We first met Lee (not his real name) in August of 2007. He had moved down to attend Tulane Law School, and he and his roommates were reticent to make friends. They had been here a couple of weeks when we had to evacuate for Hurricane Gustov, the first threat since Katrina. We invited them to go with us, but they were “outta-here!” They packed up their house completely—100%—and left. We tried to tell them otherwise, but they were petrified.
Upon return, we began working to build a relationship with them—helping them settle back in and chatting when we saw them. With time they started joining us for meals and parties. We recognized their birthdays, did some house sitting, helped them with odd jobs, etc. After a while, our conversations moved deeper and they became regulars at Matthew’s Table, our weekly community dinner.
Then, about a year and half into knowing us, they began asking spiritual questions and daring to ask about the “touchy subjects” of where we stand. Afterwards, as is common, they retreated a bit, almost feeling exposed after asking more personal questions. Lee’s quest continued though, stronger than the others.
As some in our community began inviting him to do things with them, their friendships grew deeper. Then, surprising to us all, Lee began to use “we” language in identifying himself with us, as one of us. He began open conversations about God, his faith, his longings, his hurts, and his value of our relationship with him—wanting to “do the things we do” to serve others. He began praying with us, joining us for the majority of our weekly meals, and planning his future around living near and with us.
One night I picked Lee up from the airport. On our drive home he shared about his trip and the deep aches he had for his family. The next day I watched him during our community’s time of worship. We sat in the courtyard on a beautiful warm sunny morning and Lee closed his eyes to worship, dug into his Bible, and leaned into the discussion. He asked us to pray for his sister’s family and some hurts they were feeling as post-divorce fighting got deeper.
There he was, a guy reticent to go to any church, following in the way of Jesus. As I sat back and looked around at the web of people who all shared in his pilgrimage, accepting him unconditionally and loving him sacrificially, I felt great joy.
It wasn’t a theological debate that won Lee to God; it was the love of Christ that melted his resistance and drew him in. We didn’t do anything special, we just loved him.
Six months ago Lee married another member of our community. Together they’re now moving into a new neighborhood of New Orleans, a place where they can be the hands and feet of Jesus, lovingly embracing others on their journey toward the Lord.
New Orleans, Louisiana