- Pr. Bill Gerber
ON THE JERICHO ROAD
3 Feb 2019 The POLAR VORTEX hit the homeless mid-week. Finally, Saturday morning dawned on Ruthie’s Kitchen with what felt like ‘spring’ weather. Actual temperatures had risen by almost 60 degrees, settling in on a ‘not so brisk’ 25 degrees. Our guests came early and stayed late. We served ‘rice & beans’ with ham soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. They were hungry. Some had not eaten in three days. Jason was the first to arrive. He was anxious to tell his story about surviving minus 30 degree temps in his ‘Bando’. My mind went to ‘Condo’. Then he corrected me and said, ‘You know – an abandoned house’. This ‘new’ term brought just a little legitimacy to his plight. Rockford has 4,000 such buildings – “home” to the homeless. I spent a lot of time with Jason. He showed me the remnants of his frost-bitten fingers. We talked about God, about transitional housing, about his not understanding why God had not heard his cries for help. At another near-by table, David, a former Marine asked Jason if he was a veteran. Jason said he was. Both David and I jumped up and almost simultaneously asked, ‘Then WHY are you homeless?’ ‘Have you talked to the VA??” Jason looked startled. He reached for his back-pack, pulled out a folder, and showed us his ‘DD 214’ – Department of Defense Discharge Papers. He had been a helicopter engine repair specialist. But he also had been ‘less than honorably’ discharged. He admitted he had a hard time with ‘authority’. Stints in prison had not helped his confidence nor his self-esteem. Battling addiction, the life-threatening cold, hunger, depression - living a faith that said he was not worthy resulted in a desperate battle to find hope, grace, the love of Jesus. Jesus had joined us at ‘Ruthie’s Kitchen’. He was sitting right next to Jason. Two veterans and Jason lying bleeding and dying on his own ‘Jericho Road’ were guests of Jesus for a lunch of saving grace.