What do you think of when you hear the word visit? Here’s a story that gives a good definition.
Larry isolated himself so much that no one knew his problems and no one visited with him. This Tenth Presbyterian Church neighbor was addicted to alcohol and other drugs for eighteen years. If you saw him, you would have said he looked like a “walking dead man.” Larry had an interesting “abode.” He put his pillow on the steps of the synagogue located one block from Tenth and slept there. He was frequently seen by church members who lived in the area or walked by. Many would speak with him as Larry was a gentle soul and presented no threat to anyone. He even walked the dogs of some nearby residents.
One member’s interest in Larry grew over the years. Early on, Betsy actually avoided Larry. She was fearful and crossed the street or intentionally walked on the other side, looking away when she passed by. She also ignored him when he walked by. Months later, she began greeting him. Soon they discovered each other’s names. And finally, she brought Larry a sandwich and sat with him on the synagogue steps while he ate.
While sitting next to him regularly, Betsy learned some things about him. He was “churched” as a kid but wandered away. One of his street names was “Moses” because he had memorized many Old Testament stories. Betsy shared her faith as she visited with him, showing him the love of Christ and inviting him to Tenth’s Fellowship Bible Study where we welcome many of our homeless neighbors. Larry resisted and stayed away.
This did not deter Betsy. She continued to speak with him and invite him to Tenth, and he finally accepted the invitation. One cold winter’s day he showed up for a hot meal in a warm room. He expected that, but he did not expect to receive a warm welcome and Christian hospitality.
This was the beginning of my friendship with Larry. Several years later, he became a Christian, overcame his drug addiction, and became a member of Tenth Church. He was then reunited with the mother of his children and they wed. All of them came to saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. He and his wife became employed and they purchased a home. Today he is ministering to people who are still in their addiction to drugs.
I remember the turning point for Larry’s new faith journey. One day he came to see me at Tenth. It was a typical August summer—very hot, hazy, and humid. He had slept on the street the night before and when he came in to see me he was filthy, he smelled terribly, and he was crying. “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired,” he said. He also told me that he was ready to surrender his life and let Jesus help him. He had seen Jesus’ love through the care of Christians at Tenth. He witnessed a model of service that was new to him—a church that showed it cared about those who are afflicted. And in this story, visitation involved bringing life and hope. Its biblical context was coming alongside someone in despair, sharing with others, and inviting him to know the riches of life.
God enriched us when he came to visit us in human form. Jesus came and dwelt with us (John 1:14). He shined on people living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to rescue and redeem us from the clutches of sin and death (Matt. 4:16). And we, the body of Christ, are called to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death. We are to bring the light of Christ to those to whom Jesus reveals his heart of compassion.
Visitation is a biblical and exciting ministry of bringing the light and life of Christ to those who live in darkness. We make a difference by visiting. When the Word came to earth [visited] and dwelt with us a while (John 1:14), the verse says that he tabernacled with us – he “pitched his tent” next door and got to know all about us. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, rescued each of us (as the sheep that went astray in Luke 15:4). So, in a unique way, we are called to be shepherds following his example. He works through us as we follow Jesus example and “visit” others. He is our model for service. He heals, encourages, comforts, and strengthens those in his path. He shed tears and died in order to save us. Jesus is our model for visitation, for having a servant’s heart, for listening, for providing hospitality, and much more.