Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | October 10, 2008

The Distressing Disguise

   They just needed a place to freshen up — a little water to wash away the grime and neutralize the odors that hover around those who live on the streets. At 17 years-old, these young men are prodigies in the school of hard knocks. Each of them carries a few fragile scraps of happy childhood moments. The rest of their childhood was lost in too many places to count, broken off bit by bit by along the way by repeated blows of neglect. Their expressions bear the disfiguring scars of loneliness, but their hearts still beat in anticipation of being accepted. They walked onto our campus this week looking for a place to clean up.

   Doyle was the first to meet and to speak with these young men with matted hair, missing teeth, and all of their possessions stuffed into worn backpacks slung over tired shoulders. He listened compassionately as they spilled their stories and felt their sad words splash onto his heart. Doyle talked to them about Jesus and His unconditional love and even gave them a copy of the Bible to add to their meager inventory of possessions. He showed them where they could shower and change clothes and then invited them to join us for lunch. I am so glad he did.

   The young wanderers were grateful for a hot lunch. But, I noticed that each of them only ate half of their food and then put the rest in a to-go box. I’ve seen street kids in Mongolia do the same thing. When you are not certain where your next meal is coming from, you learn to ration your eating. We learned more about them as we sat around the table and made plans to offer some immediate assistance. Patrick helped them make a connection for pursuing a GED. We asked Jon to take them to Wal-Mart to purchase shoes and a bicycle. But most of all, we allowed them to soak their tired and wounded souls in unconditional acceptance. These guys just needed a little bit of honey and a little bit of balm.

   Several years ago my own son made some choices that led him down a nightmarish path, choices that eclipsed the light of hope in our home and hearts. Our fears were soaked with tears as we kept him tethered to life by our prayers. When we lost sight of him in the darkness I fasted for forty-two days and would have given my life to rescue him. Slowly, he emerged from the toxic fog of his destructive behavior and came to his senses, like the prodigal son of another father. So, whenever I look into the faces of kids who have lost their way, I see the face of my own son and am compelled to act in love.

   It is easy to look at kids like these or at the guys holding cardboard signs on street corners and to quickly pass judgment and pass them by. I can’t do that anymore. I can’t do it because I see the face of my son in each one and shudder at where his choices could have led him. I may not be able to offer much, but I can offer something. And, anything I offer may at least be a drop of hope on the barren landscapes of their lives. But, imagine what could happen if each of us offered a single drop of hope. It would soon start to rain, and rain can make a difference in a desert.

   Mother Teresa was compelled to help others because she loved Jesus. She told her nuns that as they walked through the slums of Calcutta they should look for Jesus “in the distressing disguise of the poor” (Created for Greater Things, page 11). Mother Teresa reminds us that when we look at the least of these we should see the face of God’s Son in each one, and then do what Jesus would do. So, determine that you will look for the face of Jesus in the distressing disguise of 17 year-old boys and homeless guys on street corners and single moms in need and widows who are lonely. And then be Jesus with skin on and love them as He would.

• • • • •

PS | God is faithful. Never forget that. I’ll be kayaking with my son on the San Marcos River on Friday … in the warm light of day.


  1. Wow! Oh My Goodness! My heart breaks for people like this! You have developed the eyes of Jesus when you see people in desperation and reach out to them. May we all see our brother through these compassionate eyes!

    I was unaware of your own son’s plight. Love on him this weekend! Have a wonderful time kayaking with him!

    Thanks for your transparency!

  2. God is good. My son has always had such a tender heart. Through the years, he was the one who led our neighbors to faith in Christ everywhere we lived. Kayaking with him today reminded me again of how quickly our loved ones can get caught in currents that can sweep them helplessly away. But, I am grateful to God for His recuing arms. And, I am grateful that He dipped His divine pen in the ink of my son’s suffering and wrote things on my heart that can never be erased. I see the world differently. Today was a great day as we paddled down the San Marcos and Blanco Rivers together for several hours. We talked the whole time. One day we are going to tell our story together.


  3. Omar,

    Glad you had a good day with your son! The weather is perfect for the type of activity you enjoyed. You made a nice memory. smile

    Best Regards,

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