I remember well the humble beginnings in pioneering our church. Our first facility was on the 2nd floor of a building which housed two bars on the lower level. Our location was right in the heart of downtown. During the walk to our cars at night, we often met with solicitations from drug addicts scheming for money. Those seeking financial assistance came regularly ~ the same sad story repeated. One who randomly attended, at least for a handful of years, was Bascum.
Alcohol had altered his gait, and his mind had been severely impaired by years of addiction. Stains and smells on his clothing could have brought him shame–had he been aware of them. Though he had limited conversation with our members, it was obvious that his mind had also been affected. Most always, he was half-shaven.
The question was: Who was going to sit next to him? Who would warmly welcome him to our flock? It was obvious that God had called us to a “pop quiz.”
Most memorable was the Christmas that the children of our church filled a basket with practical items for Bascum. A comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, fruit, candy, toboggan, gloves, a Bible, etc., brought him great such joy. What an unforgettable sight it was to see him walking three blocks away to his government-supported facility, sporting a wide grin, and holding tight to his precious gift basket.
One Sunday morning, after a few years in relatively quiet attendance, Bascum raised his hand to speak. All eyes turned his way. He testified to have walked into several downtown churches over the years–some large ones–some small ones–adding that he was shunned in most and asked to leave from others. His simple, clear message was to thank us for welcoming him into our young church family and for loving him as Jesus would love His children.
Our hearts were arrested. Most of us wept. What if we’d shunned him, or moved away from his seat, or called him down when he walked in front of the podium to go to the restroom, or failed to consider his basic needs? I don’t want to think how close we came–at least in our thoughts.
Not long after this time of testimony, Bascum’s health declined even more. We were called to the hospital to visit him. We hardly recognized him: clean and shaven. He was so proud his pastors were there. The joy was ours; Bascum had walked right into our hearts. Recovery was limited as he entered a rehabilitation facility where we visited him for a short while until Bascum met his Lord.
I often wonder what “grade” Father God would have given us on the attitudes of our hearts. Though we had received Bascum by our actions, perhaps our thoughts or judgments could have reduced our score.
We never know when another “pop quiz” is going to be sprung on us. Maybe our scores will improve if we practice the art of loving the least of these. We could be entertaining smelly, urine-stained, half-shaven”angels unaware.”