March Update

He walked into City Gates “Street Lights” pulling a trash can. It held all his belongings: stale donuts, bags of chips, old fermented fruit cups, a binder full of medical release forms, a soiled pair of jeans and an old blanket–made all the more foul by the trash that was already in the can. We had not seen him since Christmas. I remembered sitting with him one night years ago.  He was drunk and had been beaten up and left in the alley. We prayed together and he accepted Christ that night. He talked about the guilt he carried in his heart for the things he had gotten himself into as a kid, the abuse of his father, the death of his mother.  Drinking had become his way to drown hurt and cope with the pain of living. As I held him, tears rolled down his face and mixed with blood from his broken nose, leaving stains on my jacket.

It was evident his health had failed since we last met and his emotions were running high. He yelled at the team serving on the street to leave him alone and ordered anyone trying to calm him down to not tell him what to do. It turns out that this night his emotions were a result of liver failure. The toxicity flowing into his blood stream was affecting his mind. I am so appreciative of the team on the street that night. They made sure he didn’t hurt himself or anybody else and did all they could to calm him down, even though he was in a state of total disarray.

Talking to him on the side, I learned he had been in contact with an emergency support unit so I called for help and we headed for the Transit Station to wait for the ambulance.  I found myself pulling along his trash can as he held up his pants with one hand and a belt threaded through one belt loop and then slung up over his shoulder.

As we approached the Transit Station he seemed to calm down but he persisted in giving me orders to take his belongings out of the trash can and return the can where he had found it, a block away in an alley.  I did as he directed and when I came back he said, “Thank you. You are the only one who understands. I’ll be okay now.” I prayed for him and then left him there to wait for the ambulance not even coming close to truly understanding the pain, the loneliness, and the hurt this man lived with and not fully believing that I had done anything at all that really helped.

In the days following, I was told that while waiting for transport, the man had another fit of rage. This time he exploded on someone who didn’t acknowledge his needs and a fight broke out and apparently he was beaten up pretty badly.  So much so that the ambulance crew had to perform emergency care there on the street before taking him to the hospital.

In the ebb and flow of life so much competes for our time, attention and energy.  Do you ever wonder what lasting value your life will have?  Will it be measured by how much you accumulate or by the time you spend with people God leads you to touch?  My hope is that somehow people will come to know the love of Jesus and will choose to become the person God had in mind when He created them in their mother’s womb (Psalms 139)  So, is our time wasted if people don’t choose to or are unable to climb out of their pit? Do we ever stop caring? I have been known to say; “You can only help someone as far as they can help themselves. But you never give up on anyone who has yet to become what God has intended them to be” May we never be tempted to give up on loving and caring.

I am deeply grateful for the opportunity God has given me to touch so many people in His name, and for fellowship with so many whose hearts also beat with His great love for the people we work together to reach.  Words cannot adequately express my thanks for everyone who supports the City Gates team.  You bring hope to so many.

Phil Prietto
City Gtaes