(The Faith Forum Series – Batch 2)
I heard a portion of scripture on the online Harbour Light Christian radio station tonight (8th February 2019) and I thought to myself, God’s Word is really true. He is truly no man’s debtor and rewards you even when you don’t expect it or how you expect it.
For many years, even before I went to live in the neighbouring island to the smaller part of the country where I grew up, I have known that among other areas in which God has called me to do HIS work, I have a vagrant, downtrodden, reject, outcast, poverty-stricken Ministry.
My heartstrings have always tugged at not just the homeless but the poor and downtrodden, many of which came across my path and were allowed by God to cross my path over the years that I spent on this neighbouring island. As I explain to people, I see myself in the homeless, the poor, the downtrodden and the outcast and in fact, I identify more with them than with those who consider themselves to have arrived in life or to be successful.
See, I know what it is to be rejected and to feel like an unwanted recluse in society. As a child for example, I spent many years being scorned, insulted, ridiculed, treated like garbage and even beat up by people I came across, due to my very dark complexion.
It was so bad, I could rarely get through any given day, without some child and even adults (all of whom were also African descent) making a remark about my “blackness”. I was considered to be worthless by many, strangers even nicknaming me “pitch-lake” and “tar-baby”, as I patiently waited at a place my mother had left me one morning, to get my hair pressed with an iron comb.
At Nursery School, I was singled out and beaten almost every day with my own belt, which was taken off my waist by a particular bully during recess and then later, also singled out and given a beating by a particular cousin, who, (God bless him), was too small to know better at the time.
As a young girl of maybe eleven or so, I was verbally chased from a table by three boys who were seated on one side for a Camp Dinner Banquet. The boys, all dressed up, had been instructed to sit on one side of the tables and then the girls were told to go sit wherever they wished on the other side. The idea was to have each boy face one girl for dinner.
When the instruction was given, I remember feeling terrified because I knew how people tended to treat me because of my very dark hue. Nevertheless, I went to a table, only to be told firmly by all three boys in unison, to move from there. Chased away like a dog, completely ashamed and humiliated, I can’t remember where I eventually sat.
In Secondary School, while in 1st form, I was made fun of by an entire class almost every single school day (and I do not lie). They loved to play a game where I would be featured. They would write all the names of the girls on pieces of paper, then crumble them up and shake them in a bag or hat. Each boy would then be allowed to pick a name randomly and whoever got my name was the laughing stock of the entire class. Imagine how I felt, having to sit through that and not cry and pretend as if it did not hurt. All this because people even from my own race, found me to be too dark in complexion, equating that to me being absolutely worthless and worthy of the most painful, vicious ridicule.
I was at one time even offered soap by a girl in an older class while in the bathroom and trying to make myself as small and invisible as possible, so that people would not notice me. I had gotten so used to suddenly being attacked and insulted, from even strangers, that it made me tense all the time. I never knew when the next attack would come so I was always guarded and alert.
The girl with the soap on observing me in the bathroom, asked nicely if I needed to use her soap and when I said no thanks, she said that she had asked because my face looked like it needed washing.
Unfortunately, home offered little solace and reprieve to me, as I was the source of ridicule there as well, my siblings (with the exception of one), often teaming up to make fun of me. I was forever the source of entertainment and ridicule, nobody seeming to care how much it hurt. I could win no argument with a certain sibling, as I would always hear with that tone of finality, that I was so black and ugly. Those words would always affect me so badly, that that would be the end of the quarrel, similar to that time at school in 1st form, when a girl with whom I had had some kind of disagreement, announced that I was “…black like, black like, black like…” she didn’t know what.
Oh and I forgot the guy in 1st form at school, who felt the need to tell me that my name was nice but that my face was not and the three guys who were snickering in a corner one day as I descended the school stairs, seemingly daring each other to come up to me and say something. It worked. The guy suddenly rushed across to where I was and told me that I was black and ugly, to which they all erupted in laughter.
Adults were no different. They would hurl their insults at me as well, like the lady who was living with my mom’s older half brother. I did not know them, as they had spent years living on another island and we had never visited them before, as far as I could recall. When my mother and I paid the lady a visit one evening, she commented disapprovingly that I was the black one and asked my mother where was the ‘red’ one, meaning where was the fairer sibling.
All people saw, although they too were of African descent was that I was too dark and in their minds, this meant that I was ugly, not a human being with real feelings but a thing, an animal, scum, that could be jeered at and ridiculed and insulted, whenever it tickled their fancy.
The examples given above are just a small part of my reject story. There are so many other painful experiences I endured as a child and even as an adult (some far more serious and having nothing to do with my complexion), that if I were to mention them all, this Note would be way too long.
Nevertheless, I have said all I did above to say, that I know first hand what it feels like to feel unloved and rejected. Even as an adult, having had a very, very painful childhood, I have experienced the pain of rejection, abandonment, harsh criticism and have often felt like an outcast. I know what it feels like to be misunderstood, to find very few who will take the time to listen, who genuinely care two cents about you and will give sympathy when you most need it. I know what it feels like to feel overwhelmingly alone and to have been psychologically disadvantaged and abused by people.
This is why, over the years, I would usually stop to chat with the homeless, to find out their name, their story and to share the gospel with them. It is why, whenever I pass a particular area and I see one of them that I love dearly, I would call out to him or her by name and he or she would hail me right back. I would share a laugh with them, provide them with a meal or sometimes money and use the relationship I built with some to share the good news of salvation.
Oh how I miss my chats with Wendell! Such delightful conversations we had!
These are my kind of people. They know me. They identify with me. I am just like them, only a bit better fed and better clothed and by the grace of God only, having a roof over my head. When I see vagrants, I see myself. That is why I have always loved them and have had a heart full of compassion for them. That is why throughout my time on the neighbouring island, the homeless have been one of the main areas to which I ministered.
They knew that I respected them as human beings and loved them. In fact, it is my love for the less fortunate, the downtrodden, the rejected, the poor and the outcasts of society, that has led me, on more than one occasion, to divide what little I had, between me and a homeless man.
I remember one time when I was in my own little business that I had opened and although God used it as a ministry to reach souls with the gospel, it was failing miserably from a financial perspective because it was against the law for me to advertise and so many people did not know that my business existed. On a particular day, a client had paid me a little something (maybe $100) for some work I was about to do or had done.
I had absolutely no money in the bank as I was living literally by whatever came in on a particular day. Soon after I received the cash, a poor man with sores came to my door. He pleaded that he was in need of money to buy medication and although this $100 was the only money I had to my name, I could not turn him away. I shared some of my last few dollars with him so he could get some medication for his sores, trusting that God would provide somehow for me, when the few dollars I had remaining were done. I could not bring myself, (little as I had) to send him away without the help he so desperately came to beg me for.
And God found a way to provide for me.
Even when you’re down to nothing as I experienced within the will of God during that difficult season (and it lasted for months and months), God is able to use you to give what little you have, sacrificially, to someone in more need than you.
In those months, I saw the supernatural hand of God, providing for me month after month and without me needing to reach out for help from my family at home.
On another occasion, I had to divide my last few cents with a vagrant who was starving, although I had not a clue where my next meal would come from when those few dollars were done. In retrospect, this has been the story of my life. Whether working or not, having a salary coming in or not, the Lord has seen it fit consistently, for me to reach out to the less fortunate and I have always considered it a privilege to do so. It seemed like I was a homeless person magnet, as they would leave everybody else in a public space and approach me for help. It was almost as if they knew I had a heart for them, before I even said a word.
On one particular day some years ago, while pursuing studies in the neighbouring island, I remember that things were not well with me financially. I had just purchased a box of food and had almost arrived home, where I could hardly wait to dig in. Within about a block from where I lived, the Lord suddenly allowed a man to come up to me, to beg for help. He was clearly hungry and so I gave up that box of food because he needed it more than me and did without.
I felt particularly blessed on one occasion, when at a supermarket, I was able to use one of my last month’s salary (since my work contract was about to come to an end) to bless a man, his wife and I think five children with groceries of up to $800, which was quite a good amount. He had met me outside the supermarket and asked if I could please help him. In chatting with him, he informed me that he had tried finding work and had been unsuccessful so far and his poor family was at home hungry, depending on him to bring something home. One of his young children, a girl about the age of seven was at his side.
I told him the amount he could spend and told him to take a trolley and just put what he wanted in it. So as to give him the dignity he needed, I did not follow him closely throughout the supermarket but gave him and his daughter who had been begging people at the entrance, the space to shop like everybody else, without having to feel self-conscious or as if they were attracting attention.
I also tried to pay for the groceries in a low key sort of way, so that it would not attract attention, as I knew that this could be demeaning to the man, who was already hurting that he could not find work to take care of his family.
I remember that at this point, my two year contract (which I did not wish to be renewed for reasons I will not mention here) was about to come to an end. I had about two more months to go and I had no idea how God was going to continue to provide for me, given that I had rent to pay, other expenses and needed to eat.
Up to that point, all I had was endless experience of what God had done for me supernaturally in the past, so I decided to be crazily selfless (as I am prone to be), help the man and his family who were in immediate need and trust God to provide for me afterward.
For, I find it extremely difficult to turn my back on human suffering, even when this means that my actions in the present would be to my detriment and lead to my own suffering later on.
I then paid for a taxi to carry the man and his groceries home, as he wouldn’t have been able to cross the road and get a maxi with space to accommodate all those groceries. As the arrangements were made, it broke my heart though, to think, that unless that man submitted himself to Christ, he and his family would be back at the store begging again in the future, when those groceries were done.
I am not mentioning all of this for show. These examples I have cited are mere drops in the bucket of how much God has used me over the years while in that neighbouring island, to reach out specifically to the poor and outcasts of society.
My only regret when I think back on these wonderful opportunities to be a blessing is that I could not be used more or have more to give more but by the grace of God, he is able to equip me with more resources to do so in the future. You don’t need to have much to do a little good. All you need is to have a heart of love.
On another occasion, my work contract was done, I was out of a job, had rent to still pay and had no idea where my next monthly income would come from. Yet, I knew full well that God was THE source, not a job and I therefore chose to use from my limited and quickly depleting savings, not just to pay my monthly rent but to assist with the expenses and the actual cooking, to feed around 90 people, most of whom were Venezuelans and had signed up with a Church I was attending at the time, for English lessons.
What a privilege!
On another note, I have always felt that the homeless and the downtrodden of society are neglected when it comes to the spreading of the gospel, although Christ died for them too. Just like us, many of them have made mistakes in life and are just in need of forgiveness, love and another chance.
We are no better than them. They are people, worthy of dignity and respect because they have been made in God’s image and they are loved by God.
Whether you call them the homeless, vagrants or the socially displaced, they are people with fears, hurts, pains, regrets and sadness just like us. Everyday, those that are not yet saved (because some of them are) bear the burden of having to muster the strength to get through the day, in a society that is mainly scornful and hostile to them. Some don’t feel well and have many health issues, yet nobody seemingly cares.
Some walk around with guilt, shame, a ton of regret at the pain they have caused their families and how useless their lives have turned out. They wish they could fix their mess, but they don’t know how, some of them not even being fully in their right minds due to addictions and even demon possession.
I have had the joy of at least two homeless people coming to Christ after I shared the gospel, one doing so over some bake and tea I got him at an outlet and another while at Marios. Praise God!
Oh how I’m thankful that the homeless man who came up to me one morning, asking for a minute of my time (Yes, God kept sending them in my direction), ended up, not just having breakfast at a little eatery but also got to hear the gospel and received Christ as his Lord and Saviour. This was a man I had turned away from in my hurry but I felt like God was telling me to go back and find out what he wanted, so I did. He was in his right mind and was simply asking for some money. He had a name, a story. He was deserving, as one of God’s human creations, of dignity and on that day, he entered God’s royal family.
One homeless man even shared with me that he avoided going to Church because his clothes were dirty. This broke my heart. I told him that he could come to Church in whatever clothes he had because Jesus wanted him to come, no matter what he had on and that if he had experienced bad treatment at one Church because of his clothes, he should go to another. He replied quickly and excitingly, many teeth notably missing from his mouth: “Ain’t? Because God say to render your heart and not your garments, ain’t?”
Little did I know that this man had memory of some scripture.
The stories of the homeless are rich and interesting. Really, as I stated before, they are no worse than you and I. They have messed up in life and are in need of a second, third, fourth or fifth chance, just like us. We are merely glorified vagrants in nice clothes and houses with a bank account, a well washed face, a job and food to eat.
On another note, the God I serve is no man’s debtor. When you give to the poor and in general, not selfishly or as an investment or grudgingly or for public praise but sacrificially and liberally and cheerfully, God blesses you and blows your mind with how he does it.
That is what he did for me. I’m a living testimony! When I least expected it and in an unprecedented way, he opened the windows of heaven and poured me out a blessing, so much so, that the people I tell of what he did are generally left flabbergasted with “What? How? When? How is that possible?”
The place that I had worked where the contract had ended, informed me six months later of a retroactive pay increase, which resulted in them owing me the equivalent of two extra years’ salary! That is 24 months of extra pay! This was in addition to the gratuity payment they also owed me, which, as a result of the increase in salary for the past period I had completed, meant an increase in the gratuity to be paid as well!
When God blesses, he blesses ABUNDANTLY!
When I told someone what God had done, he concluded when he heard the amount I was suddenly owed, that I did not need to work again. Of course I intended to work again but what occurred is testament to the fact that God is faithful and rewards those who reach out to the poor and he can do so suddenly.
The Lord I serve is able to do the seemingly impossible because he is God and all powerful. He also knows how to give good gifts to his children and that is what he did for me. Thank you Lord! I’ll never forget it.
The portion of scripture I heard on the radio and which I referred to at the beginning of this Note is Deuteronomy 15:7-11. It reads:
- “If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.
- Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee.
- Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: BECAUSE THAT FOR THIS THING THE LORD THY GOD SHALL BLESS THEE IN ALL THY WORKS, AND IN ALL THAT THOU PUTTEST THINE HAND UNTO. For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand WIDE unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.”
(Written on 8th February, 2019, adjusted on 03rd September, 2020)