Lesson #2: I’m not that helpful.
During my days in seminary I also worked at Mission Waco (website: here). I started out as an intern. They quickly learned that I was silly enough to do jobs no one else wanted to do … so they hired me. I was put in charge of breakfast – that means I showed up at 5AM (or earlier) each morning to cook breakfast for 100(ish) of my homeless friends. I also worked in a few other areas including doing a shift each week at the overnight shelter. These various jobs allowed me to build relationships with deeply wounded people. One of these people was a young girl named “Vanessa.” She was homeless, had an obvious mental illness, obvious issues with drugs and poor choices. As a girl barely in her 20’s, she had three kids and was living in a homeless shelter.
We had a few points of connection. She grew up in the town in which I finished high school. We enjoyed posing hypothetical questions to each other. Would you rather have a million dollars or a super power? One night she came to me prior to Bible study at the homeless shelter. I don’t remember what she asked – but it was serious. It was not our normal chit-chat. I don’t remember what I said to her. But I do remember puffing my chest out afterward thinking, “I just helped that girl. I just made a real difference in her life.” Basking in my moment of glory I returned to the business at hand and she walked off. I was convinced she was walking off with a new perspective on life.
I was a few sentences into Bible study when a commotion broke out behind me. I turned my head to see people screaming … and blood. It turns out that Vanessa left our “life changing conversation,” went into to sleeping area, took out a razor blade, and carved the word “alone” into her forearm.
Perhaps that was my low point in ministry.
But I did learn the lesson that … I’m not that helpful.