I spotted her at the end of the night.
How could anyone be so beautiful with half her teeth missing?
But her smile…oh this older woman’s sweet face.
I had to go to her and tell her how very pretty she was.
I grabbed her hands and looked into those soft brown eyes and said, “You’ve got the most beautiful face.” She smiled revealing the five teeth left in her mouth, but still, there it was…such a kind face. Was that what made it beautiful? Kindness?
I introduced myself extending my hand again, “Hi, I’m Andy.”
Her eyes filled with tears and she wailed, “That’s my brother’s name!” She drew me to herself and we embraced for a long time. I held her as she wept. We were two complete strangers holding each other as if we had been reunited after many years.
In that moment, I knew this is why I had come. Though meeting a beautiful, toothless woman named Louise Elaine wasn’t my initial reason to help feed those in need on this night. I knew God sent me for this embrace.
I had not come to bring a friend who wanted to get involved helping the homeless. I hadn’t come to serve those who could not afford groceries much less a restaurant–to become their waitress taking their plates when they were finished and refilling their tea. My being there wasn’t about the opportunity to serve someone else other than my family. My bigger purpose that night was to meet Elaine.
It was a chance to hold her as Jesus would and tell her how much He loved her. It was a chance to experience her embrace.
Henri Nouwen writes in his book Here and Now:
“How is it possible to keep caring for the poor when the poor only get poorer? How is it possible to keep nursing the sick when they are not getting better? How can I keep on consoling the dying when their deaths bring me more grief? The answer is that they all hold a blessing for me, a blessing I need to receive. Ministry is, first of all, receiving God’s blessing from those to whom we minister. What is the blessing? It is the glimpse of the face of God. Seeing God is what heaven is all about! We can see God in the face of Jesus, and we see the face of Jesus in all those who need our care.”
Elaine was beautiful because I saw Jesus in her face.
[tweetability]I had gone to bless others but I was blessed 1000 times greater in return.[/tweetability]
Isn’t that just like God?
**Five years ago Chris and Bobby Steger launched Walking Together to feed the homeless on Thursday nights in a local park. Their location changed through the years–the city not wanting a crowd of homeless gathering in one of Wilmington’s best-known parks. But their need to move to a church parking lot has opened doors for other ministries to become involved with the project. And now the Thursday night meals are a beautiful picture of the hands and feet of Jesus feeding the poor across denominations, skin color, and economic lines. Walking Together has not missed a Thursday night in five years including Thanksgivings.
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I’ll post the winner Next Friday (June 6).