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A young woman about 20 years old had been living on the streets of a suburban neighborhood for about five years because of her severely abusive alcoholic parents. She was a pleasant-looking young woman behind the tattered and dirty clothes, oily hair, and dirty makeup-free face. Somehow she had managed to avoid the alcohol her parents lived for and the drugs that soothed most of the other homeless people in her area. She had a little old Bible that an aunt had given her when she was 11 years old, that she kept in her one canvas bag that held all of her belongings.

She got by, like most homeless folks, with rummaging for bottles and cans and asking the odd person for spare change, but she never gave herself up to prostitution or stealing. Through all the years of torment, her only refuge was this Bible that she had learned inside and out, which of course led her to depend on the Lord and love him. She had too much pain though, and not enough skills to get out of the situation she was in, but tried to live as close as she could to how the Bible instructed.

For years she had watched people go to the church a couple blocks away from the place she slept alone at night in the bushes. She would look at all the well-dressed people get out of their cars and walk into church as families. She would sit in the parking lot and listen to the muffled music of the worship service, she would pray and read her Bible until the end of the service, and then watch as the people mingled and laughed and hugged before they got back in their cars and drove off. This was her church service. She dreamed of being like "those people" but believed that she could never fit in there.

Finally one day she decided that she would take the money she had made from her collections and instead of food, she would go to value village and buy the prettiest dress she could find. She didn’t know how a dress should fit and felt very uncomfortable wearing it, but she bought what she thought was a very pretty dress. The following Sunday she got up, gathered all the courage she could muster, and put on her dress. She had no place to take a shower and no makeup, but she tried her best to clean her face and do something with her hair.

She trembled with nervousness as she made her way to the church and tried to sneak in so that she wouldn’t have to shake hands with greeters. Of course there was no place to hide so she walked through the foyer attracting a few looks of disgust but mostly people just looked away and ignored her. It took everything she had not to run out of the building, but she stayed and found a seat in the back corner of the sanctuary where she closed her eyes and prayed until the service started moments later. She sobbed not so silently through the entire service knowing that she would probably not put herself through this again, but feeling so ecstatic about having had the chance to at least be a part of one church service in her life, to experience some of what these people did.

She found herself hesitating to leave at the end of the service because she wanted to get all she could out of being there before being asked to leave, or just bolting out of there back to her life. When she decided to get up and leave, the foyer was very busy and it took some effort and much discomfort walking alone through the crowd of cheerful people. She finally did escape, and as she walked toward her "home," a young teenage girl noticed the color of her dress, and interrupted her father asking him who that was walking away, as she had never seen her before. He glanced quickly, finished up his conversation, then looked more intently as she exited the parking lot. As this family was driving home in the same direction as the girl, they noticed her going into the bushes a couple blocks away in her dress.

This family just happened to be a quite wealthy family who regularly took in foster kids who were preparing for independent living when they turned 18. The father had also helped finance a low-cost building project for the homeless in a nearby city. The following Saturday morning, this family went in search of this girl as their curiosity had increased over the week. The dad went into the bushes, where he saw her enter the previous Sunday, and saw her sleeping there with an old blanket over her and her Bible sitting open beside her. He didn’t want to startle her, so he gently kept saying hello from a distance until she finally woke. Before anything else was said, he quickly asked her if she had come to their church the previous week. This sort of lowered her anxiety, and she hesitantly said yes.

The dad ended up putting her in a motel for the night, and the mom gave her some nice clothes and some makeup from home. Sunday morning they picked her up--of course she had been ready for hours. When they saw her, they could barely recognize her because of the difference. Now she got to go to church like everyone else.

After church that Sunday the family took her out for lunch, and by the end of it, they had invited the girl to come live with them, kind of like an adult foster kid, I guess. Within a year, she enrolled and was very successful in Bible college, knowing the Bible as well or better than any teacher or pastor. Today she is living on her own and is the children’s ministry director of an even larger church in that community, which has a huge outreach program for homeless people that she helped initiate.

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