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As 2011 faded into 2012, I checked my voicemail to find a voice there that I’d never heard before. It was a man named Patrick whose voice resonated with a hard earned certainty that I wouldn’t actually get back in touch with him. He had just moved south from Massachusetts in eager pursuit of a new life and new opportunities, having left behind his family, friends, and community. When we finally talked, he admitted that it was a complicated story that brought him to a city like Danville where opportunities are often in short supply for those who most desperately need them. He was close to finding somewhere permanent to stay but needed a couple more days to finalize the paperwork. Some of our leaders conferred quickly, keeping to our “no lone rangers” rule and we were able to provide Patrick with a place to stay that wasn’t cold or wet. Instead, that night Patrick rested comfortably for the first time in a while.
Soon, Patrick was getting on his feet and had a wonderful (and safe) place to stay. With a little bit of help every now and then, Patrick was starting to get established in our midst. He continued to come to our meals and Bible studies, not just because he felt obligated but because he was finding comfort and peace at bread was broken and stories were shared. He soon began worshiping with us on Sunday evening and his gentle and kind spirit was revealed to everybody who met him in our little chapel. Once he had his feet underneath him, he felt comfortable enough to begin to share himself and his talents with us. Patrick is a lover of good coffee and conversation. Patrick is remarkably well-read in theology and ministry as well as science fiction and classic literature. Patrick is a talented artist and quick-witted—even some of his doodles and margin notes seem worthy of a frame. Patrick was quickly becoming an essential piece of our community and its gatherings and we were glad to see the leader emerging in him as he processed through some of the reasons he had left Massachusetts behind.
So, it came as a bittersweet surprise when he let me know that God was directing him to return to the home he had fled and to find the grace hidden there in relationships he had assumed dead. So, we helped him pack up with tearful eyes and a big Mexican lunch before praying for him as he left aboard the early-morning north-traveling train out of Danville. Patrick is back in Massachusetts now after having found his reason for being there in a little city in Southside Virginia where opportunities may be hard to find, but more and more grace is being uncovered every day. His note to us once he made it back was: “[I am] thankful for the experiences down in Danville. Eyes were definitely opened much wider down there. Big thanks to the Grace and Main missionaries who deserve all my love and gratitude. The love they show the homeless, jobless, and addicted is an amazing testimony to the power of love over the suffering plaguing society today. May God bless you even more.”
Patrick was only with us for a little while. Some might look at this as a little thing or as a missed opportunity, but at Grace and Main Fellowship we know that sometimes we are called to be a temporary home for brothers and sisters bound for some other place or community. When God brings such a person in our lives, we rejoice with, mourn with, and love them as best as we know how for the time that God has placed in our lives. Not everybody stays forever and that’s okay.
May God bless you Patrick, our wayfaring stranger from the north. You were a blessing to our community and remain in our prayers.