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Meeting Daniel

I sat, with two friends, in the picture window of a
quaint restaurant just off the corner of the
towns-square. The food and the company were both
especially good that day.
As we talked, my attention was drawn outside, across
the street. There, walking into town, was a man who
appeared to be carrying all his worldly goods on his
back. He was carrying, a well-worn sign that read, "I
will work for food." My heart sank. I brought him to
the attention of my friends and noticed that others
around us had stopped eating to focus on him. Heads
moved in a mixture of sadness and disbelief. We
continued with our meal, but his image lingered in my
mind. We finished our meal and went our separate
ways. I had errands to do and quickly set out to
accomplish them.
I glanced toward the town square, looking somewhat
halfheartedly for the strange visitor. I was fearful,
knowing that seeing him again would call some
response. I drove through town and saw nothing of
him. I made some purchases at a store and got back in
my car.
Deep within me, the Spirit of God kept speaking to me:
"Don't go back to the office until you've at least
driven once more around the square." And so, with some
hesitancy, I headed back into town. As I turned the
square's third corner. I saw him. He was standing on
the steps of the storefront church, going through his
sack. I stopped and looked; feeling both compelled to
speak to him, yet wanting to drive on.
The empty parking space on the corner seemed to be a
sign from God: an invitation to park. I pulled in, got
out and approached the town's newest visitor. "Looking
for the pastor?" I asked.
"Not really," he replied, "just resting."
"Have you eaten today?"
"Oh, I ate something early this morning."
"Would you like to have lunch with me?"
"Do you have some work I could do for you?"
"No work," I replied. "I commute here to work from the
city, but I would like to take you to lunch."
"Sure," he replied with a smile.
As he began to gather his things. I asked some surface
questions.
"Where you headed?"
"St. Louis."
"Where you from?"
"Oh, all over; mostly Florida."
"How long you been walking?"
"Fourteen years," came the reply.
I knew I had met someone unusual. We sat across from
each other in the same restaurant I had left earlier.
His face was weathered slightly beyond his 38 years.
His eyes were dark yet clear, and he spoke with an
eloquence and articulation that was startling. He
removed his jacket to reveal a bright red T-shirt that
said, "Jesus is The Never Ending Story."
Then Daniel's story began to unfold. He had seen rough
times early in life. He'd made some wrong choices and
reaped the consequences. Fourteen years earlier, while
backpacking across the country, he had stopped on the
beach in Daytona. He tried to hire on with some men
who were putting up a large tent and some equipment. A
concert, he thought. He was hired, but the tent would
not house a concert but revival services, and in those
services he saw life more clearly.
He gave his life over to God. "Nothing's been the same
since," he said, "I felt the Lord telling me to keep
walking, and so I did, some 14 years now."
"Ever think of stopping?" I asked.
"Oh, once in a while, when it seems to get the best of
me. But God has given me this calling. I give out
Bibles. That's what's in my sack. I work to buy food
and Bibles, and I give them out when His Spirit
leads."
I sat amazed. My homeless friend was not homeless. He
was on a mission and lived this way by choice. The
question burned inside for a moment and then I asked:
"What's it like?"!
"What?"
"To walk into a town carrying all your things on your
back and to show your sign?"
"Oh, it was humiliating at first. People would stare
and make comments. Once someone tossed a piece of
half-eaten bread and made a gesture that certainly
didn't make me feel welcome. But then it became
humbling to realize that God was using me to touch
lives and change people's concepts of other folks like
me."
My concept was changing, too. We finished our dessert
and gathered his things. Just outside the door, he
paused. He turned to me and said, "Come Ye blessed of
my Father and inherit the kingdom I've prepared for
you. For when I was hungry you gave me food, when I
was thirsty you gave me drink, a stranger and you took
me in."
I felt as if we were on holy ground. "Could you use
another Bible?" I asked.
He said he preferred a certain translation. It
traveled well and was not too heavy. It was also his
personal favorite. "I've read through it 14 times," he
said.
"I'm not sure we've got one of those, but let's stop
by our church and see."
I was able to find my new friend a Bible that would do
well, and he seemed very grateful. "Where you headed
from here?"
"Well, I found this little map on the back of this
amusement park coupon."
"Are you hoping to hire on there for a while?"
"No, I just figure I should go there. I figure someone
under that star right there needs a Bible, so that's
where I'm going next."
He smiled, and the warmth of his spirit radiated the
sincerity of his mission. I drove him back to the
town-square where we'd met two hours earlier, and as
we drove, it started raining.
We parked and unloaded his things.
"Would you sign my autograph book?" he asked.
"I like to keep messages from folks I meet."
I wrote in his little book that his commitment to his
calling had touched my life. I encouraged him to stay
strong. And I left him with a verse of scripture from
Jeremiah, "I know the plans I have for you," declared
the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you.
Plans to give you a future and a hope."
"Thanks, man," he said. "I know we just met and we're
really just strangers, but I love you."
"I know," I said, "I love you, too."
"The Lord! is good."
"Yes, He is. How long has it been since someone hugged
you?" I asked.
"A long time," he replied.
And so on the busy street corner in the drizzling
rain, my new friend and I embraced, and I felt deep
inside that I had been changed. He put his things on
his back, smiled his winning smile and said, "See you
in the New Jerusalem."
"I'll be there!" was my reply.
He began his journey again. He headed away with his
sign dangling from his bedroll and pack of Bibles. He
stopped, turned and said, "When you see something that
makes you think of me, will you pray for me?"
"You bet," I shouted back, "God bless."
"God bless." And that was the last I saw of him.
Late that evening as I left my office, the wind blew
strong. The cold front had settled hard upon the town.
I bundled up and hurried to my car. As I sat back and
reached for the emergency brake, I saw them... a pair
of well-worn brown work gloves neatly laid over the
length of the handle. I picked them up and thought of
my friend and wondered if his hands would stay warm
that night without them.
I remembered his words: "If you see something that
makes you think of me, will you pray for me?"
Today his gloves lie on my desk in my office. They
help me to see the world and its people in a new way,
and they help me remember those two hours with my
unique friend and to pray for his ministry.
"See you in the New Jerusalem," he said. Yes, Daniel,
I know I will... If this story touched you, forward it
to a friend! "I shall pass this way but once.
Therefore, any good that I can do or any kindness that
I can show, let me do it now, for I shall not pass
this way again."


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