I want to start telling you the stories of the people whom I’ve met. They’re the reason I came and the evidence of the work God is doing. He has used each of them to break me, mold me and remake me.
The first wonderful man I want to tell you about is Patch.
We met him a few weeks ago as we did an activity called “homeless sacklunch” in the civic centre, just at the bottom of the United Nations plaza, in the midst of the market there. We had been having trouble finding anyone to share lunch with, circling numerous times before seeing an older, burlier looking man standing with a cart that was piled high on the edge of the side walk. A little timidly we approached him and asked if he’d like to eat with us; he said yes but that he wouldn’t sit down, so we just stood.
For some reason, as we discussed his family and childhood; the way he had grown up on a farm and had ridiculous competitions with his brother; the plants he was growing in the pots in his cart (pumpkins, corn and palm trees); he really reminded me of my dad. He couldn’t be all that much older and beneath the beard and cap, under the harsh exterior, there was a gentleness, a quietness, a compassion and childlikeness to be rivalled. He was so proud of his plants, so full of love that he was desperate to care for something, anything.
Before we left him we offered to pray with him. He said that there was nothing that he needed prayer for but that we should pray for everyone else who needs help. Caleb prayed for him and as he prayed for the growth of his plants he took both us into a big bear hug. Then, as Caleb came to pray for everyone else, as he had requested, Patch let out this huge growl. We were standing in the middle of civic centre, surrounded by tourists and business people, market stalls on either side of us but he just roared like a lion as Caleb and I laughed with joy at his enthusiasm.
All this was about a month ago and, though we’ve been keeping an eye out for him, there’s been no sign of Patch. Until two nights ago. I was with a group at the civic centre again and there he was. He had spoken to some of my group members whilst I was with another guy and he had started to walk away. As soon as I was finished I ran over to the others to ask if it was him and, as soon as they confirmed that it was, I tore up the UN Plaza to catch him.
He didn’t remember me at all. But was pleasantly surprised at how much I knew about him.
I asked him how his plants were getting on and he said that everybody needs something or someone to care for and plants are the easiest things to do that for so he had given them to really good homes. I asked him if he still wanted to live on his farm and he said no because he would just sit in a rocking chair all day watching the fields of corn and he would get bored because he doesn’t like doing the same thing all day every day.
His hands hadn’t changed a bit. His nails were still sharpened to points and his palms were still black, encrusted with the dirt of the street. As I shook his hands they felt like a kind of sand paper or really rough leather. But beneath the harsh exterior remained a beautiful, gentle soul.
I did a little jump of joy as we walked away, so excited to have met my friend again and to be able to remind him that someone is thinking of him.