A couple of days ago, one of the guys who has been living here in our discipleship community left. He felt that it was time for him to move on, and so he went back to San Francisco, back to his old job, where they welcomed him with cheers and open arms. We had a gathering, where he talked about his story, his last few months here, and his decision to go. Then he sang us some songs that he’s written lately, one about the family that he’s found here at the Land. It was beautiful.

I was in and out of tears all night. It was pretty cozy in the Big House, especially since we had just put a new window in where it had been broken, so the cold night air wasn’t biting at us. Elena, who has a two-week-old baby, has baked the largest pumpkin loaf that I have ever seen. It was the size of a small pony. No, literally, I went to retrieve it so we could dig in, and after I picked it up, I realized it was probably over my thirty-pound pregnancy limit. We drank decaf chai, and did the sort of random hilarious chit chat that we always do, until Jack started talking and told the story of how he happened to come back to the Land.

He had lived here before, right after there was an abrupt change in his life and he started following God. He came pretty much right off the streets, a few days after he found out that he had tested positive for HIV. Then there was an amazing few months of healing and newness, and he went back to the city. After another amazing few months, he hit a pretty big slump. Some sabotage and tragedy. It was pretty major, and he holed up in his apartment.

That’s when Big D went looking for him. Derek has been the director here at the Land now for six years. As Jack told the story, Derek rang the buzzer at his apartment for an hour. Jack was hiding, overwhelmed by despair and shame. After forty minutes, when the buzzing had stopped, Jack got up to go to the bathroom, and Derek heard his footsteps and the buzzing continued. Eventually, Jack talked to Derek on his cell phone. Derek’s input was simple. He told Jack that he was welcome to come back to the Land if he wanted to, and Jack says that it was the moment when hope entered his heart again.

It just got me thinking, about this place, and this ministry, and how many amazing people have gone through here. There have been heartbroken people, who have been healed, and hopelessly addicted people who have had their addictions broken off. God has done amazing things. Then there are the people whom we haven’t been able to help. It has been traumatizing at times, seeing the destruction that people wander back into. One boy who was loved by all overdosed and died. I, as a clucky type, want everyone to stay. I figure that at least if we can see them, they’ll be all right. But it was apparent the other night, as we heard Jack’s heart and his songs, that holding onto him was not the best thing for us to do. We’ve seen many friends go over the years, and I have to say I miss them all. There are gaps that can’t be filled. I guess that is just part of this type of life. Holding people close and then releasing them. The challenge is in continuing to be open-hearted, in not closing yourself to new friends in the fear that they will leave.

I think it is God’s desire, all of this. That we take care of people for a while and then release them. I was inspired, the other night, hearing about how something like Derek’s annoying persistence in reaching Jack had literally turned him around. The smallest things throw closed doors open. God has given us the greatest gift, in requiring our love and attention for people; the ability to be conduits of His hope, the light that cracks open the darkest of places.