People’s Park Pizza

July 24, 2013

My stomach was turning in knots as I approached, knowing the disappointment that my words would cause.  Jerry has been coming to our church for the last year and has been a model of faithfulness and hard work.  Whenever there is a spill that needs cleaning, chairs needing to be moved, or a garden project to be done, Jerry is the most willing and able of us all.

On this morning I had to break the news to Jerry that he couldn’t come with us to family camp.  It was a decision that was painful to make.  You see, Jerry is alcoholic and homeless and is given to fits of rage with a nasty habit of stealing things.  His behavior around the opposite sex is also questionable.  Family camp is not the place for Jerry at this time in his life.

But I didn’t want to tell him this.  I desperately want Jerry and all the other homeless to know that they are dearly loved and are a part of the family of God.  They are also important members of our faith community.  How was I to tell him that he was loved but yet not allowed to be with us for a fun weekend at the lake?

After consulting several friends and asking for lots of prayer, I went searching for Jerry on the morning we were supposed to leave.  I saw Ralphie-Boy and asked if he had seen Jerry.  “Yes.  He’s waiting for you.  He’s been talking about camp all week.”

My only thought? “Great. Just great.”  I walked over to the park where Jerry was supposed to be at but there was no sign of Jerry.  I walked back to Ralphie-Boy and the others.

“Hey Pastor Dave.  If you aren’t going to be here this weekend, then are we having tacos?” asked Mike.

“No.  We will all be gone.  There won’t be any tacos this Sunday.”

The disappointment was palpable.

“Hey Pastor Dave.  I have an idea”, said Ralphie-Boy.  “What if I buy some pizzas and we have People’s Park Pizza on Sunday?”

“That’s a great idea!” I said.

“Would it be alright if I said a prayer?  I really like it when we pray” asked Ralphie-Boy.

“Of course!” I exclaimed.  I pressed a few bucks into his hand, walked away and a smile came across my face.  It held there for about 3 seconds, until I saw Jerry walking directly toward me.  I steeled my will and determination and came to meet him, but he beat me to the punch.

“Hey Pastor Dave, I have been doing some thinking.  I am not going to go camping at the lake.  I know how hot it gets up there and I get really cranky when it’s hot.  I won’t be any fun at all.”

“Well, Jerry, that’s probably the right call.”

“So are we going to have tacos on Sunday if you all are camping?”

“No, but Ralphie-Boy is organizing People’s Park Pizza for Sunday.  Do you think you could help him out?”

“That’s a great idea.  Do you think I could read a Scripture?  Could you help pick out a Scripture for me to read when we begin?”

I said once again, “Of course!”

As I walked away, the smile came back to my face even bigger and wider than it had been before.  A prayer was said, the 23rd Psalm was read, and the community meal in Isla Vista took place once again under the banner of Jesus Christ.