We stood in the shadows of the downtown library talking about the happenings of life. We discussed the recent challenges that we have encountered and the obstacles that lie ahead. We smiled and laughed at bad jokes and off-the-cuff remarks. Just like two childhood friends that reconnected after many months, we enjoyed great conversation and the time together. Here is the crazy thing. My “friend” isn’t a childhood comrade, a co-worker, a trusted confidant, or a BFF. Actually, this friend is actually a stranger. He is a person whom I have met multiple times on the streets of our city. He is an alcoholic. He is homeless.
Drew has been on the streets of Fort Wayne for more than 15 years. Alcoholism is his demon. It led him to stray from his family and it led him to become a resident of the streets. He has spent time in jail due to public intoxication and disorderly conduct. He has frequented the hospital on many occasions due to near death experiences. At one time he was pulled from the icy waters of a downtown river in the middle of winter. Sobriety is a fleeting object that he cannot grasp onto long enough to complete the programs of the local shelters and detox centers. He is happy at home with his people on the streets. Despite his many shortcomings, bad decisions, and his attitude at times, Drew is my friend.
The welcome was warm and gracious. He seemed happy to see me. I had not seen him since I left the Rescue Mission many months ago. If you didn’t know, in addition to our homeless outreach efforts through Impact 52, I worked third shift at the local men’s homeless shelter for approximately five months. Drew would come in for breakfast on many mornings. We talked about the harsh winter filled with tons of snow and extreme cold temperatures. He almost lost his toes to frost bite in January. Fortunately doctors were able to save his little piggies. His friend and “roommate” was not as lucky. He lost three toes to the extreme cold.
Drew talked about a trip to Kentucky to see family. His eyes lit up as he talked about his children and his grandchildren. It is obvious that they have a special place in his heart. His time in Kentucky was not fun and good times. He was arrested while visiting and detained for a long time. After getting out of jail he started home, but he ran out of money and became stranded. Thankfully there are people who care for him. One man so much that he got in his car and drove all the way to Kentucky to pick him up. Drew could not stop talking about his “church friend.”
The conversation came to an end and we said our goodbyes. I told him that I would continue to pray for him and keep him in my thoughts. I asked him where he was staying and he responded with a smile, “Aaron, you know if I told you I would have to kill you.”
This reunion with my homeless friend came on behalf of the great people at Elevate City Church. Every other Wednesday a group from ECC goes downtown to provide a warm meal to those in need. Elevate City is our church. It is our home. We do not talk a lot about our faith here on our blog. We have our reasons. Service, volunteerism, and caring about others does not have to be about religion. Whether you are a believer or not, you can live a life of purpose. That is our focus. If you are looking for a church in the Fort Wayne area where you can belong before you believe, where you come as you are without judgement, and where you can impact this city, Elevate City Church is the church for you. We would love to have you join us on a Sunday as our guest. I guarantee you will be moved by Pastor Kyle’s message and the love of ECC’s people.
It was great to spend time with Elevate’s homeless outreach team. It was awesome to spend that time with MaKenna, who has a big heart for those on the streets. We had a great time serving those in need and reconnecting with old friends!