How a traffic light encounter changed my idea of giving
Just another church clothing drive. That’s what Fuel Team member Caroline Maile thought of Warm Up Winter before one experience changed her mind.
I honestly never really thought much about Warm Up Winter other than that it was a great opportunity to clean out my cupboards. I knew it would help someone somewhere along the line but I didn’t expect to feel the real weight of what we were doing or ever find out whose lives we might be impacting. But my whole perception of the campaign changed drastically this year on the way to drop off my small group’s clothing collection.
It all started with a mix up. My small group had decided to give the clothes we’d gathered and sorted to one organisation, but we got the drop off details confused and so had to change our plan to give to Westlake United Church Trust instead. Initially, I was a bit upset as we’d prayed about it and I’d felt that our original organisation was the one that really needed the clothes. Little did I know that this was all part of God’s plan.
On our way to Westlake to drop off the clothes, we stopped at traffic lights in Claremont and I noticed a guy standing next to our car with the warmest smile. I smiled back at him and then I noticed that he was holding a crutch in his right arm and a sign board in his left.
I never usually read these signs because they usually say the same thing: “dear madam/sir in need of a job and money pls, have 5 kids to feed God bless.” But this guy seemed different so I took a moment to read his sign. It said, “All im asking for is clothes to keep warm and anything else you have to give please, thank you and God bless.”
I laughed out loud at the thought of God’s sense of humour. People don’t usually carry around spare clothes in their car, so this guy was really taking a chance out of pure desperation, but we happened to have a boot full of warm clothes. This was all he was asking for and we had it. We pulled off to the side of the road and I chose a bag for him filled with some smart shirts, jackets, pants, new shoes and warm scarves. As I walked closer to him I noticed he had tears streaming down his cheeks. He was so incredibly grateful for this single bag of clothing.
I took the opportunity to ask him his name and to get to know a little bit more about him. I told him a bit about myself and that these clothes were a blessing from God. I told him that God loved him and was looking after him even though his life might be really tough right now. I encouraged him to not give up hope and to pray to Jesus. The more I spoke, the more he cried.
When I asked him about his limp and his life on the streets, he told me that he’d been using drugs as an escape and that he’d had a stroke as a result which had damaged the whole left-side of his body. He had no use of his left hand and could barely use his left leg. I asked him if he was still using drugs and he told me that he wasn’t because God had warned him that the next time it would be his life. I asked if I could pray for him as I felt a word for him from God on my heart. I prayed for healing, restoration and a real revelation of Christ in his life. Afterwards, he threw his arms around me as best he could and thanked me. I was filled with such joy and my heart overflowed with love and a deep desire to change the world.
It’s crazy how God used us to bless this guy and to give him a sense of hope and dignity. We were also able to remind him that God cares deeply for us and loves us even in the midst of our suffering. This encounter also really changed my perception on giving. I’m now more aware of the opportunities we are given to give and the greater plans that God has for us to bless and be blessed.
So not only was someone’s life warmed by the clothes we were able to give them but my heart was also warmed and changed by this simple act of giving.
Do you have a Warm Up Winter story? We’d love to hear it!