Due to Covid, it would be OIM's first sit down summer BBQ for quite some time, and to be perfectly honest, I was wondering, “what difference does it make to serve our street friends a few hamburgers and hotdogs in a sit down make-shift dining hall?”
A week before the big day, we were wondering, “will our volunteers and supporters come through again so we can even run the BBQ?” OIM is so dependent on the generosity of our partners. As always, God's people were faithful as food and volunteers came flooding in. But, I still wondered, “what impact does it really make to have a sit down meal with our friends on the street?” All was set; it was a glorious summer day; the sun was shining; our guests were all lined up outside well before it was time to open; the burgers were top quality and we were all prayed up and focused on the desire that God would love our friends through us; that somehow, Jesus would be seen, as we broke bread together.
The doors opened and as our street friends poured into the dining hall, we eagerly began to serve them. Our guests were incredibly thankful and gracious, a real joy to be around. I asked God, “Who do you want me to hang out with?” and I suddenly noticed a 40 something man sitting all alone, so I walked up to him and asked, “Do you mind if I sit down here?” He cautiously looked up at me and replied, “No.” I introduced myself and asked him what his name was. “Jim.” (I've changed the name) came the reply. We sat in silence for a few moments, and I asked him, “How’s the food today?” He kept on eating and said, “Great.” A little more time went by and I probed a little further and asked him, “How's your day going?” He stopped eating, looked up and began to talk, and talk, and talk. It seemed like he needed someone to listen to him, which for me, was an honour to do. I mentioned that I was a volunteer with OIM and I was wondering if he would help me understand how important this sit down BBQ was to him. He peered into my eyes with these words, “This keeps me going.” I thought “Wow!, A BBQ keeps him going.” I wondered how. He proceeded to share deeply the loneliness he experiences in life. “The food is great, but it's not about the food.” He said he was rather experienced in downtown living and knew where to get food. What he didn't know was how to deal with his loneliness, his isolation, at being a nobody. As I listened, my heart began to break for him. I asked him about his past employment and was surprised to learn that he was once an upper-level servant for the Government of Canada. I wasn't surprised to hear this as he was extremely articulate and intelligent. I wondered, “what happened to him that he lost his job and family, etc. and ended up on the street?” Although I didn't ask him, it seemed as if he was reading my mind as he volunteered, “I'm an alcoholic.” I responded by saying, “You seem to be doing well today.” The response was quick, “I've already drank 6 beer today.” I looked at the clock and was reminded that it was barely lunch time. He explained how he is able to function rather well while being drunk. We talked a bit more. He shared what his life was like, and I asked him, “What is your greatest desire today?” He mentioned that at the present he had a good relationship with his mom and sister and that his hope was that he wouldn't do something stupid to destroy it. I smiled and said, “That is a great desire.” We talked a bit more and I told him that I felt that Canada lost a great worker when he left the public service. He smiled. “Can I pray for you?” I asked. He said “Yes!” “Can I touch your arm as we pray?” With his head down, the reply was, “Yes”. We spent a bit of time talking with God and I don't really recall much of what was said but this; I thanked God for the joy it had been to talk to Jim; thanked God for the great relationship Jim had with his mom and sister ; and asked God to help Jim protect that relationship.” As I said “Amen”, Jim thank me, get that, he thanked me for my time. Wow! this guy is full of graciousness. I would like to express my thanks to all the volunteers and those who donated for the BBQ so the door could be opened that I could meet Jim. He's a great guy. A friend on the street.
~ Shawn, OIM Pastor