Today, as I was walking around Downtown Asheville, I had the opportunity to make a bench buddy. While taking a load off, I was able to talk to this gentleman and find out a little bit more about him…
William is an 80-something year old man. He recently left his home state of California to make his way to the mountains of Western North Carolina. He hitch-hiked all the way here. Everything that he has was given to him. In fact, I gave him the furry jean jacket he is wearing. All he had with him was a backpack, bought by a couple from Walmart, and a sleeping bag, handed down to him from some guy in a pickup truck. The little speck of food stuck in his beard? Yeah, some lady just brought him a sandwich and 5 grapes. What is more interesting is what was given to him that you can’t see. Under all those layers of clothing, William has a pacemaker sticking out of his chest. William has Congestive Heart Failure and struggles with arryhthmia. He has 4 stents in his chest.
Ah!! That’s why he’s here! He is here to see the doctors at Asheville Cardiology Associates to get his pacemaker checked. Right? ACA is the one of the best in the business and it’s no more than a few miles down the road! NO. William is not here for that. He can’t afford to have any more work done. In fact, the doctors he has seen have all told him that he doesn’t have much longer to live. William is dying.
“I left California a few weeks ago. I didn’t wanna die there… so here I am. Brother, I can’t even get into the shelter down the way. They won’t take me cause they’re afraid I’ll conk out on ’em. I’ve got my sleepin’ bag though, so I reckon I’ll just sleep out here tonight; but hey, I won’t get cold now with this here jacket! Man, I sure do appreciate it brother.”
Born in East Tennessee, he spent a good many days in Cumberland around the Tennessee River. We got to talking about where I come from and where I’m at now. I found out that we knew a lot of the same roads in Tennessee, so I told him about the small college that I go to around where he grew up. He asked me what I was studying, and I told him I was studying Intercultural Studies so that I can do missions work around the world.
That opened the door for me to ask him if he had any faith and if he believed in Jesus Christ.
“Well, I used to go to church a long time ago… but I don’t go no more. That was some time ago. You know what, I heard about one of the deacons in the church had gone and molested some little girl. I said, ‘if that’s the way they’re gonna act, I don’t want no part of none of that!’ So I said I’d never go back to that church, and I never have been back in church since then.”
I then proceeded to explain to him that, as you know, nobody (in or out of the church) is perfect- that we’re all sinners. I told him that I’m a Christian and I’m not perfect. He agreed that nobody was. I told him that sure, it was wrong for that guy to do what he did, but that being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re never going to screw up again. I assured him that even if he was in church, he would still fail to meet God’s expectations; but God, if we confess our sins, is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God can even forgive that man back in that church he went to so long ago.
I asked him if he was opposed to going to church again. He returned to this thought:
“Well, I ain’t got much time left to live. I’m not sure it would do anythin’ for me. But, nah… I ain’t got a problem goin I guess. Just haven’t done it.”
As a Christian, what would you do next?