My 18 year old daughter came home May 18th from work at Lakewatch Bojangles, eager to tell me she had met a homeless man that day and had offered to pick him up for church the following Sunday, my eyebrows and suspicions were raised.
Andy showed up at a function on Saturday and to my surprise was standing on the curb at Bojangles at 7:00 AM Sunday morning waiting for his ride. Afterwards, we discovered he was living in a tent behind Bojangles and had been homeless for nearly 3 years since his mother’s death.
That encounter led to a relationship that brought Andy into our family’s life as well as the life of our church. After some research revealed no criminal background or activity, My children and our church people rallied, prayed, helped, supported and soon Andy had a whole new world of friends, clothes, and provision. He was excited about the first shower in more than 3 months and spent Memorial Day with more than 30 of our family members, much of the day spent singing around the piano, Andy chiming in with a smile.
Andy became an outlet for the love and care from so many people at EastLake and the Smith Mountain Lake community as a whole. Jim and Terry Stanley, Ben and Cora Peak, Jay Furick, Allyson Keaton and so many others began helping Andy plan to get a job and find a residence that didn’t have zippers on it’s doors.
Thanks to the work of Terry Stanley and others, Andy was hired at the local Krogers. Having proven he was neither a convict nor a drug user, he was now uniformed and working every day. Shortly thereafter a trailer was found to rent and with the generous support of locals Andy soon moved into his new home. It was amazing to watch, in just a few short weeks, His transformation. He lost the smell of the outdoors as well as the beard, the tent and the empty pockets. We had always told him we didn’t want to simply give him a fish, but the ability to catch his own fish and it appeared we were successful.
3 ½ weeks passed Andy was still employed and he had money saved to pay his rent. And then in a moment it changed. Andy walked into Krogers and quit his job. He called me to tell me he was leaving on a bus within 48 hours for Colorado. What we feared, had happened. This once homeless man, was now homeless again.
There were so many emotions; anger, disappointment, frustration, sadness, pity and even more questions; Why would anyone give up such a great opportunity? Wasn’t living in a tent on the streets enough motivation to appreciate all this generosity? What was he thinking? Does he have something to hide? Were we duped? And then the biggest question of all, Was it worth it? Did we waste our time and money on an unworthy, ungrateful soul? These emotions and questions are normal and unanswerable. As I have pondered these I have come to the following conclusions.
Andy gave my kids a view of poverty and taught them to have empathy for the less fortunate.
Andy was a test for our church and community on how we would love someone who has nothing to offer in return, and we passed!
Andy received genuine seeds of truth and love that will undoubtedly come to fruition at some point in his life.
Most importantly, Andy gave us the opportunity to love and serve Jesus in a real and tangible way. Matthew 25:40 ”Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these you did it to Me.”
I do not know where Andy is now, I do know that he was blessed by coming through Smith Mountain Lake and we were blessed by his brief appearance in our lives.
Lord, who would you have me love today?