Anthony. That was his name. Anya and I saw him standing on the side of the street holding a sign. He looked tired, hungry, helpless. I walked up to him and asked him if he had eaten dinner yet. His answer was what I assumed it would be; no. So we walked with him to Panera Bread, where the rest of the RJ team was at as well. We made small talk along the way, asking him where he was from, how he ended up here in Chicago, how old he was, etc. I don’t want to include the details about him, because I feel they aren’t important. The important part of this story is simply Anthony.
So I got him some food, and we went and sat down at the table with everyone else from RJ. Immediately, everyone started talking with him, just showing him love; letting him know that they are interested in his story; they really care. I could see Anthony’s eyes lighting up as he was listening to our conversations and joining in as well.
As Anthony was finishing up eating, one of his friends walked into Panera; she was homeless as well. She started talking to him, and the manager of Panera walked over to our table where we were sitting and said “Is there a problem here?” And Anthony simply replied, “No, she’s my friend. And I’m with them.” as he pointed to us. The manager walked away, looked at us, and said “Oh! Have a good evening then.” I cannot even BEGIN to explain to you my anger after that man walked away. Anthony slowly got up, thanked us so much for the food, wished us the best as we embarked on our journey’s, and walked away with his friend. I sat there, still in disbelief that the manager of Panera had the audacity to say that to them. Tears almost started to roll down my cheeks. Who was that man to come up to people and ask them that question just because they didn’t have nice clothing, just because they didn’t look like us, just because he knew they weren’t middle class people? I know it seems insignificant to some, but in that very moment, I wanted to become homeless. If Anthony couldn’t eat at a simple restaurant with normal people without being questioned, then I didn’t want to either. It’s funny, because it’s in that anger that I felt love. I felt love and compassion for people like Anthony; people who couldn’t afford a dinner that night, or a place to sleep. I felt love and compassion for the manager of Panera, who had no idea what was even going on, and who didn’t even take the time to ask.
9 chances out of 10, I will never see Anthony again in my life. But if I did, I would tell him thank you. Thank you for opening up my eyes to see that love goes BEYOND borders, sexual orientation, status quot, normality, classes in society, religion, etc. I have no idea if Anthony even knew who Jesus was, and I regret not asking him. But for some reason, I have a feeling that Anthony’s gonna be okay; he’s going to have one amazing testimony. I’m not going to forget him.
At Living Water Community Church, we got the chance to have an amazing worship experience with people of so many different ethnicities. I would have to say one of the most moving parts of the service was when the African choir came up to lead some songs. I have honestly never felt so touched by music in my life. You see, this church was living simply. There were no pews: only chairs. They didn’t have this crazy awesome sound system, their worship band consisted of a piano player, guitar player, drummer, and 2 singers: no flashy lights. For their potluck meal afterwards, there wasn’t another room they ate; we all picked up our chairs, set up tables in the same place we worshipped, and ate there. The sermon was short, maybe about 15 minutes, but let me say this; it was the most powerful sermon I’ve ever listened to in my life. It was in that moment that I realized that I really disliked what the church was becoming. Why do we need a huge worship band, why can’t we just sing praises? Why do we need built in lights that shine EXACTLY where we want them too? Why do we feel that any sermon under 30 minutes or over 30 minutes is just not following that “30 minute sermon rule.”? Why do we feel that sermons have to be so epic; why can’t they be about studying the Bible, really getting in depth? I mean, have we thought about it at all? There are people gathering in underground churches in Asia, just to READ THE BIBLE. Just to really get in depth, to dig deeper. They have this undying, passionate, love to follow Jesus. That, my friends, is church.