Imagine being dropped off at the Plaza or Loose Park in Kansas City and you’re told, “Go start conversations with people and share with them the love of Jesus.” How comfortable would you be with doing something like that? Would you admit that would probably be outside of your comfort zone? Well, you wouldn’t be the only one.
Just this last week, our Chicago team was challenged in the same way. We were dropped off at Grant Park in downtown Chicago, near Lake Michigan and told to start conversations with total strangers. We didn’t want to back down from the challenge; so our team of seven people circled up and prayed for God to lead us to the right people. I’ll be honest and say that it was tough for our team members to start conversations with people, but we never gave up even though it was well into the upper 90’s.
By the end of our time in the park, a couple of people from our team met a homeless man named Tony right outside the Art Institute of Chicago. Tony has been homeless for four years and was asking people for money so that he could buy something to eat. We offered to take him to McDonald’s to get him a meal and he accepted. While walking to McDonald’s, he asked where we were staying and what we were doing in Chicago. We told him we were staying at a church and were there to share the love of Jesus with people. At the mention of Jesus’ name, his eyes lit up and he said, “I believe in Jesus! I can’t live a day on streets without him!”
On arriving to McDonald’s, a security guard came up to Tony and asked him to leave. I told the guard that he was with us, but he directed Tony to stand out of the line and away from everyone else. I was speechless and couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Our team stood with him while I got him the meal. I remember thinking, “This man is made in God’s image and shouldn’t have to be subjected to such treatment!”
After saying goodbye to Tony, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to spend a week or even a day in his shoes. Many of the groups that had conversations with people in the park were blessed by the people they met. I thanked God for the opportunity to talk with Tony and be stretched outside my comfort zone.
Student Ministries Director