On the way home from a nearby town, I stopped at the usual convenient store near the interstate to get gas.
The pumps were all full because many out-of-state travelers were getting gas as well.
The "old" me was wanting to get upset and impatient. I began to think the other drivers should have been courteous enough to pull away from the pumps and then go in to pay and take care of other business such as shopping, restrooms, etc.
Instead, I decided to find "good" in the bad situation so I focused on the gospel tape which was playing -- a new one I had just purchased in town.
I looked towards the door of the building and watched people, hoping to see the driver of the car at the pump in front of me coming out to move his car.
That's when I saw him.
A homeless man sitting on the pavement against the front of the building. He was bothering no one, just sitting there. It was very obvious he had not had a bath in days. A drink cup from the store set beside him. (It would not dawn on me until later, that - unlike other homeless people I have seen or hitch-hikers - this man had no "belongings" with him. No bags, no change of clothes, nothing).
I automatically turned away. I certainly wanted no "eye contact" with him. The human part of me wanted to totally ignore him.
But God spoke to my heart and the Spiritual part of me wondered, "Does he know God loves him.....does he know Jesus died for him, too?"
I made up my mind, as I sat there waiting to get gas, that when I went in the store that I would get him a bag of food and something to drink. I also planned to share the love of God with him and the "Good News" about Jesus.
The next thing I knew, an unmarked sheriff deputy's car pulled up in front of the store. The officer got out and was talking to the man, who had stood up. It appeared the conversation was not cordial. The man started walking away.
I wanted to go ask the officer if I could just buy the man some food, but I could tell that was not a good idea from the officer's demeanor.
I watched as the man was leaving the parking lot and approaching the interstate just yards away. I knew by the time I got inside the store he would be gone and I would not know which direction he took.
Finally, it was my turn to get gas. I hurriedly pumped what I needed and pulled away from the pump. I went in and gathered some non-perishable food and orange juice for the man.
I went back to my car and found $7 in cash. I dropped the money in the bag and set out looking for this man whom I didn't even want to look at earlier.
I went across the interstate overpass towards the town from which I had come...the direction the man was facing when I saw him last. I knew as tired as he looked and as slow as he walked, he probably had not gotten very far. I was thinking -- Did he go towards town? Did he go under the interstate overpass to find shelter and rest for the night? Did he go north or south on the interstate? Had someone else stopped to help him?
I drove past where he probably would have made it had he gone back towards town. All the while I told God, "God if you want me to help this man, you have to help me find him."
I turned around and went back towards the interstate. There was another convenient store on my left - did he go there? I stopped and went inside. He was not there. I continued my "mission."
As I pulled out of the parking lot, I was approaching the northbound entrance to the interstate. "God should I turn here or cross the bridge and go south?" I asked. I repeated my earlier statement and said,"God if you want me to help him with this little bit of stuff, you have to show me which way to go."
I crossed the bridge and turned south. Just ahead, I saw the man as he walked in the emergency lane.
I pulled over and he came back to the passenger window which I had rolled down about halfway. My Bible was visible on the passenger seat beside of me. He did not attempt to get in my car but as he leaned down I told him I had some food for him.
It had to be God using me as a vessel because I surprised myself when I said, "You know, I have to go to the next exit to turn around to go home, "I'll let you ride that far." (I would not have offered on my own!!)
I never pick up anyone for any reason. It is not safe!!
Stray people, never...stray pets, almost always!! I even stop to help turtles across the road.
Although he looked and smelled awful, he was so polite and so thankful.
During the next 8 or 9 minutes, we talked about God and how Jesus died for our sins. I reminded him how much God loves him.
While I talked to him, I knew there was something about him that seemed "familiar." I couldn't figure it out. He had shoulder-length brown hair and a full beard. Although he had an odor about him, he looked relatively clean. I kept trying to figure out what it was about him that seemed familiar.
Just before he got out of the car, we exchanged first names.
I couldn't speak or move when he told me his name. I didn't catch it at first because he spoke in a low tone and did not look directly at me. When I asked him again, he said, "My name is Eric."
He had turned to face me when he spoke his name again in a louder tone. When our eyes met, I knew that it was his eyes that looked familiar.
He had light green hazel eyes, like those of my nephew Eric, who had died in an automobile accident in the early 90s. I told him about that.
We held hands and prayed together, our fingers intertwining.
The last words I told him were, "Jesus is coming soon...make things right with God and stay focused on Him....and I'm going to look for you in heaven." He said, "Sylvia, I'll look for you in heaven, too."
I had pulled into the parking lot close to the road instead of the building. As I pulled away, after he got out, I looked back to get one last glimpse of this strange but familiar man. He could not have made it to the building before I glanced back to see him.
He was not there ... it was as though he had disappeared into thin air.
Needless to say, a man named "Eric" is now on my prayer list, even though I do not know if he was a real person or an angel.
This story is true. It happened July 19, 2003, on I-65 in Alabama. How do I know? Because I was the driver of the car!
Why did I do it? I am a humble servant of my Heavenly Father. It is my responsibility to obey God. God will take care of the rest. My Heavenly Father is glorified when I follow His commands, even when I do not understand them.
Jesus said, "And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward." (Matt. 10:42 (KJ21 - 21st Century King James Version))
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