I had the privilege this past week of preaching at the opening service of the revival meeting at Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church. The Rev. Jim Sorrells is the pastor of this wonderful congregation.
There were two songs that were sung that night that really were special to me and have spoken to me time and again over the years. The congregation sang the great gospel song, "Victory in Jesus," and Inge Wood sang the old folk song, "Poor Wayfaring Stranger."
I worked at a street ministry in Springfield, Mo., in the late 70s, a humble little store front gospel mission called Springfield Victory Mission. We held worship services every day and provided meals for the homeless and the people living on the streets.
One song that I remember singing in those lively gospel services more than any other was "Victory in Jesus." It was almost like the theme song for the Victory Mission. We wanted the men and women that came to us for help to find victory over the troubles they were facing in their lives.
They were "poor wayfaring strangers, traveling through this world alone," who came to us looking for words of comfort and hope, help in their time of need, and nourishment for their tired bodies. We did what we could to help them with what little we had to give.
I remember one of the homeless men that came to the mission for just about every service we had. Everybody called him Buzz. He was a humble fellow who was always glad to have us pray for him. He would listen intently to the preaching and he loved to sing along during the worship services.
Buzz didn't have a tooth in his mouth. He was the only person that I had ever met that could eat an apple without teeth. I always said that he had the sharpest gums in town.
One cold winter morning we got word that Buzz had frozen to death on the streets. The police found his body leaning up against a building down an alley. There was a cheap bottle of whiskey lying by his side.
Buzz was one of those poor wayfaring strangers who was traveling through this life alone. We didn't know much about Buzz, other than he lived on the streets, liked to sing gospel music, and he loved apples.
There was another man who used to come by the mission. Everyone called him Carlos. He was an arrogant fellow and he said he was proud to be a "wino." He was finally banned from the mission because he would come in and cause trouble.
One of the staff writers at the local newspaper had met Carlos on the street and struck up a friendship with him. That person wrote a feature story in the paper introducing the community to Carlos. The headline called him, "Carlos: King of the Winos." Boy, did he get the big head after that article came out in the paper. He wanted everybody on the streets to know that he was the King of the Winos.
I have met so many people over the years that were "poor wayfaring strangers, traveling through this life alone." And I have shared with so many about the hope that I have found in the Lord Jesus Christ. I have wanted them to know the victory in Jesus that I have found.
There were those such as Buzz, who listened to the good message, but died in the snare that they found themselves in. There were those such as Carlos who laughed at us "silly street preachers," and went on their merry way, proud of their lifestyle.
And then there were the hundreds of others I've encountered who grabbed ahold of the words of hope and found victory in Jesus. I count many of them still dear friends today.
Poor wayfaring strangers, like you and me, can find victory over life's troubles. Victory is found in Jesus.
-- Doug Dezotell is the pastor of Mt. Lebanon UMC and Cannon UMC. He is a former staff writer for the Times-Gazette, and he is a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a friend to many. He can be contacted at email@example.com.