"...and may those whose hearts have hardened or are experiencing bitterness within their beings, find a seed of hope that may turn them back to You Lord, for it is only in You that true peace rests. Such were the closing words of prayer as we ended a rather full day of neighborhood visits today in what became a nature-filled journey to 104 homes.
Accompanied at different times by rabbits, wild turkeys, geese, a "bear", some "deer", the beauty of singing birds and flowing streams that completely soothed the heart and the mind, we found ourselves experiencing a day of quiet calm under foreboding skies. Though the "threat" of the "bear" turned out to be man-made, it's initial appearance prompted one startled Team member to query another with the likes of "I hope you're as much of a bear-whisperer as you are a dog-whisperer. Fortunately, we never had to find out.
Going from house to house we were struck today by the number of St. Francis and St. Anthony garden statues we came across, almost as though by design (and certainly it was His design) the neighborhoods "we" chose were purposely picked so as to center our thoughts on the beauty of God in his Creations - wildlife, nature, and the music of His creatures. It was a truly beautiful and peaceful experience.
And it was in that peace that God allowed an experience that was truly meant to remind me of WHY we're doing what we're doing, and just exactly WHAT it is that we are doing. As the door opened at one home, a gentleman inquired, "what can I do for you", to which I mentioned that I was from St. Joseph's Church and I wanted to leave him with some information about the programs we offer and our 24-hour dedicated prayer line. His immediate response was "you're not getting any money out of me, I'm done with the church, it's done nothing for me". I reassured him that we weren't here to ask for anything, but rather just hoping to leave some information that might be helpful at some point.
Again, he said, "the church has done nothing for me". I simply said that "I'm truly sorry to hear that and I do recognize that we fail at times and unfortunately when we do, people are sometimes hurt because of it". I asked him if he would mind if I prayed for him and kept him in my prayers, to which he said, "be my guest, it's a free country, you can pray for whoever you like". Thanking him for his time, I extended my hand and said "God Bless you, and know that I will pray for you", I then turned and started to walk away. As I stepped off the porch he asked, "hey, you're really not here to get anything from me", to which I responded, "No, I truly just want to pray for you. He then looked directly into my eyes for the first time and suddenly I became aware of the softness of his eyes, even a bit of sadness, that was masked by the shield with which he guarded his heart. He extended his hand and said, "I've got some bitterness in me, I'm sorry for that, and yes I really would like it if you would keep me in your prayers". I told him to rest assured that I would pray for him and again as I turned to leave he said, "oh, by the way, I'll take that bag, if you'll still give it to me, who knows, I might need it". We just smiled at one another, said nothing more, but at the same time said so much more with our eyes. As I walked away I realized that I hadn't been put at that house today for him, I had been put at the house for me, because I had to be reminded that LOVE loves, even in the absence of love.