In Search of the Homeless
A young man who’s been helping us with translation, Robert, has a heart for the homeless in Bucharest. He’s got a wild life story, and I’ll share it sometime, but for now, just now that he grew up much like most of the homeless in this city but then, through the grace of God, has completely turned his life around and hopes to have his own business some day. In the meantime, he’s finishing his PHD and has made himself available to help us with some of the work we’re doing.
Robert is a great guy who loves Jesus more than anything else, and I hope you all get to meet him someday.
Last week, we were talking with Robert and he mentioned that he’d like to bring food to the homeless sometime. “OK,” I said, “when would it work for you?”
We decided to go out this past Saturday, hoping to find some people in need of a bowl of soup and the Gospel. We didn’t really know where to go, not knowing the big homeless spots in the city yet, so we asked God to guide us, like Abraham leaving Haran for the Promised Land.
We were on our way to a place that, according to Robert, is usually packed with the homeless on Mondays. We weren’t sure what we’d find today, being Saturday, but we thought it’d be worth a shot.
On the way over, suddenly I had a picture of Titan Park pop into my head. I had a memory of being at Titan a few weeks back, when there were handfuls of homeless hanging out in the woods surrounding the park. “Hey, we’re near Titan. Let’s go there,” I suggested, so Robert took a right turn and brought us to the park.
When we got there, we grabbed our giant pot of soup, some bowls and spoons, and some tracts, and we started walking through the woods looking for homeless people. None in sight. What do you do when you’re looking for the homeless? You can’t really just start shouting, “Homeless guys! We’re here! Come out, come out, wherever you are!”
As we walked and looked for the homeless, we saw a group of three guys sitting on an old concrete slab. “Hey, they might be homeless,” we thought, so we cautiously started meandering over indirectly, trying to look inconspicuous with our giant pot of soup.
“Should we ask them, ‘Hey, are you homeless?’” one of us joked.
As we neared, we saw they were nicely dressed, clean-shaven, and definitely not the homeless guys we were hoping for, so we veered off in search of real homeless people, not these frauds.
Ultimately, we didn’t find any homeless at Titan that day, but as we drove down the street, suddenly Robert pulled over. “I saw a guy back there! Let’s get him some soup,” he shouted. Before Ben and I could get our seatbelts unbuckled, he was talking with the man asking him if he was hungry.
His name was Marian, and though I didn’t catch most of what he was saying about his life, I could tell he was extremely grateful for the soup, and surprised that God would lead us specifically to him. Before we left, we prayed for Marian, that God would protect him, lead him, and reveal Himself to him, and Marian thanked us for the soup and the time.
He also told us about a place where most of the homeless he knew tended to gather. He said it was basically a garbage pit swarming with hungry, poor, homeless men, women, and children. We didn’t have enough soup with us that day to head in there, but we’ll find it one of these days, when we have a lot more soup with us, and maybe some more Romanian speakers along to help out.
After talking with Marian, we met another homeless guy, and while we were getting him soup, a man walked out of a store. “Are you here to feed poor people?” he asked.
We explained how God had put it on our hearts to bring soup to the homeless, so we were just going wherever He seemed to be leading us and serving as He opened doors.
“Follow me,” he said. “There’s a poor family in back that really needs some food.”
As we approached the trash-covered house where two families and five kids lived, we got a picture of the flip-side to homeless ministry. “A lot of born-again Believers come here,” the man told us. He began naming churches we knew who had sent teams of people with food, prayer, and the Gospel to these families. “They come from America, too. You can take pictures. Everyone takes pictures.”
I felt like a pawn in some homeless-feeding system, my generosity and heart to serve being taken advantage of by professional beggars who were themselves used to being taken advantage of by well-meaning Christians seeking an outlet to feed the poor, snap some photos, upload them to Facebook, and feel better about themselves. Well, the kids were cute and the family was hungry, so regardless of whether we were being taking advantage of or not, Jesus led us here, and He told us to feed those who have no food.
So we poured bowls of hot soup, and they scarfed it down like people who hadn’t eaten all day.
Then Robert shared a word from God, telling them how we were led here today by “coincidence,” proof enough that God cared about them and valued them highly. When we left, we promised to come back, because we want to establish a long-term relationship with this family, not just blow in, snap some photos, feel better about ourselves, and then move on.
And, case in point, no, we didn’t take any pictures.