As in most urban settings, people with addiction and mental issues tend to gravitate toward the church. This is true for us because of our location, and it is true because so many with these challenges also live on poverty's edge. That is why I wasn't surprised when M. walked into our worship service yesterday. He's been here before.
Actually, I have been working with him for five years or so, attempting to live-out the Gospel before him, while not seeking to overtly speak about church or Jesus, unless he brings it to the conversation. Instead, I have mostly offered to really listen to him the three or four times he visits each week, which means most of our conversations revolve around me encouraging him to stay on his meds, attend his meetings or respond to his requests for cash (which he always pays back).
So, while I wasn't surprised when he came to church yesterday, I wasn't too excited either. You see, the thing about M. and worship is that he rarely stays for an entire service. Most times, usually during the song-set, he will mosey out of the sanctuary, down the steps and out the door. Which is fine with me, my thinking being -- around here, you are allowed to rise to the level of your own involvement.
Well, yesterday, he walked up to me before the service and said, "Is it OK if I come to your church today?"
To which I replied, "What do you think?"
He grinned and said, "Yeah."
Since he had a twenty minute wait, I offered a seat, not really thinking he would even make the wait-time before the start. But, about five minutes before worship I saw he was still sitting there, so I tossed a prayer over the wall: "LORD, have someone sit by M.," and to my surprise, someone did. When I stood to share my Conversation with the TEXT I noticed that B., a very frail senior adult lady, had moved across the aisle from her seat with her family in order to sit with him.
M. ended up staying for the service, and as B. left she said, "You know M. is a nice man, but he was so nervous I ended up holding his hand."