"Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words." - St. Francis of Assisi

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Learning To Not Judge A Book

As I am writing this, I am in Louisville, KY with a group of middle and high school students for a week of singing in the evenings, working during the day and total collapse for a couple hours of sleep during the night before we start all over again. It has been a week of fun and laughter, a week of tears and emotions, and a week of depending on God to give us the strength to face the things we wanted to do.

We worked at several different locations in the downtown Louisville area; one was a facility for medically fragile children and also with separate shelters for the homeless. The place that reminded me of the blessings I have (and take for granted) and about “not judging a book by the cover” was a men’s shelter in downtown Louisville. The group of teenagers and adults I was with spent part of the day there cleaning out pantries, freezers and shelves before helping to serve lunch to the men who lived in the shelter and many who came in daily for a good meal.

I met the most beautiful lady there named Priscilla that was the “in charge” lady. Her beauty was far beyond the outward appearance, but showed itself in her eyes and in her spirit. She ran a tough kitchen. The men living and working there did their jobs well and quickly because, quite frankly, they were probably scared to death of Priscilla. I know I would be. She was a fireball of energy and words. She made sure no man was admitted into the lunchroom before his appointed time. She made sure each portion served was exactly the right amount and each volunteer knew exactly what to do and expected their best efforts. Even though she was barking out orders and sending grown men running to do their jobs, she was constantly encouraging our teenagers with compliments and thanking them for their work and their spirits.

However, the true beauty of Priscilla came out after lunch when it was time for us to leave. She gathered our group together and shared her story about years of substance abuse and wrong living that ultimately led to her losing custody and contact with her children at the age of 33. Having tried everything else, Priscilla turned to God and accepted the Love that she never found in substances, men and other avenues. She stood there and unashamedly urged our teenagers to save themselves for the right person and to stay clear of substances that will only lead to disaster. To end her story, she sang “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” and it struck me that here was this woman, beaten down by life, now standing proudly in a faded hallway surrounded by the homeless and downtrodden, singing of the protection and care of God.

Here is a video of Priscilla and some of her story:

Totally unbidden, tears came to my eyes as I realized how blessed I am to have a home, a family, a job and more friends than I deserve. The tears were for Priscilla, her struggles and her triumph. They were for the men to whom we had just served lunch and for their desperate search for life meaning. The tears were also in thankfulness for the young men and women in their teenage years that have blessed my heart this week by following their God to do service in His name with total excitement and enthusiasm. Thank you guys for letting this old man be a part of your lives.

I ask your prayers for Priscilla and for the lives she touches each day in the Louisville Wayside Center.

And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.


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