Sherry Smith (not her real name) called me this morning. Again! She was homeless. Again!
She had slept out in the cold last night, she told me. She was looking for a place to sleep tonight.
Her time had run out on all the homeless shelters. Hospitality house could not take her as they take only women who are in abusive situations and with small children. Salvation Army takes only men. She had applied for Government housing and was promised it in a few days but needed temporary housing now.
Yes, she has been to all the churches. I did not ask her if she had been to the Liquor Stores or other such businesses for help. I already knew the answer to that. It is only on television programs that bartenders always listen to and help destitute people. I have talked to and assisted countless destitute people looking for monetary help but have never met one who thought to ask for help from anyone in the multi-billion dollar Alcohol Industry.
Sherry had finally gone back to several of the churches asking for money for a bus ticket because "I cannot get any help here so I have to go somehow else.”
I had known Sherry and her family well when she and her siblings were children. When my husband was pastor of a Methodist Church here in the 1960's, her Daddy had been in prison and we spent much time with them, buying food and supplies over and over again. We had looked after the small children on several ocassions and had enabled an older child to attend our Camp Glisson one summer.
When I moved back to Rome ten years ago, Sherry, the youngest who had been a beautiful child, was all grown up. She is now 51 and had raised her children in Government housing, separated from her husband she told me.
She was in another “emergency “situation. She found my name in a phone book and called. Yes, I remembered her and her family well. I paid her overdue monthy rent that day and on a later ocassion.
I was genuinely glad to see Sherry and to hear about the family. Two of the 6 children had jobs but, I surmised had handed out all the support they could manage to the mother (the father had died) and the other four.
In other words, just as she had “used up the church and caring pastors," she had also used up any responsible family member.
My heart went out to Sherry this morning. I listened to her for a long time telling me she just needed a place to stay a "few days." I was sorely tempted to drive over and get her and let her sleep in my guest bedroom. How can we as Christian live in a warm house, while other people are homeless on a cold night? Not easily!
Fortunately, I remembered I as not physically able to handle a drug addicted person. I remembered other advice that has stood the test of time. Basically some modification of “tough love” seems the only real and lasting help!
In my second conversation with Sherry, I asked about “drug use.” She said “no” but quickly thanked me and hung up. She thought I had already learned the truth about her major problem in my many calls around town trying to get help for her,
I was to learn later from a Christian Social Worker who promised her, not the apartment Sherry had told me about (Sherry had lied to me about that. But she had promised Sherry she would get her into drug treatment when she was willing to go.
They also promised to keep me informed about Sherry's progress. God help Sherry to make the right decision.
Yes! There is "more of them" needing help than there are people willing and/or able to "give help." Much of my time as a pastor and even as a retiree has been spent in the social needs of people. This was true also of my husband and many other pastors. But we all need more than the human and social resources available. We need Divine help. We need God.
We need "liberation" but we need even more than "Liberation theology." We need the impowering Grace that comes with a personal encounter with the resurrected Jesus as simply confessed in our Holy Book of Faith.