It was a dark and snowy night, We had only been out for an hour, yet my fingers were already frozen into a stiff “c“ shape around my pen, and the crook of my arm was frozen to the cold metal of the clipboard I carried. The low that day had been forecasted at thirty degrees, yet the temperature continued to plummet well into the low twenties. I was unaccustomed to such temperatures, but my will remained strong and my heart happy as I, along with my group, continued on our mission, Our youth group had traveled all the way from our small town to the bustling city of Chicago for our yearly mission trip The church we had partnered with — Chicagoland Community Church — had a unique way of reaching out to the people in its community: surveys.
As we dredged our way through countless people, unrecognizable faces swarmed around us. I was beginning to believe we would never find someone to survey, Near the end of the night we turned down a quiet street, and began to slowly head back to the church After countless rejections that night, I began to fret over the week ahead.
How were we supposed to reach out to these people if they wouldn’t even spend three to five minutes just chatting with us? Just when we were turning on the block that would lead us back to the church, a man stopped us. This chance encounter would change a life and stay with me as I continued throughout the rest of mine, After introductions, [learned the man’s name: Greg.
When I began the survey, I began to see this man’s life fold out before me, He told me that he grew up in the Lakeview area and loved the people and diversity that lie within its bounds. He coached a competitive cheer team just two streets over from the church, and last year his team was a finalist at the national championships. He recounted how as a teenager he went to church regularly, but as he had grown older, he stopped going. As I approached the final question that asked if there was anything the church could pray for him about, he broke down in tears. He admitted that he had just gotten off of the phone with his doctor, and had tested positive for HIV.
I stood there in shock as I processed this information, a broken man weeping loudly in front of me. I did the only thing I could think of in that moment: asked if he minded us praying for him right then and there. He released a yes drowned in tears as the group circled around him. We asked God to be with him, and for His will to be done in Greg’s life After each member of our group showered prayers around him, I remember feeling much less cold, toasty even. After the prayer, I strode purposefully toward him and engulfed him in a hug In an instant, I felt someone join me- then another and another until the entire group had enveloped this man in an embracet Many tears and hugs later, we continued to chat, Greg promised to come visit the church the next Sunday and keep us up to date on how he was doing. He embraced us in a hug once again as we picked up our things to leave With a warm goodbye we set off toward the Church, As we walked, I continued to think of Greg and the future ahead of him When I looked back at the events later that night, I knew that it would change the way I look at others, and how empathy towards other people is so important. I had the meeting of a lifetime, and I know that it helped bring healing to his life I knew as I walked back to the church that God would continue to work in Greg‘s life, and would be with him wherever he may end up.