For almost two weeks now my husband and I have been on vacation in Germany visiting our sweet foreign exchange student we hosted a few years ago. To say we’ve had an incredible time so far wouldn’t even come close to describing just how amazing it’s been. This place is remarkable! When we get home (to the states) and time is on my side I’ll do a follow-up-post filled with pictures to hopefully convey bits and pieces of the experience.
But right now I have to write…
We’re traveling by train (currently) from our girl’s village to a larger city a few hours away for some last minute fun with her before we head back to the U.S. in a few days. I have downtime so I’m reflecting on moments from our time so far in Germany and there’s a reflection I just haven’t been able to shake…
We had the opportunity to spend a few days in Berlin while we’ve been here and one of the first things I noticed when we arrived was the large amount of homeless people. I know it’s common in larger cities but being on a longer vacation caused me to take more notice. Even while walking through packed sidewalks and crossing busy roads it still can’t be overseen. I couldn’t help but think what their story is, how they ended up this way..no doubt some of these very men and women had it together at one point of their life. **If you ever need practice on not judging others spend a few days in the city and consider the fact that even Jesus was homeless. (see Matthew 8:20)
Our time in Berlin was an eye opener for sure…to be honest I struggled a bit…you’re surrounded by both wealth and poverty, but it was the latter of the two that choked me up—because every time I’d cross paths with one of these homeless people, scripture would graze across my heart yet I felt so helpless. The Bible calls us to care for the homeless (read James 2) but when you’re in an area where it’s sooo heavily saturated with homeless men and women who have little to nothing, and there’s a language barrier to top it off, what can you do???
Recalling our last evening in Berlin…we left the busier downtown area of the city and headed toward the tram station—a rough-looking, middle-aged man in dirty clothing could be spotted resting on his knees rummaging through the bottom opening of a trash can.
Enna (our foreign exchange student) had told us days before that the homeless people will collect empty plastic and glass bottles from the garbage and then deposit them into recycling bins in return for cash.
This man was clearly doing just that as he meticulously filled a rickety cart with other people’s “trash”. And then, just as we were about to slip past him, like we had so many others in similar situations, he turned his head and made eye contact with us and I could see the look of humiliation and desperation across his face…and I couldn’t even offer a smile, I chose not to because I felt shame for our complete opposite circumstances. Smiles are a beautiful and contagious expression, but in this moment my lips wouldn’t allow me to go there…and all I could give was a silent prayer in my heart over this man as I quickly moved beyond him.
Some guilt has claimed over me on that deal, but I know that’s part of Satan’s lies; and in the days since, the Holy Spirit has reminded me that prayer has power even when the one you’re praying for never knows ‘you’ are doing so. It’s Jesus who deserves the glory over a right heart anyway, not me, so I can’t pat myself on the back for praying even, but Jesus can take that prayer and do immeasurably, remarkable things with it.
I have to remember that at times all I can offer is a prayer—but prayer is huge and it points to Jesus…
He can move mountains by our very prayer. And since He’s the living Stone (see 1 Peter 2:6) we have to trust He’s fully in control when our help feels inadequate.
After all, in the moments leading up to Jesus’ death, and while He was hanging on the cross, Jesus relied deeply on prayer— and His obedient, sacrificial love landed Him at the place of highest honor in Heaven next to His Father. (see Philippians 2:9, Mark 16:19)
I want to choose prayer above all—especially in the moments when nothing else seems tangible—because prayer is the one thing that’s always readily available and worthy of remembrance, leading us straight to God! (see Philippians 4:6)
What about you—how do you respond or interact with the homeless? Or do you notice? What lengths are you willing to go to offer compassion if so?
What about in bigger cities where it’s so common, what’s your response to homeless men and women then?