Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Story of Daniel

The Story of Daniel

 (January 2002)

 

It was an unusually cold day for the month of May. Spring had

arrived and everything was alive with color. But a cold front

from the North had brought winter’s chill back to Indiana.

 

I sat with two friends in the picture window of a quaint restaurant

just off the corner of the town square. The food and the company

were both especially good that day. As we talked, my attention

was drawn outside, across the street. There, walking into town,

was a man who appeared to be carrying all his worldly goods

on his back. He was carrying, a well-worn sign that read,

“I will work for food.”

 

My heart sank. I brought him to the attention of my friends

and noticed that others around us had stopped eating to focus

on him. Heads moved in a mixture of sadness and disbelief.

 

We continued with our meal, but his image lingered in my mind.

We finished our meal and went our separate ways. I had errands

to do and quickly set out to accomplish them. I glanced toward

the town square, looking somewhat half heartedly for the

strange visitor. I was fearful, knowing that seeing him again

would call some response. I drove through town and saw nothing

of him.

 

I made some purchases at a store and got back in my car. Deep

within me, the Spirit of God kept speaking to me: “Don’t go back

to the office until you’ve at least driven once more around the

square.” And so, with some hesitancy, I headed back into town.

 

As I turned the square’s third corner. I saw him. He was standing

on the steps of the storefront church, going through his sack.

I stopped and looked, feeling both compelled to speak to him,

yet wanting to drive on. The empty parking space on the corner

seemed to be a sign from God: an invitation to park. I pulled in,

got out and approached the town’s newest visitor.

 

“Looking for the pastor?” I asked.

 

“Not really,” he replied, “just resting.”

 

“Have you eaten today?”

 

“Oh, I ate something early this morning.”

 

“Would you like to have lunch with me?”

 

“Do you have some work I could do for you?”

 

“No work,” I replied. “I commute here to work from the city,

but I would like to take you to lunch.”

 

“Sure,” he replied with a smile.

 

As he began to gather his things. I asked some surface questions.

 

“Where you headed?”

 

St. Louis.”

 

“Where you from?”

 

“Oh, all over; mostly Florida.”

 

“How long you been walking?”

 

“Fourteen years,” came the reply.

 

I knew I had met someone unusual. We sat across from each other

in the same restaurant I had left earlier. His face was weathered

slightly beyond his 38 years. His eyes were dark yet clear,

and he spoke with an eloquence and articulation that was startling.

He removed his jacket to reveal a bright red T-shirt that said,

 

“Jesus is The Never Ending Story.”

 

Then Daniel’s story began to unfold. He had seen rough times early

in life. He’d made some wrong choices and reaped the consequences.

 

Fourteen years earlier, while backpacking across the country,

he had stopped on the beach in Daytona. He tried to hire on with

some men who were putting up a large tent and some equipment.

A concert, he thought. He was hired, but the tent would not house

a concert but revival services, and in those services he saw life

more clearly. He gave his life over to God.

 

“Nothing’s been the same since,” he said. “I felt the Lord telling me

to keep walking, and so I did, some 14 years now.”

 

“Ever think of stopping?” I asked.

 

“Oh, once in a while, when it seems to get the best of me. But God

has given me this calling. I give out Bibles. That’s what’s in my sack.

I work to buy food and Bibles, and I give them out when His Spirit

leads.”

 

I sat amazed. My homeless friend was not homeless. He was on a

mission and lived this way by choice. The question burned inside

for a moment and then I asked:

 

“What’s it like?”

 

“What?”

 

“To walk into a town carrying all your things on your back and

to show your sign?”

 

“Oh, it was humiliating at first. People would stare and make

comments. Once someone tossed a piece of half-eaten bread

and made a gesture that certainly didn’t make me feel welcome.

But then it became humbling to realize that God was using me

to touch lives and change people’s concepts of other folks like me.”

 

My concept was changing, too. We finished our dessert and

gathered his things. Just outside the door, he paused. He turned

to me and said,

 

“Come ye blessed of my Father and inherit the kingdom

I’ve prepared for you. For when I was hungry you gave me

food, when I was thirsty you gave me drink, a stranger

and you took me in.”

 

I felt as if we were on holy ground.

 

“Could you use another Bible?” I asked. He said he preferred

a certain translation. It traveled well and was not too heavy.

It was also his personal favorite.

 

“I’ve read through it 14 times,” he said. “I’m not sure we’ve got one

of those, but let’s stop by our church and see.” I was able to find

my new friend a Bible that would do well, and he seemed very

grateful.

 

“Where you headed from here?”

 

“Well, I found this little map on the back of this amusement park

coupon.”

 

“Are you hoping to hire on there for awhile?”

 

“No, I just figure I should go there. I figure someone under that star

right there needs a Bible, so that’s where I’m going next.”

 

He smiled, and the warmth of his spirit radiated the sincerity of

his mission. I drove him back to the town square where we’d met

two hours earlier, and as we drove, it started raining. We parked

and unloaded his things.

 

“Would you sign my autograph book?” he asked. “I like to keep

messages from folks I meet.”

 

I wrote in his little book that his commitment to his calling had

touched my life. I encouraged him to stay strong. And I left him

with a verse of scripture from Jeremiah,

 

“I know the plans I have for you,” declared the Lord, “plans to

prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a future

and a hope.”

 

“Thanks, man,” he said. “I know we just met and we’re really just

strangers, but I love you.”

 

“I know,” I said, “I love you, too.”

 

“The Lord is good.”

 

“Yes, He is.”

 

“How long has it been since someone hugged you?” I asked.

 

“A long time,” he replied.

 

And so on the busy street corner in the drizzling rain, my

new friend and I embraced, and I felt deep inside that I had

been changed. He put his things on his back, smiled his

winning smile and said,

 

“See you in the New Jerusalem.”

 

“I’ll be there!” was my reply.

 

He began his journey again. He headed away with his sign

dangling from his bed roll and pack of Bibles. He stopped,

turned and said,

 

“When you see something that makes you think of me,

will you pray for me?”

 

“You bet,” I shouted back,

 

“God bless.”

 

“God bless.”

 

And that was the last I saw of him. Late that evening as I left

my office, the wind blew strong. The cold front had settled hard

upon the town. I bundled up and hurried to my car. As I sat back

and reached for the emergency brake, I saw them… a pair of

well-worn brown work gloves neatly laid over the length of

the handle. I picked them up and thought of my friend and

wondered if his hands would stay warm that night without them.

I remembered his words:

 

“If you see something that makes you think of me,

will you pray for me?”

 

Today his gloves lie on my desk in my office. They help me to see

the world and its people in a new way, and they help me

remember those two hours with my unique friend and to pray

for his ministry.

 

“See you in the New Jerusalem,” he said.

 

Yes, Daniel, I know I will…

 

If this story touched you, forward it to a friend!

 

“I shall pass this way but once. Therefore, any good that I can do

or any kindness that I can show, let me do it now, for I shall not

pass this way again.”

 

“Father, I ask you to bless my friends, relatives and buddies

reading this right now. Show them a new revelation of your love

and power. Holy Spirit, I ask you to minister to their spirit

at this very moment. Where there is pain, give them your peace

and mercy. Where there is self-doubt, release a renewed confidence

through your grace, In Jesus’ precious Name. Amen.”

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