Carl sat at the doorway searching for those in need, his hands trembling cold as an arctic blast cut through the late night air. “Hurry in, please hurry in,” he said. More and more people hurried along. Some nearly crushing, Carl as they pushed into the building in desperation to feel the heat inside.
“More blankets honey,” Carl cried out, “More blankets! There’s hot soup ya’ll, so please eat up!”
As the last one made his way into the homeless shelter, Carl closed the door tight. Up in years and overworked for little or no pay, Carl surveyed the expansive room. Over at the end of one table sat a family of four. The mom hunkered near her youngest, rubbing her daughter’s hands. She smiled to cover the shame and pain.
Carl looked around carefully, so dearly wanting to make everything all right for everyone, unaware that he was sharing his heavenly Father’s heart to love and console others. He hurried over to the woman and child, bringing warm blankets handed to him by his devoted wife, Edna.
“Here, here you are,” Carl said, “Please get warm.”
The mother’s eyes looked up. She embraced the warmth of not only the blankets, but the godly man. Hot soup, warm blankets and a night away from the bitter cold, something so many take for granted all across this world. As soon as everyone in the room had been served their bowls of soup, Carl asked permission to say a word and then pray.
He began, “Tonight, you are all here by invitation. These doors are always open and all you have to do is walk in. Please take a moment and look around. This has been a banquet dinner and I call you all—friends. But this is nothing compared to what you will be offered. There is even now, a banquet table being prepared. Your invitation, I have right here in my hand.”
Carl opened his Bible and began to read John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son and whosoever believes upon him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Closing the Bible he slowly gazed at the sorrow-filled eyes all around the room. “I beg you all to hear me. I hope I don’t start to cry. Do you want to know when your invitation was sent out? The day Jesus died!
While you were yet lost in sin, lost in a cold cruel world, Jesus died for you. But three days later, he rose from that grave. When He did, doors flew open and a meal started to be prepared. It’s called the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb.” Please don’t be overlooked. Tonight sitting here in this humble banquet hall, please hear this old man. Please, let Jesus write your name in his accepted book, the Book of Life.”
In deepest humility, Carl called everyone in the room to the cross. Asking them to pray, Carl observed the forlorn faces in the crowded room. Respectfully bowing their heads, the group together prayed following Carl’s lead.
Outside that same evening, little Maria sat beside her mother. “Mommy, I’m so, cold.” Shivering to the core, the youngest, of two children clung to her mother’s leg trying to hide her face from the wind. The mother observed at the desperate look in her husband, Jimmy’s eyes; beaten down and hopeless—trying to withstand the bitter chill of the strong winds. Bankruptcy, foreclosure and medical bills to the max found their way onto this dad’s shoulders and on this night, its total weight had come crashing down. They were homeless, helpless. In desperation, He cried out, “Dear God, if you’re up there PLEASE HELP!”
Leaning against a heavy concrete wall, their young son, Brandon, bowed his head in despair, “Oh God, why can’t we be like everyone else and have our own place?” Jimmy picked up his son with both arms and walked toward the shelter. His wife followed behind, their daughter tightly wrapped in her arms. Trash from the street was blowing all around them. The howling wind sent an eerie message of abandon.
Up ahead they saw a door with a sign that said, “Welcome Shelter.” Jimmy began to knock on the door as if his very life depended on it. His family’s heads were all hanging in shame. At life’s most hopeless moment the door flew open and Carl began to urgently usher in the weather-torn family.
“Hurry in, please hurry in,” he said. “Hello, my name’s Carl,” as he shut the door for the night. He called out to his wife:
“Honey, more blankets please.” Then turning to the family he said, “Wow, you came just in time, we were ready to shut this place down for the night. Please have a warm blanket. Soup’s on the stove and you’re sure welcome to eat.”
The family of four huddled up by an old table. It was a “treat” already to just have a table to sit at and a warm room to escape to. Wind chills outside were below zero. This family was happy to see clean cots all around, and steaming hot soup served to warm their hungry stomachs.
WHY? Jimmy wondered…would anyone do this for so many strangers.
Then as they were eating, friendly old Carl began to speak—sharing the gospel again, “You are all here by invitation…but let me tell you, of a future feast…”
The night was cold and chilly, but when Carl finished his plea, the entire family heard and answered that altar call. Almost immediately after…the shout came, “COME UP HERE!”
They had been made ready!