Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, NC, a widely traveled evangelist, and the author of several books. His books are available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com
Having a dripping wet, naked homeless man sitting on your office couch makes for a strange sort of day that can only be described as “a strange sort of day.”
Tom (obviously not his real name) started coming to our church on our homeless ministry van several years ago. He was down on his luck, living at the shelter, and the promise of free hot food got him in the door. But he got more than just a meal; he came to know Christ as his Savior. His eternal destiny changed that day.
Tom ended up having a relative die and leave him some money. Wisely, whoever it was stipulated that it must come to him in small monthly installments rather than all at once. He now had enough to live on but not enough to go wild with. He got a vehicle and rented a room by the month at a local motel. He started driving to church, and ended up becoming a member.
But through the years, either through dementia or perhaps as a result of years of substance abuse, Tom’s mental condition deteriorated sharply.
I got a call from a state trooper one day informing me that he was wandering down the middle of the highway in a small town in Virginia, 200 miles from home. All he could remember was that I was his pastor. The officer googled me and then called me. God is good; I just so happen to have a great pastor friend in that very town. A few hours later, we had him home. But things only got worse from there.
He stopped taking care of himself. He lost so much weight that he looked like skin stretched over a skeleton. His body odor grew unbearable. He trashed his room so badly that he got kicked out of the hotel for good. All the while, as we tried to help him, he kept slipping further and further into incoherency, and my repeated calls to local government agencies were met with nothing but the frustration of hearing, “If he wants to be on the street, we cannot make him stay anywhere and get help.”
We spent a large amount of money on places for him to stay. He walked away from all of them. We got him into treatment centers. He walked away from them too. He wanted to be absolutely on his own, period; he refused to live with anyone. But no other hotel in the area would take him, both because of his reputation for destroying the room at the one he had been living in and because somewhere along the way, he forgot where his wallet and ID went.
And then came the day that a member called me to say, “Preacher, Tom is on the railing of the overpass on the highway by the grocery store.” Fearing the worst, I rushed that way. By the time I got there, he was off of the railing and walking east. I pulled over, motioned him into the truck, and he came and got in. I explained to him that we had to once again get him to a supervised place to stay but that he would have to be cleaned up before they would even allow him in.
He had been in the same set of clothing for months. So I took him to Walmart and bought him brand-new clothes, toiletries, and a backpack to put everything in. Then I took him to the church and back into my office, where I have a bathroom and shower.
The next few minutes were a frustrating exercise in getting him to understand that he needed to go into the bathroom, undress, and get in the shower. Finally, it seemed he grasped the concept, and I closed the door and sat behind my desk, and waited as I heard the water begin to run. About a minute or two later, he walked out into the office with his filthy old shirt on – and literally nothing else. He sat down on my couch and stared at me as I half sputtered/half shouted, “Get your wet naked self off of that couch this instant! Get in that bathroom, dry off, and put clothes on!”
If I live to be a hundred… if I forget my own name… I will never forget that awful sight.
I got him dressed and to a treatment center just a bit later, one perfectly suited to handle his physical and emotional needs and deal with his substance abuse issues. And yes, sadly, he walked out of it. But for at least a while, I was able to help Jesus in His hour of need. You see, Matthew 25:37-40 says, “Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Jesus cares about the least of these; therefore, caring for them is caring for him.
So when we get to heaven, I will smile and hug Tom’s neck.
And then I will tease him for the rest of eternity for that inglorious moment.
Pastor Wagner can be contacted by email at email@example.com, and his books are available by clicking the “Store” link above.
Feature photo by Pastor Bo Wagner