From the Field: David Was Different

By John Ames

It is not uncommon for the staircase outside of the Send Relief Boston Ministry Center to have occupants.

Some sit for a few moments to make a phone call, others to smoke a cigarette and then some, like David, who are experiencing homelessness, depend on those stairs for a moment of reprieve.

As our team went to and from meetings and activities in the city, we regularly encountered David, seated in his usual spot—the right side of the staircase, leaning against a railing.

Throughout the last year, we continually stopped and talked with David, learning bits and pieces of his story along the way. As it turned out, he was a military veteran about to turn forty years old; he had never been homeless before; and he wasn’t even from Boston. As such, every experience, every change of season, every discovery of a resource—all of it was new for him.

David was always willing to talk and was always willing to receive prayer.

His openness caused our team to lean in with eagerness. Like Luke writes about Peter and John and their interaction with the lame beggar, we too were very interested in directing our gaze towards this man. Despite it being hard to see David in a very obvious battle with discouragement and alcoholism, the image of God was always on display in his person. Both his smile and sense of humor were a consistent part of our exchanges.

When he accepted our offer, we gave David packed lunches with snacks and bottles of water, cans of soda or cups of hot chocolate. On one occasion, the facilities manager at our center got into a discussion with David about the identity and character of Jesus and wound up giving him a book to read. David did read it and told several of us just how helpful it had been for him.

All of this made it very difficult when we stopped seeing him. It had been months since David had shown up on the staircase.

It was a Thursday.

I was going about my routine and coming back from lunch. I walked through the entry way and took the elevator to the fifth floor. Ding! I stepped off and turned the corner towards my office, and there he was!

David was standing in the hallway and talking with our Beloved Initiative coordinator, a woman named Faith. As it turns out, our facilities manager had connected with David downstairs and had brought him up to meet with us. The closer I got, the more I could see it.

David was different. It was mostly in his posture and in his eyes. He just seemed more relaxed and hopeful. I shook his hand, and the three of us sat down in my office to catch up.

Over the next 30 minutes, David would share about how he had enrolled in a program at a local center for veterans and was now sober and doing really well. He expressed that he was looking for a job and trying to learn some new skills. It was nearly impossible to keep the smiles off our faces as we listened. After talking with David about how his life was improving and on the path to transformation, the door to a spiritual conversation seemed open, so I walked through it.

I mentioned to David that in wanting to help him on this restorative journey the best we could, it only seemed right to also share with him how his soul could be healed.

Over the next few minutes, Faith and I communicated how Jesus had met us and brought wholeness into our lives. David had questions. When he mentioned he hadn’t ever read the Bible, I gladly walked him over to my bookshelf and started the process of picking out one of mine to give him. After grazing over several different versions, I settled on a study Bible.

I opened it up, wrote David’s name in the front cover, then my own and the date. Faith and I encouraged him to start in the Gospel of Mark and showed him how to use all of the study tools to help answer his questions.

Before walking downstairs, I got David’s new contact information, and we spent time praying with him and for him. He was expressively grateful. As I waved goodbye, I thanked God for the opportunity to see His hand at work and to witness to His goodness.

God is at work in Boston, and David is a developing picture of His faithfulness.

Published December 1, 2023