Often times in life I’ve felt God has called me to do things I didn’t want to do or hadn’t planned on doing. He makes it so clear, that in the end there is no other path for me to take. I want to tell you a story of hope and encouragement today. It’s the story of Bruce, the first homeless person I ever took in off the streets.
In 2003 I was living in Southern California. Every Thursday night a team of us would carry an 8 foot wooden cross down Hollywood Blvd. When people asked what we were doing we responded “We’re reminding people of the love of Jesus Christ and praying for the city.” Often after carrying the cross we would take a few homeless to dinner with us. It gave them a chance to get a warm meal, spend team off the streets and enjoy some conversation. It one was of these nights I first met Bruce. Bruce grew up in an abusive and drug ridden home. He was robbed of his childhood and ended up on the streets at a very young age. One Thursday night Bruce really wanted to get off the streets and get into a mission. All the missions were closed for the night so we decided to let Bruce come and stay with me for the night and we’d take him to the mission the next day.
When we woke up we took him to the mission to get help. It was later the next day Bruce called us and told us the mission wasn’t safe and the drugs were rampant inside just like the streets. So I called my roommate told him the situation and we decided to have Bruce come and stay with us until we could come up with a plan. Bruce was coming off of drug addiction and hadn’t been in a stable environment for years. He lived with us that entire summer. I was working as a Jr High Youth Leader and Bruce became involved at the church. He finally had a chance to connect with normal people and get back some of the childhood he never had. The church even hired him on to do some maintenance and janitorial work.
After that summer Bruce went to live with my friend Scott for a number of years, where he helped him get on disability, get a job, and get his life back together. Eventually he moved into a group home and lived a normal life for years. Then Bruce found out he had cancer. He was moved into assisted living and they didn’t give him long to live.
But with the Grace of God Bruce beat his cancer. While still living in assisted living Bruce’s cancer came back and he went through another round of Chemo. After he recovered again the state of California would no longer pay for his assisted living. My friend Scott took him in again. Earlier this year Scott and I started talking about what to do with Bruce. I had an extra room in my house and Bruce was sleeping in Scott’s living room. Last Month, Bruce flew back from California with me and has moved into my house. For the first time in years he has his own room. A few times a week he comes down to help out at Morning Glory and he feels like he has purpose. Although, Bruce has lived a crazy life of hurt, pain, and trials he is one of the happiest and nicest people you will ever met.
I share this story because Bruce is an example of person who has been through a lot but was able to go from being an addict and homeless to someone that has gotten to live a full life. I’m not encouraging anyone to take a homeless person home in to live with them but I want to you to know that by feeling compassion and love toward the homeless you can make a difference in their lives. They are people. Have a conversation with them and get to know them. They have hopes and dreams and besides the struggles they face they are often no different than you or me. If you’re afraid to talk with them, then pray for them. I’m nobody special. I followed God’s will in the direction he sent me faithfully even though it seemed so crazy back in 2003. My experience with Bruce changed my life forever. It was those very nights when I first started working with the homeless in Hollywood that God put in me a passion for them that has continued to this very day.
written by Nate Smith