Thursday, October 21, 2010

Transformations at Emmaus Ministries

On Wednesday the Ministry Center becomes a bustling center of activity. We serve both lunch and dinner. Group is offered in the morning and afternoon. In the afternoon there is often a time of either group activities such as group art or a time of sitting together and watching movies.

Last week we watched The Gospel. It is not a film I was not familiar with. It tells the story of a local church and the minister’s two sons. It is a modern day telling of the Prodigal Son. The music is great. I may have been the only person in the room who did not know who all the Gospel singers were. The story line is predictable but not without impact.

So last week this guy who is not new to Emmaus but is new to me shows up at the ministry center. We will call him “Bob”. At lunch time one of the guys sitting next to me begins to serve someone else, putting food on their plate. I realize quickly that if this continues the poor guy will be the last to eat so I take over his job of serving up the food. “Bob” thinks I am dissing the guy and calls me on it in front of everyone. Once he realizes I am actually helping the guy Bob relaxes. It was clear right away that Bob has a strong sense of justice and fairness. It is also clear that he has my attention.

That afternoon I notice Bob sitting in front of the television watching The Gospel. He is not just relaxing and getting a break from “the life.” He is focused and becomes frustrated when other guys talk a little too loud around the television.

By the end of the film it is clear this movie is speaking to Bob and to a number of other guys. These are tough guys; they sleep on the streets, in gang ways, dumpsters and abandoned vehicles. The know violence and they have seen a lot. Still, at the end of the film when the Prodigal Son comes home they are completely silent and are wiping tears from their eyes. This movie is not about the actors it is about them. Perhaps nobody was more connected to the story line that Bob.

Bob does the readings before our meals. He knows his way around a Bible. He prays and he knows how to talk to God and how to listen. He spends more time with staff and spends 1:1 time with our Interim Ministry Director, Lennette. Bob comes out of his meetings with Lennette frustrated. He says she keeps telling him that God has His hand on Bob and has a plan for Bob. She tells Bob he can run from God, he can hide from God but in the end it is still going to be between Bob and God and Bob will have to decide who is going to be in charge of his life.

Last night Bob stayed until the end of the second shift. All of the other guys had left. It was simply staff and school interns. Bob joined us in worship and prayer. As usual he had opinions. He knew what songs he wanted us to sing. He knew what he needed to pray for.

Bob told us he usually stays at a ministry awhile and then disappears. He was getting close to that point. He said he knew God had plans for him and he wasn’t ready for that yet. However, Bob was acting different. He was telling us his escape plan. He was sabotaging his escape from decisions and responsibility. Adlerians would say he was “spitting in his soup” which is a technique that makes past behaviors no longer acceptable. Addictions counselors would say he was protecting himself from his own behaviors. I would say Lennette is a pretty smart person and that God had a plan for Bo b and Bob knew it was getting time for him to decide if he was going to submit.

Bob also believed this. He told us about his family which was composed of clergy. He told us of his own training and study of scripture. Just like in the movie Bob had a brother who followed the straight and narrow path, the good son. Then there was Bob. Just like the movie and more importantly just like the Gospel, Bob knows there will be a place for him at the table should he decide to go home, should he decide to say yes to God.

The Prodigal Son is one of the most powerful themes we have at Emmaus Ministries. Being welcomed home, sitting at the table, walking along side Jesus permeates the art of Emmaus. Still, it was one thing to see static painting on the wall. It is quite another thing to see the story unfolding before you. Bob is transforming and I suspect he is going take a number of us with him.

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