Not Solutions, but Light

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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Through a set of desperate circumstances, I met Rob when he was 17 years old, homeless, and nearly hopeless. In the year that I served as his court-appointed advocate, Rob lived in three group homes, attended two schools, and was passed among multiple social workers juggling horrendous caseloads.

I gave him a promise that I would see him every week, and I kept it. But when he fled his final placement just weeks before his 18th birthday, those last visits took place in jail.

Few opportunities exist for a kid making as many bad choices as Rob had. And the juvenile system doesn’t serve 18-year-olds—even those with no place to live and no one to lean on. So while my young friend served out the final days of his 17th year in the county jail, I prayed hard and worked the phones.

“Do you know of a program for 18-year-olds?” I must have asked at least a hundred times. I called nonprofits, government agencies . . . One Saturday, I even visited an Army recruiter. No viable options. Considering myself fairly well networked, I tapped every contact I knew. I called friends. I talked to ministers of the megachurch where I have served on staff for over a decade. Almost every response was the same: “Wow. Too bad. I don’t know of anything, but I’ll pray about it.”

The days were counting down, and Rob had no place to go.

A person I knew only slightly (but called anyway) suggested that I speak with his pastor. He attended a small, multi-ethnic, inner-city church, and thought the man who led it might know of something.

I didn’t expect a call back. This pastor didn’t know me. And I’m sure my message on his voice mail sounded as desperate as I felt. Still, 15 minutes later, my phone rang. “Leigh,” said a kind voice. “This is Pastor Smith. How can I help?”

Two months of tears slid down my cheeks, and I choked out Rob’s story as briefly as possible. When I hung up the phone, I was clutching three phone numbers for a good man I’d never met, who agreed to meet Rob and me on the morning of his release from jail. “When you have him with you,” he said, “you call me.”

It wasn’t the tied-down solution I was looking for . . . but it was the kindest offer I’d received. And from a stranger. His goodness was a breath of heaven. “I’ll meet him,” he said. And that was enough to change darkness to light.