This week I let a dog lick me for Jesus.
Friday night I contemplated some potential plans to go to Boulder with a group from Mizzou who go to Pearl Street and talk to homeless people. Peggy had asked me to go a few times, and I had been meaning to go, sort of.
The idea of talking to complete strangers and sharing the gospel with them didn’t really sound like how I wanted to spend my Saturday night, but I thought it might be a good experience for me. I told Peggy I would go this Saturday if my allergies cleared up the next day.
At work, Brett and Amanda brought up the trip to Boulder and asked if I was going.
“Well, I told Peggy I would go if… Oh, wow.”
The realization of my promise to go if I felt better hit me. I was feeling so much better than I had in days.
Dang it, God. Look at You all making me keep my promises…
“Yeah, I told Peggy I would go if I felt better today. And I am, so I guess I’m going.”
That night, we got to Pearl Street and Peggy gave us a brief pep talk before we split up, prayer and set out to meet people. I paired up with Joe, who had been coming to Boulder for a few weeks.
We briefly talked to Bill, a homeless man Joe had met previously, and Mark, Erin and Mouse, a family who made their money by playing guitar and ukulele on Pearl Street and ministered to other homeless people. Mouse was simply adorable. She couldn’t have been older than eight and played a lovely rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow on her uke.
While we listened to Mark and Mouse play, I noticed a guy on a bench reading with a small black dog. He seemed somewhat approachable and I felt like I had an in with him with the dog. Even though I don’t really like dogs, I could still go over and ask to pet it, then maybe strike up a conversation.
I mentioned to Joe that I would like to talk to him, so we went over and opened with, “Hey can we pet your dog?”
Turns out the guy’s name was Damien and the dog was an eight-month-old black lab/pit bull mix named ManBearPig. (Yeah, I let that thing lick my face. The things people get to me to out here at LT…)
Talking with him was a little awkward, but not incredibly unbearable. He wasn’t super chatty, but I was able to ask enough questions to avoid too many awkward silences. We didn’t get too much out of him that night, but we did find out that he travels the country hitchhiking and taking trains, and that he was in Colorado while his girlfriend, who is pregnant, stayed with her mom. He told us he was only in town until Tuesday, but would be hanging out on Pearl Street and playing his penny whistle to make some money.
After we talked to him for 20 or 30 minutes, it was time to go for the night, but we asked Damien if we could pray for him. He told us he “wasn’t into that stuff really” but we could if we wanted to. We asked God to keep him and ManBearPig safe, that his girlfriend’s pregnancy and eventual adoption process went smoothly and healthfully and that God showed Damien His love. We didn’t get to share a lot with him, but we shared something.
Tuesday, our Project Group headed out to Pearl Street again. I was still a little nervous, but as we walked to where we were going to have our picnic lunch (where I ate a PBJ with grape jelly. I hadn’t had grape jelly in ten years. SERIOUSLY, the things people get me to do here at LT…), I saw Damien! Suddenly I was excited to try to talk to him again. This time I split off with Matt Dacanay and Alexis Onanian, and we headed straight to Damien after praying.
Once again, Damien wasn’t super chatty, but we learned more about him that afternoon. He’s from Seattle, he has nine siblings, he met his girlfriend while traveling, he’s been doing it for three years, etc. We asked him a lot of questions to keep the conversation flowing, and soon Kelsey, Kelsey and Joe joined us.
A few of us tried to make the transition from mundane life details to the truth of Christ, and it took us a few times before the right question finally hit the right chord.
Someone asked Damien if he ever got bored, and he told us he didn’t really and that he read a lot. Someone asked him what kind of books he read, and he told us fantasy. Then I asked him if he ever thought about reading the Bible, and he said he had, front and back at least twice.
Turns out he grew up in a Christian home, but grew disillusioned with the Bible when he was 16 and couldn’t reconcile the wrathful God of the Old Testament with the merciful God of the New Testament.
That opened the door to a lot of questions and a little debate. Nothing heated, but we tried to explain that God is just, hates sin and that the wages of sin the death. The good news is that God gave of Christ, who cleansed us of our sins so that we may one day reside with God in heaven.
I don’t think we fully got to share that whole truth with him, and honestly, he probably knows the gist of it, growing up in a Christian home, but I think we gave him something to ponder. Could you really leave a conversation where 6 random college students came and started talking to you about the Bible without thinking about it later? Hopefully not.
I don’t know what will happen to Damien, and I’ll probably never see him again, but I do know that I have a little more confidence in my ability to talk to strangers about the love of Christ. I don’t think I’ll be going out to the streets of Columbia or other cities regularly, but I’m a little more excited about sharing now, and I feel like I can take that home to share with people I’ve already built relationships with. All in all, it was a good experience.
Thanks for that, Damien. And ManBearPig.