation Army.