When I was CEO of the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles my work was busy and sometimes hard emotionally. I often walked two blocks down Main Street to a mall to have a coffee break. The mall was open sky and one floor level beneath LA street level. There were lots of trees and plants that made a good change from the Mission.
On this particular day my head was in a cloud thinking of all the things that had happened that morning. Being in a cloud was often a bad thing. If in walking past a street person I failed to greet him it bothered him. Then sometimes he might catch me later and ask if I was mad at him.
As I was walking along I felt someone looking at me intently. I stopped immediately and came out of the cloud. The man looking at me was a street man I did not know. I introduced myself and said. ” I just wanted to tell you that God loves you”. Then I prepared to walk on to the mall.but then somehow, I could tell the man wanted to talk.
“He said “You only think God loves me because you don’t know what I have done”.
I replied ” I don’t know much about you it’s true but I know God loves you because God loves me despite all the things I have done. I know God loves you too”.
“Yeah but you don’t what I have done”
“That’s true but the Bible teaches me God loves you”.
“Yeah but you don’t know what I have done”.
For a few seconds I didn’t know what to say next. Then I said “Why don’t you tell me what you have done”.
He said “I was in the army in Vietnam. My unit had lost so many brothers to enemies we felt the villagers had hidden at night. We just lost it . We mowed down everyone including women and children”.
I said “Your problem is your arrogance. You think there is something about you that is bigger than God. I am here to tell you that your sin is like a paper match trying to stay lit when it is being hit by a fire hose”.
He stopped there and just looked at me,.
It got quiet for a while then he said “Thank you Chaplain” turned and walked away.
So many times I would be listening to a guy at the mission talking to me thinking “When this guy quits talking to me he is going to expect me to have something intelligent to say.
Every time that happened the Holy Spirit would give me the right response. Very often the response I had for the guy was just what I needed to hear for myself