Ministering to Homeless Women with Children, Widows, and At-Risk Inner City Youth in Chattanooga, Tennessee USA

Man, This is Heaven!

By Jim Sanders

His thin frame as seen daily on the streets of Alton Park in South Chattanooga always pushing a grocery cart as he would rummage through garbage containers for food, clothing, shoes, etc. I came to know him then as Sam, an elderly retired construction worker, who now wandered aimlessly every day searching for real meaning in his life. He gathered aluminum cans to recycle and on the first of the month he received a small social security check with which he usually bought a few bottles of wine. He and his friends on the corner below the mission usually drank themselves into a stupor.

We urged him to come to our chapel service on Sunday afternoon, and one day he surprised us all by showing up. Sam surrendered his life to the Lord. Sam shared many intimate details of his life with me. He served our country in active combat as a young man and understood the fact that the Lord had protected his life and brought him safely back home. Sam’s combat experiences had left him with many troubled emotions with which he was trying to overcome with God’s help.

Sam shared with me that he had lived in an abandoned house in Alton Park for many years. The house had no running water or electricity, but it provided a make-shift roof over his head. He had found an old junky kerosene heater he used for heat in the winter. We provided the kerosene for him for a while until one day he came to me very upset because he had been evicted from this old house, and he had no place to call home.

I asked him what he thought about permanent housing in a place for the elderly. He wasn’t sure he wanted that, but he agreed to go there with me if I could set up the meeting. He and I met with the authorities and they agreed to talk with him about an apartment. After he qualified for a unit, the lady in charge took us on a tour of the apartments. As we toured one apartment with a window overlooking the South-side of Chattanooga (his old stomping grounds) and the point of Lookout Mountain, I turned and asked Sam what he thought about it. He instantly replied, ” Man, this is heaven! ” Our guide asked him to repeat what he had said, and again Sam said, ” Man, this is heaven! Sure I will take it. ”

For approximately six years Sam continued to live in that apartment never missing a rent payment. He regularly attended chapel services and offered his ministry gifts as a faithful, committed volunteer. Sam truly loved Jesus Christ and he was compulsive about keeping all of his Biblical study notes in a special case where he could rehearse them over and over. In a recent small group meeting Sam was truly open to the Holy Spirit of the Lord as he shared with us how the Lord had helped him to understand that his life had always been in God’s hands. Sam knew the only reason he was still here on earth was because God had not finished his plan for Sam’s life. As Sam left the mission van after that small group meeting that night he said, ” You just can’t hide from God. He sees and know all about our lives. From now on I am going to let God run my life.”

Several hours later the police rang the doorbell of the mission and asked us to identify Sam’s personal belongings. Sam had been hit by a truck while walking on the sidewalk and killed. God had graciously called Sam home. As I reflect upon Sam’s home going, I can only imagine Sam’s wondrous expression and exclamation as he was ushered into his heavenly home. And I can just hear Sam saying to Jesus, ” Yes, this really is heaven! ”

Pray for us at Shepherd’s Arms Rescue Mission that God will continue to use us to fulfill our calling according to Proverbs 24:11 which says, ” Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.”