Monday, July 24, 2006


Last week, on my commute to the church (about a 25 minute drive), I spent some of that time in prayer. Lately, I haven't been feeling all that useful in my ministry. You wonder if folks are really hearing your sermon, you visit the homebound or those who are chronically or terminally ill and hope that some word, a prayer, your presence helps in any way. So, my quick prayer (along with praying for others) was, "O Lord, make me useful to you today."
I gave no further thought to that little bitty prayer and went about all the tasks requiring my attention that morning. Late in the morning, while our community toddler play group was meeting, I heard someone in the hallway. I went into the hallway to see this gauntly thin, grizzled, 40+ man, dressed humbly in a faded T-shirt and old, worn jeans that were clean, who I knew would be looking for a handout. He looked like he was/had been a meth user. But I saw no indication that he was impaired or under the influence at this time.
He explained his situation that he was on his way back to the East Coast from Nebraska and needed gas. I said he could follow me to the gas station in town and the church would pay for the gas. His license plates were from Nebraska. At the gas station, as if to prove his need and he were genuine, he showed me the needle on his gas gauge was on E. It took a bit over $50.00 to fill the gas tank in the old white 4 door sedan. In the back seat were a couple bags of clothes and an old blanket. He had been sleeping his car while making this journey.
He never asked for any extra money or cash. When I inquired if he wanted some food or something cool to drink, he declined saying he had a bottle of water. I paid for the gas. He thanked me. I wished him well on his journey and said a prayer in my heart for him and off he went, heading East and off I went, heading West back to the church.
I felt more useful that morning than I have in the past couple weeks. I was surprised at how quick God answered my prayer. I was humbled by the very genuineness of this stranger and overjoyed to be useful to my Lord. There have been times when I have been "had" by those seeking a handout from the church. But this one instance made all the others fade into the shadows of the past. Thanks be to God, for answered prayer, for making me useful when I was feeling useless. Thanks be to God for this stranger in need.

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