GOD WORKS IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS
It was an unusually cold day for the month of
May. Spring had arrived and everything was alive
with color. But a cold front from the North had
brought winter's chill back to Indiana. I sat,
with two friends, in the picture window of a
quaint restaurant just off the corner of the
towns-square. The food and the company were both
especially good that day.
As we talked, my attention was drawn outside,
across the street. There, walking into town, was
a man who appeared to be carrying all his
worldly goods on his back. He was carrying, a
well-worn sign that read, "I will work for
food." My heart sank. I brought him to the
attention of my friends and noticed that others
around us had stopped eating to focus on him.
Heads moved in a mixture of sadness and
disbelief. We continued with our meal, but his
image lingered in my mind. We finished our meal
and went our separate ways.
I had errands to do and quickly set out to
accomplish them. I glanced toward the town
square, looking somewhat halfheartedly for the
strange visitor.I was fearful, knowing that
seeing him again would call some response. I
drove through town and saw nothing of him. I
made some purchases at a store and got back in
my car. Deep within me, the Spirit of God kept
speaking to me: "Don't go back to the office
until you've at least driven once more around
the square." And so, with some hesitancy, I
headed back into town.
As I turned the square's third corner, I saw
him. He was standing on the steps of the
storefront church, going through his sack. I
stopped and looked, feeling both compelled to
speak to him, yet wanting to drive on. The empty
parking space on the corner seemed to be a sign
from God: an invitation to park. I pulled in,
got out and approached the town's newest
"Looking for the pastor?" I asked.
"Not really," he replied, "just resting."
"Have you eaten today?"
"Oh, I ate something early this morning."
"Would you like to have lunch with me?"
"Do you have some work I could do for you?"
"No work," I replied. "I commute here to work
from the city, but I would like to take you to
"Sure," he replied with a smile.
As he began to gather his things. I asked some
surface questions. "Where you headed?"
"Where you from?"
"Oh, all over; mostly Florida."
"How long you been walking?"
"Fourteen years," came the reply. I knew I had
met someone unusual. We sat across from each
other in the same restaurant I had left earlier.
His face was weathered slightly beyond his 38
years. His eyes were dark yet clear, and he
spoke with an eloquence and articulation that
was startling. He removed his jacket to reveal a
bright red T-shirt that said, "Jesus is The
Never Ending Story."
Then Daniel's story began to unfold. He had seen
rough times early in life. He'd made some wrong
choices and reaped the consequences. Fourteen
years earlier, while backpacking across the
country, he had stopped on the beach in Daytona.
He tried to hire on with some men who were
putting up a large tent and some equipment. A
concert, he thought. He was hired, but the tent
would not house a concert but revival services,
and in those services he saw life more clearly.
He gave his life over to God. "Nothing's been
the same since," he said, "I felt the Lord
telling me to keep walking, and so I did, some
14 years now."
"Ever think of stopping?" I asked.
"Oh, once in a while, when it seems to get the
best of me. But God has given me this calling. I
give out Bibles. That's what's in my sack. I
work to buy food and Bibles, and I give them out
when His Spirit leads."
I sat amazed. My homeless friend was not
homeless. He was on a mission and lived this way
by choice. The question burned inside for a
moment and then I asked: "What's it like?"
"To walk into a town carrying all your things on
your back and to show your sign?"
"Oh, it was humiliating at first. People would
stare and make comments. Once someone tossed a
piece of half-eaten bread and made a gesture
that certainly didn't make me feel welcome. But
then it became humbling to realize that God was
using me to touch lives and change people's
concepts of other folks like me."
My concept was changing, too. We finished our
dessert and gathered his things. Just outside
the door, he paused. He turned to me and said,
"Come Ye blessed of my Father and inherit the
kingdom I've prepared for you. For when I was
hungry you gave me food, when I was thirsty you
gave me drink, a stranger and you took me in."
I felt as if we were on holy ground. "Could you
use another Bible?" I asked. He said he
preferred a certain translation. It traveled
well and was not too heavy. It was also his
personal favorite. "I've read through it 14
times," he said. "I'm not sure we've got one of
those, but let's stop by our church and see." I
was able to find my new friend a Bible that
would do well, and he seemed very grateful.
"Where you headed from here?"
"Well, I found this little map on the back of
this amusement park coupon."
"Are you hoping to hire on there for a while?"
"No, I just figure I should go there. I figure
someone under that star right there needs a
Bible, so that's where I'm going next." He
smiled, and the warmth of his spirit radiated
the sincerity of his mission.
I drove him back to the town-square where we'd
met two hours earlier, and as we drove, it
started raining. We parked and unloaded his
"Would you sign my autograph book?" he asked. "I
like to keep messages from folks I meet."
I wrote in his little book that his commitment
to his calling had touched my life. I encouraged
him to stay strong. And I left him with a verse
of scripture from Jeremiah, "I know the plans I
have for you," declared the Lord, "plans to
prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give
you a future and a hope."
"Thanks, man," he said. "I know we just met and
we're really just strangers, but I love you."
"I know," I said, "I love you, too."
"The Lord is good."
"Yes, He is. How long has it been since someone
hugged you?" I asked.
"A long time," he replied. And so on the busy
street corner in the drizzling rain, my new
friend and I embraced, and I felt deep inside
that I had been changed.
He put his things on his back, smiled his
winning smile and said, "See you in the New
"I'll be there!" was my reply.
He began his journey again. He headed away with
his sign dangling from his bedroll. When you see
something that makes you think of me, will you
pray for me?"
"You bet," I shouted back, "God bless."
"God bless." And that was the last I saw of him.
Late that evening as I left my office, the wind
blew strong. The cold front had settled hard
upon the town. I bundled up and hurried to my
car. As I sat back and reached for the emergency
brake, I saw them, a pair of well-worn brown
work gloves neatly laid over the length of the
handle. I picked them up and thought of my
friend and wondered if his hands would stay warm
that night without them. I remembered his words:
"If you see something that makes you think of
me, will you pray for me?"
Today his gloves lie on my desk in my office.
They help me to see the world and its people in
a new way, and they help me remember those two
hours with my unique friend and to pray for his
ministry. "See you in the New Jerusalem," he
Yes, Daniel, I know I will... "God bless you,
Daniel, wherever your feet take you."
If this story touched you, forward it to a
"I shall pass this way but once. Therefore, any
good that I can do or any kindness that I can
show, let me do it now, for I shall not pass
this way again."
My instructions were to send this to four people
that I wanted God to bless and I picked you.
Please pass this to four people you want to be
blessed as well as the person who sent it to
you. This prayer is powerful and there is
nothing attached, please do not break this
pattern, prayer is one of the best gifts we
receive. There is no cost but a lot of rewards,
let's continue to pray for one another.
God bless and have a nice day! "Father, I ask
you to bless my friends, relatives and e-mail
buddies reading this right now. Show them a new
revelation of your love and power. Holy spirit,
I ask you to minister to their spirit at this
very moment. Where there is pain, give them your
peace and mercy. Where there is self-doubt,
release a renewed confidence through your grace,
In Jesus' precious Name. Amen."
Richard Ryan, the assistant pastor of the Old
Capitol United Methodist Church in Corydon,
Indiana. It first appeared in the July/August
1995 issue The Corydon Democrat magazine and has
since been reprinted in a few inspirational
collections, including A Third Serving of
Chicken Soup for the Soul.