the preacher who just wouldn’t go away

I heard tell about this preacher once. He just wouldn’t go away. He kept talkin about how churches should be noticing the homeless and poor walking the streets. He kept talkin about prisoners and their rights. He knew very well that this wasn’t popular. He knew the folks of this little city would rather see the homeless freeze to death or kill each other than try to help them. He knew that prisons were more popular than shelters, bigger money makers.  But he wouldn’t back down. He kept talking about Jesus and what He said to do. He’d walk the streets with the homeless just to talk and get to know them. He ran this little thrift store and just gave away everything inside. He let the homeless sleep over night in the little store even when the little city said shelters had to be 2000 feet apart. Bars on the same street could be 200 feet apart but when you’re drunk you can’t just sleep on the floor of the bar. So the police harassed the little group who dared invite the homeless into their store. The next day the preacher walked the whole crew the five miles down to the police station and offered himself in behalf of the staff. “Don’t arrest them, he said, arrest me!” The police got all nice and helpful and couldn’t understand what he was talking about. Over the next few weeks, as temperatures dropped, the little store got flooded with hopeless cases. “Lets see if they can withstand this!” someone said. “We’ll see how much rendering their good heart can take!”

This little motley group of believers made up of former street people and sundry volunteers bearing food and smiles would be shown the error of their do-gooding ways. One night a rape happened either near or inside the place. Suddenly the news trucks were surrounding the door. Long after the victim and the accused were forgotten, those who knew the preacher as a rabble rouser smiled with vindication. They knew all along that he was trouble and would only cause trouble. The local paper ran an anonymous editorial saying as much. But the preacher wouldn’t go away. He called the paper and set up an appointment to meet with the anonymous writer face to face. He kept walking the streets, sitting and eating where he was not wanted. “Can’t you see you’re not wanted?” folks asked. “Why won’t the city attack him directly for us?”

This story is not done. That preacher keeps speaking, keeps walking, keeps shining a light on that embarrassing fear this little town has that maybe they’re all just a paycheck away from losing it all. Maybe the town doesn’t work as well as they all hope. Maybe the buckle of the Bible belt lets people die easier than it saves their souls. God bless him. Preach it brother. Keep the faith.

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