It is our passion that in every community where we work, no one is invisible, and everyone has access to food, freedom, and forgiveness. We often find ourselves working to bring reconciliation through Jesus to those we encounter. One such story takes place in a community right here in the United States.
KC and his wife Gail are leaders with ITeams in Joliet, IL. Just an hour southwest of Chicago, their work in Joliet focuses on education, homelessness, immigrant ministry, and food acquisition, each part of a strategy to bring integrated community transformation to this city.
KC can tell story after story about the ways that God is at work in his community, but in considering the topic of reconciliation, one stands out.
“I work as a chaplain with Daybreak Center, a ministry that provides care for homeless men and women in our community. During one of my visits there, I noticed an older man sitting alone, with his head down on the table in front of him. I went over and introduced myself. His name was Graham (Greame). A friend had found him living in a crumbling trailer, and brought him to the shelter.
At first, Graham wasn’t interested in sharing much, but over time, our trust began to develop. Each week, I would seek him out during my visits and after a while, we became friends. Graham had a rough life story, and as our relationship progressed, I learned more about his journey.
I remember the day Graham told me about the lump on his neck. When he was first diagnosed with cancer, he seemed positive, saying ‘If it’s my time, it’s my time.’ After our relationship developed more, it was clear that like everyone else, he was afraid. He didn’t plan for this, and he didn't have anybody else in his life. Throughout the following months, we walked together through this new challenge and our relationship deepened.
After beginning chemotherapy, he had an episode at the shelter and passed out. We worked to get him admitted to a hospital, and then a local nursing facility where he began Hospice. Throughout every change, the Lord surrounded Graham with patient and loving caregivers each step of the way. I came in daily and checked on him. During visits, I would read portions of Scripture to him, particularly Psalms. He indicated to me during that time that after years of living in darkness, he had asked Jesus to be his Savior. That was an amazing moment in our relationship.
Shortly afterward, Graham passed away. People from each segment of the last year of his life gathered together and held a memorial service at Daybreak. We talked about the difficult life he had, but we also talked about the gift of walking alongside him in those last difficult moments, celebrating the difference a year of care made in his life!
When you accompany someone, you can do it out of obligation or out of compassion. Graham became my friend, and my life became wrapped up in his. We advocated for him, we cared for him together. That’s what walking alongside someone really means.”
At the end of his life, Graham was no longer invisible. For maybe the first time, he had access to food, freedom, and forgiveness in a way that was tangible to him. Because of that fact, long-shut doors began to open, and he came to know Jesus. Those facts do not erase decades of hurt leading up to that moment, but because KC and others pursued him when no-one else did, we see reconciliation in Graham’s life.
As followers of Jesus, we live at the intersection of brokenness and hope. Our hearts hurt as our world groans around us, but can we look forward with joy knowing Jesus offers a solution that is not temporary. In that hope, International Teams continues to serve both internationally and here at home so that no one will be invisible, and everyone will have access to food, freedom, and forgiveness.