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Sunday Afternoon On The Streets In The Heat

This past Sunday afternoon was another 100+ degree scorcher, and I found myself involved in one of the most moving experiences I’ve had since joining the Star of Hope. I joined Charles, a Star of Hope employee who ministers to the street people and who drives our “Love in Action” Van, and a volunteer named Bob. Charles filled the van with ice cold bottles of water along with some ham and cheese sandwiches, then we headed out, searching for the homeless who were out on the streets.

As thousands of Houstonians endured the heat walking to see the Astros play in Minute Maid Park a few blocks south of us, we embarked from Star of Hope’s Men’s Development Center on Ruiz. It was 1pm, and the heat index was already around 108. We had 100 bottles of cold water and 75 fresh sandwiches with us as we drove off with Charles at the wheel. Charles knows the streets and exactly where the homeless congregate, during the daytime. And it didn’t take long to arrive at our first stop. There was a man east of US59 elevated, in the shadow of a small oak tree, just blocks away from the baseball game attendees. He welcomed Charles and the Star of Hope van, the cold drink, sandwich, and conversation as to when he might come to the Star of Hope and get out of the heat. We went from there to a group of about 30 homeless men and women huddled under the shade of three small trees, about 10 folks under each, none fully shaded, and all exposed to the hot concrete all around. These all took two water bottles and appreciated the sandwich. Some said they’d come in later to the shelter.

We proceeded to other stops, and then to US59 Pierce Elevated just south of the downtown business district, where 150 homeless men and women were gathered. They saw the Star of Hope truck pulling up and immediately formed a line… wanting a kind word and the life-giving water and food their bodies needed so much. We looked into each of their eyes, greeted them and were greeted back with GRATITUDE. Amazingly, none wanted more than his share: one water bottle and one sandwich, as each was looking out for the others in the line. Charles advised Bob and me that those on the street share their fortune and work to help the others in their "community". Community as we know it is something unknown to people living on the streets, yet they create their own much like we do.

In 15 minutes, we were out of everything, so Charles, who knows so many of them, promised that we would be back. They asked if we were sure, and he said “YES.” Then , in the Van, Charles informed us that what you promise, you do, because TRUST is what it’s all about, and they’ve all had their ability to trust others battered or completely destroyed. We went back to get more sandwiches, and another 150 water bottles, and soon were back to deliver what we promised. And once again, we encountered face after face, our city’s lost and lowly, full of thanks and gratitude for the help we were bringing. We emptied the van. This scene went on until late in the afternoon.

I was haunted last night and did not sleep very well, grateful for my time with Charles and Bob. I was both touched and disturbed by so many faces, such peaceful gratitude expressed, and just the simple joy of giving basic life needs to someone with nothing. THIS is what Star of Hope is about… but not just giving water and food, but offering Jesus Christ, who is our LIVING WATER, and our MANNA from Heaven on this earth. The Love In Action Van and Charles bring in 20-30 people per week off the streets, who decide to try a new life. At that point, the Star of Hope staff becomes God’s hands and hearts as He works in these lives. And for many, TRUST again is found, first with a new relationship with Jesus Christ, and then with other people as a new life is built… one relationship at a time.

As we left, the baseball game was about over, and the streets were beginning to fill again around the ballpark. The afternoon was ending, but it will not soon be forgotten. Who knows, maybe one of these we met will find Christ and a new life today, when Charles goes by... and they say, "YES, I’ll come into the Mission today!"

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