We have a program at GSS called This Is Why I Believe.
It’s a wonderful little program that provides an opportunity for men to talk about their faith journeys. Sometimes the speaker is a staff member, or a board member, or a pastor, or a volunteer, and sometimes it is a resident. What we often learn, usually to the amazement of the residents, is that we have all tripped, and we have all struggled on our way to accepting God’s grace and power into our lives.
Recently, I encouraged Rodney to tell his story, because I have felt such great inspiration in watching him open up and become successful. Here is some of his story:
Rodney is now in his fifties and grew up in New York city. He is an only son and grew up with his mother, who is just seventeen years older than he is. He never had much exposure to church or The Word in his life, although his mom put Reverend Ike on the radio every Sunday. They lived day-to-day, earning just enough to get by, on the streets. His mother was into the numbers, and from a very young age, Rodney ran numbers for his mother. One of the first things that Rodney ever said to me was that all he knew was the streets and jail. Until very recently, Rodney has never had a job. Never.
Rodney’s mother moved to West Chester to be with her companion, and once when Rodney came to visit she encouraged him to leave New York behind. He did so, reluctantly. It is clear that Rodney and his mom had a very special relationship.
When she died, Rodney became homeless, and he lived that way for about six months in West Chester. He often took part in the Friday night meal program that is provided at the Episcopal Church Of The Holy Trinity in West Chester.
Rodney talked about the kindness of a woman that worked at this meal. One night she sat beside him asked him “What do you need?” They talked, and the kind woman quickly got Rodney into the system that organizes finding shelter for the homeless. In a short time, Rodney was invited to Good Samaritan Shelter.
I have learned that this kind person is named Cheryl Robinson Saab, who serves at this meal every Friday with her husband. I would love for her to know how great of an impact she had on the life of a good man by simply connecting with him in loving care.Seemingly small deeds of kindness can reap great rewards. You are a blessing to many Miss Cheryl.
Rodney arrived on November 2. That night he joined us at our regular Wednesday night Bible study. You could sense how foreign it was to him to be sitting in a room with a bunch of men and talking about Jesus. I did something unusual that night and I offered to abandon my prepared study if someone had something to ask, or if they had a particular Bible story or passage they wanted to discuss.
The Holy Spirit was clearly up to something that night. Charles, on his first night at The Shelter, offered Psalm 133. Someone remarked that 133 was the house number we were sitting in. Charles quoted the following, from memory.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity. It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments.
I asked Charles to repeat it slowly, starting with just the first verse, and then the second. We talked about how glorious and helpful it was for men to come together in this way to discuss the Bible, and how unusual it was for many.
As Rodney shared his testimony he talked about the feeling that came over him as he heard these words. He was having an altogether new experience. He told us how the sweat was running down off of his head, like the precious oil did. He was changed at that moment and I can tell you that when we come together for Bible study Rodney is always present and his face radiates with goodness. He is transformed.
Since that night GSS has helped Rodney to find two jobs. He has moved into transitional housing and is saving money. He is spreading joy.
Cheryl reached out to Rodney and sent him our way, but Rodney had to step outside of what he knew and was comfortable with to join us.
Or was he guided?
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.