As the new OIM pastor, I was visiting our OIM Cold Winter Clothing Give-Away in the lower level of our building on Gladstone Avenue. I made my way downstairs and noticed a number of tables in the centre of the room laden with boots and gloves, and clothing racks filled with coats. At one end of the room there was also a table with coffee and snacks.
Upon entering the space, I looked around and wondered, “Now that I'm here, what should I do?” There were several volunteer staff helping our street friends find clothes. I noticed at a table sat three guys with a remaining empty chair. I made my way over to the table and cautiously took a seat.
The man on my left introduced himself as, “Pastor”. I was shocked as I thought, “I was the pastor.” I told him that my name was Shawn and wondered where this conversation was going to go. I didn't tell him that, like him, I too was a pastor. I asked him, “What do you like to preach about?”
He proceeded to tell me the following: “Did you know that Jesus didn't die because he loved you. Jesus does love you but that's not why he died for you. He died for you out of commitment and obligation. He really didn't want to, but He knew he had to, because it was His Father's will.” I listened intently and thought, “This is a really interesting approach”.
I asked my new pastor friend, “What does this mean to you?” He quickly told me that Jesus' action is a reminder that in life we will often be called upon by God to do things that we don't want to do, but that we must do anyway.
I was truly impressed with my new friend's wisdom; I will never forget His preaching that day!
Interesting note: While I have had the opportunity to spend time with some of the greatest preachers of our day, I can honestly say I don’t recall the specifics of their preaching. However, I will never forget the wisdom of the preacher I met that day at the OIM Cold Weather Clothing Give-Away.
Across from me sat another individual who also was about to teach me a crucial lesson about my Lord and life. I said “Hi,” and asked him, “How are things going today?”
He said, “Fantastic! I can't believe how God is blessing me. For the past couple of years I've been living under the overpass by the Riverside Hospital and God just blessed me again.”
I asked him, “How?” Bursting with gratitude he said, “God just got me my own room to live in, God is so good! He just keeps on blessing me.”
“Wow!” I thought. “This guy is reminding me that God is good, that all good gifts come from Him and it is appropriate to SHOUT OUT to others how good God is.” I was deeply moved by this believer's heart of gratitude and quickly did a check on the condition of my own gratitude meter.
Sitting across, there was another fellow who appeared to look a bit like the Michelin Man (big puffy tire mascot) as he was wearing what looked like six sweaters. It was a bit cool outside, but six sweaters seemed a bit extreme. One of the volunteer staff walked up to him, greeted him by name and excitedly showed him a coat that she thought would be perfect for him. Her compassion was so evident. He told her that he couldn't just take the coat as “you should always pay for everything you get.”
There was silence and then he said, “Would it be ok if I gave you 3 sweaters for one coat?” I smiled to myself and the staff person said, “You've got a deal”.
I will never forget what I learned about God, life, and compassion during this brief encounter. I have much to learn from our friends on the street and with God's help, I will continue to learn.
Thanks for taking time to read this.
~Shawn, OIM Pastor