It wasn’t my first time to step into the haphazard community of folks who might be missed by most who visit the beautiful city. It was easy to think of the apartment building as an Island of Misfit Toys – and perhaps that’s why it felt so much like home every time I walked through the door. This was church – with dining hall sanctuary and breakfast tacos and orange juice communion. There was always singing, and there was always preaching. Good, basic, down-to-earth messages that sliced through the differences between those who were serving and those who were being served. Because in the end, there was no difference.
And that Sunday’s message was about reaching out. And letting go.
There was no pomp or grandeur at the end of church. Instead, there was the scuffle of folding chairs and the hushed whispers of “How may I pray for you?” and “Jesus, please…” It reminded me of where I feel most at home – remote places where everyone is stripped of status or position and all feel the same simple desperation to be loved without measure. The places so far removed from first-world play dates and Pinterest boards. In the back of the room, a hand slowly raised. I waited, but no one walked over to the thin young man who always came for breakfast but only this day chose to stay.
That hand, raised high. Calling out, “I’m here. Please see me today.”
His name was Ronnie. We smiled at the divine coincidence. He told me his story – of so many bad choices and deep longing now to get back on track, of the fear of reaching out and the fear of letting go. I confessed my fears to him too, and then prayerful words poured out of the girl who wanted anyone else to be the one who walked. Tears flowed as we held each other long for what seemed like hours. And we made a promise to each other.
To keep walking. Together.
We’ve held on through moments when he wanted to give in and I just wanted to give up. We’ve helped each other walk when one Sunday found us both on crutches. We’ve compared tattoos and hairstyles, shared dreams, and raged against the rules that we can’t understand each other because skin color or gender or heritage make us too different. We reminisce about pot roast suppers and being afraid and bad fashion and rising from the ashes and we celebrate it. Because we hold it all in common. All of it.
We’ve both taken steps. Big steps. He now talks to others about how to live a better life, and I write stories about lives like his. We are both called to rescue. And the words of Dr. John Perkins resonate in my heart.
“God’s original mission hasn’t changed. He’s calling us to be whole. That’s what discipleship is about. That’s across all this racial foolishness. The Gospel is whole. Jesus’ last words – you shall receive power and you shall be witnesses and you shall show your love to the world – THAT cuts across lines and across cultures. Humanity bears the face of God.”
Each of us. All of us. We bear the face of God.
“We’re taking steps, Ronne. We’re just taking steps. We’re walking.”
He says I’ve become his anchor, and that he told his mom I’m one of his best friends. “I didn’t even know what my name meant before I met you. You told me my name is mighty counselor. You told me God wrote destiny in my name. No one’s ever told me that.”
“Yes, Ronnie. We are walking. One step at a time. “
The truth is, he’s become MY anchor. His kindness has become my refreshing, for he has welcomed me into his life without reservation or judgment. As we’ve walked together and prayed for each other, he’s reminded me of what matters – the beauty of belonging, and mighty faith that God is sovereign and strong– and that His purpose in us becomes His purpose for us.
God wrote destiny in our names. And we’re still walking.
To sit with Dr. John Perkins and simply listen to him speak about love’s power over hatred, violence, and discrimination is on my bucket list. I have heard him once – and his words resonate still. You can learn more about him here. And I am thankful for Austin Christian Fellowship, the church that opened the door for me to meet my friend.