“While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
– Acts 1:4-5 NRSV
It was great to see James standing at the front desk waiting for his mail. James used to come to the Lamb Center daily, but now his visits are few and far between. James always seems happy to return to his Lamb Center home, but his smile this time was from ear to ear. James pulled out his phone to show me some pictures.
I remembered a time when James was not smiling and did not even have a phone. He first came to the Lamb Center about five years ago from the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center. We had something in common right away because he grew up in Olney, Maryland, a few miles away from where I live. Since he was a teenager, James seemed to get in trouble everywhere he went. I sat down to talk to him and he told me he was tired of the life he was living and wanted to follow a different path.
James would join us for Bible Study almost every day and he came to the table with many doubts and questions. Eventually, James enrolled at Northern Virginia Community College for an HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) program. Going to school is never easy, but it is far more difficult when you are homeless. When James’ studies began, he was living in his car so he was able to drive to school. When he lost his car and his drivers’ license was suspended due to “wreckage of the past” (unpaid court costs), traveling to school became problematic.
Later, James was able to get his drivers’ license back. While still in school, he was hired by an HVAC company and was given a company vehicle to take home. Since he lacked a “home”, he gave the company the Lamb Center’s address. He slept in the vehicle at night parked at the Home Depot parking lot. He was not allowed to keep the engine running on hot, steamy nights so he spent these nights in a “steel can” after sweating in someone’s attic during the day to make sure that family would have the comfort of air conditioning at night. Most mornings before going off to school or work, James would come in the Lamb Center before opening for a shower, breakfast and a refreshing dose of encouragement.
Seeing James, I was reminded of the disciples waiting in Jerusalem between Ascension and Pentecost for the coming of the Holy Spirit. One door had closed for the disciples and another one would soon open but they were in the hallway between these two doors. They prepared for the Holy Spirit even though they did not know how long they had to wait or even what to expect when the Holy Spirit came. James had moved away from his old life, but new doors had not yet opened for him.
James’ time in the hallway of homelessness, between incarceration and graduation, was long and difficult. I was so blessed to see the picture on James’ phone as this new door sprung wide open. As James walks through this door unto a brand new phase of his life, let us all join in celebrating his amazing accomplishment.