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The first time I saw Tommie he was lurching across the street toward the tent campaign I was conducting in a Midwestern city. It certainly was not unusual for the inebriated to frequent this type of public, open-air meeting. I had encountered that before. Sometimes they came in, usually finding a front row seat to generally make a nuisance of themselves. They laughed, cried, and talked during the proceedings, all at more than normal volume. The ushers, greeters, and deacons were briefed on how to relate to these situations.

But Tommie was different. After the meeting that night, I chatted with him a bit, and discovered he had been encountered earlier in the day. One of the sweet, loving elderly ladies in my church saw him lying in a doorway uptown. She had paused and asked him if he knew that Jesus loved him. He slurred out the response, “Jesus doesn’t care about me. Just look at me!” This dear saint assured him that Jesus does care, and then she invited him to the tent meeting.

Now I must confess that during my pastor/evangelist days, drunks were not my most sought after clientele. But Tommie was different. He sat throughout that first service. He seemed to listen intently, and only occasionally weaved in his seat as if to fall. He was treated with tenderness by the staff and invited to come to the church the next day for food and clothing.

Not Always Sober

Tommie showed up at church bright and early the next morning, according to the Community Services Center director. He was fed and given a change of clothing, which he wore to the tent that second night. He didn’t miss a meeting after that. He was not always sober, but he was always on time.

As we neared the end of the five-week series, it was obvious that a change had taken place. Hair that had been matted and uncombed was now neat. By that time, he had a pretty complete wardrobe from the Center. He was clean and sober. The head elder in the church was a building contractor, and Tommie applied for a job and was hired. I had the extreme pleasure of baptizing him into the church at the end of the summer.

I was transferred from that district and lost track of Tommie. Some years later, and two district transfers later, I had a phone call. It was from a lady who identified herself as Tommie’s sister. I had never met her, though I knew she had taken him in when he sobered up. She just wanted to tell me how much she appreciated the church taking the time and caring enough to rescue her brother from a seemingly hopeless spiral into alcoholism and homelessness. He was now doing fine.

Have you ever been guilty, as I was, to pre-judge a person and decide who is a likely candidate for discipleship? Our Christian commitment and duty demands that we present Jesus through our own loving-kindness and compassion.

What a wonderful surprise it will be one day as we stand on the Sea of Glass! "And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.' " (Matthew 25:40).

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By Walter L Wright. Reprinted with permission from the Lake Union Herald, December 2006. Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW KING JAMES VERSION © 1982.


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