This is day 22 of 31 Days of Songs and Stories. For an index of all the posts in the series, click here.
This is an edited version of a post from April so if you have been following my blog for a while you may have read this story before, but I felt that it fit well with the series so wanted to include it again here.
When I first felt God’s prompting to go and speak to Fran, I tried to resist. It was just too far outside my comfort zone. I didn’t understand why he would want me to do that. What was I going to say anyway? At that point I didn’t even know her name.
Fran was a homeless lady. She sat outside one of the shops on the high street and I had noticed her a few times. I think what caught my attention was the fact that she wasn’t begging, she wasn’t asking for anything, she was just sitting there, in the same spot every day. And now God was asking me to go and speak to her. It was the last thing I wanted to do but I knew I had to obey.
Reluctantly, nervously, and dragging an even more reluctant friend along with me, I went over and spoke to her. I can’t even remember what I said but we got her a cup of tea and sat there with her for a while. From that point it began to develop into a friendship of sorts. Most days I would pass the place where Fran sat and often I would go and talk with her.
I began getting to know her and I discovered that she was intelligent and well-educated and that she was a lovely person. I never found out the details of her past or why she was homeless, but it was clear that she was bound by fear in various areas of her life. One day when it was cold and wet, I tried to take her into a cafe but the owner asked us to leave, which made me mad. I told her of a church cafe where I knew she would be welcome but, although it was only a five minute walk away, she became anxious at the thought and refused to go. That little spot on the street was where she felt safe.
We would often talk about God. She believed in God but doubted that God would bother with her. She did ask me to pray for her though, and to ask God to change her heart.
One day, a few weeks after I first spoke to Fran, I was walking away after talking with her, when I had another prompting from God. “Give her your Bible.”
Again it didn’t make much sense but I thought, okay, I could get her a Bible and give it to her. She might like that.
But God spoke again, “No, give her your Bible, today.”
I can’t say I wanted to. My Bible was nothing fancy- it was pretty scruffy really, with bent pages and a cover that was taped together- but you get used to your own Bible. It had only been in the past few years that I had got serious about reading the Bible, and I’d been through a lot with my little green Bible. I didn’t want to give it up, and I thought it would have been nicer to get a new Bible for Fran, but this was clearly what God was asking so I knew there must be a reason.
Later that day I went to give Fran the Bible. She was so pleased to receive it. I had placed a marker in Psalm 91 and I pointed it out to her and told her that had helped me when I was afraid. The following day I only saw her briefly, but she told me she had read the Psalm and she liked it.
That was the last time I saw her.
The next day when I walked past she wasn’t there, and she never returned. I did hear from a homeless man who was her friend that she was okay and she had gone to stay with a relative but that’s all I ever heard.
It has been several years since I saw Fran and sometimes I remember and wonder how things turned out. Did the Bible help her? Did God change her heart? What was the purpose of those few weeks I spent talking with her?
I’ll probably never know this side of heaven but I look forward to discovering the whole story one day.
One thing I learned from that experience is the importance of obeying God’s promptings. We don’t always get to know the full story. I have no idea about Fran’s past and the circumstances that led to her homelessness. I have no idea about what happened after she disappeared. I only know that for those few weeks God asked me to play a part in her life and I tried to be obedient to that.
Around the time that I met Fran, I heard the song “Beautiful Stranger” by Rebecca St James, and whenever I hear the song now I am reminded of her and of the importance of reaching out to those in need and showing them that someone cares.
“Do you see me?”
The question’s in her eyes
“Do you relate to the pain I can’t disguise?”
Oh, look beyond what you see
The outside is not all there is.
Won’t You tell me now when did I see
You in need of water?
Oh, and tell me now, when did I see You
Hungry on the street?
God, I hear You calling out to me
In the voices of the least of these,
Calling me to reach beyond my world
To the beautiful stranger.”