Mary and Joseph entered Bethlehem with expected hope that they would find a place to stay for Mary’s baby would be born. Hope with an “!” and not a “?” What they discovered was that indeed Mary would deliver, but the expected hope of a room had quickly shattered. I wonder if they panicked. I would have. But Joseph as the head of the home persisted and pursued.
A Freeway Overpass and One Meal
Recently, I interviewed one of our Family Life students, Tyler Cronkright, who is approaching his senior year at Concordia University Ann Arbor, Mich. His practicum site has him working with the Family of God Lutheran Mission led by Rev. James Hill in southwest Detroit. His work has been with the homeless whose expected hope is a spot to sleep under a freeway overpass and dream hope is to find one meal each day. As I listened and watched Tyler’s body language as he sat in my office, I was mesmerized by the love, concern, and passion he has for this ministry with the homeless. What I witnessed was coming from his deepest heart. I asked him why people became homeless. He shared that some have lost jobs and homes, but many are homeless because of lack of skills and knowledge, or they just grew up on the streets and that is what they know. Some of these people do not even understand that they could have a hope beyond being homeless. It is just not even part of their thinking.
Tyler feels that the courses he has taken through the Family Life program have opened his eyes, given him skills, and prepared him for this opportunity. He learned how to share the gospel with people (those in traditional homes or those who are homeless), to teach resource management, and to lead and listen to the deeper needs of people.
Tyler experienced an entirely different culture working with the homeless; they are a group of people who look out for each other as extended family. Their communication is by word of mouth – no digital here! They know who cares and who will help and listen. And best of all, Tyler has seen such strong spirituality among those he ministers to – people who are very knowledgeable in the Word and understand God’s love and forgiveness. As Tyler ministers, he learns. He also helps turn a dream hope into an expected hope!
The Warmth of One Candle
I must say, I learned a great deal from this 30-minute interview with this awesome young man. What Tyler shared was so compelling that I went home and bought candles to give him because the homeless wrap their hands around the candle as it is often the only warmth that they have during the night. I went through my closets and gathered extra blankets. Every step I took in the ensuing days, I thanked God that I was warm, slept between flannel sheets, and could go to my refrigerator and garner any food that tantalized my tastes buds.
But, there was something else PROFOUND that came out this interview, that sent tears coursing down my cheeks when Tyler left my office; something so unexpected that I could hardly swallow. Tyler shared with me that when he was given this practicum site, his mother was a little concerned because of its location. I understand fully how she must feel. My thoughts turned to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the unexpected and possible panic and fear she too must have felt when it was time for her to give birth. Tyler also shared with me what his father said to him, “If God is calling you, then go.” Tyler left my office with these words on his lips, “My father is the spiritual head of our home, and I know that he is praying for me every night.” Wow – now that’s expected hope!
No Room in the Inn
Mary and Joseph – no room. Those Tyler ministers to – no roof or warmth for their beds. Earthly fathers who are the spiritual heads of their homes – hope! Our Heavenly Father – who knows all our needs, our wants, our failures, our lack of knowledge – sent His Son, the Babe of Bethlehem to be our Savior, and now the Holy Spirit comes to comfort, care for, and shower all with SOLID, ETERNAL HOPE for now and into eternity.