Homeless man wakes up from sleeping in a box to find his life has just changed forever.
The worst thing about sleeping inside a cardboard box is that one never really sleeps deeply. There is always another homeless guy to deal with: guys that come along and snoop around your box to see if he can take it or to see if you’ve got something else with which he can rip and run. Then there’s the flood of lights from a cop car—an awful way to wake up. Then there are the times when a trash truck on the early shift tries to throw your box away while you’re still in it. Nothing gets the heart pumping faster than that.
Jason Banks had experienced every kind of rude awakening in his four-year stint as a homeless addict on the streets, addicted to pills, alcohol and going to jail. But on this particular night, after being shooed away by a security guard from the back of a building down the street, the four-by-four-foot box he found in the alley just off Jackman St. in El Cajon, looked promising. It was a good box, and the alley was quiet and motionless.
Cold as it was on this December night, he grabbed two pieces of cardboard he found lying near the dumpster just feet away and pulled them up over his shoulders. He was hungry, but that was nothing new. He had a lot of hope that this night would offer a good night’s sleep for a change.
And it did. Jason began to sleep well in the alley, tucked behind a brown stucco building and a good distance from the street.
But as good as it was, in just a few hours it was about to get better than anything he could have ever imagined, like a dream that wouldn’t end.
The sun was just coming up when Jason awoke to music and singing wafting through the air. It was a glorious way to be woken up, and it was coming from just the other side of the back wall not 20 feet from where he lay. As if being charmed and romanced by the music, he couldn’t help but get up and follow it to see what and who it was.
Stepping around the building to the other side, the music led him to the front doors of Rock Church East County. As he walked inside, the singing flooded his ears and made its way to his heart. It was like liquid love rushing into his soul. He closed his eyes and just let himself feel. Then a pastor took the mic and began to speak. Jason didn’t necessarily know what he was saying, he just knew that it was all so positive and loving and powerful, he just had to have more. He took a seat and stayed for the service and, with a smile plastered on his face, he luxuriated in the beauty of it all.
It was Saturday morning. That was good. Because the following day would be Sunday and there would be more services to attend. Jason couldn’t wait to go back.
The next morning, after another night in the alley, Jason walked into the service and once again, feasted on every word that was spoken and sung. Even the onstage lighting soothed his body and made him feel uplifted and closer to God. Jason, a homeless man, was starting to feel strangely like he was home.
Wanting more, he attended every service just to hear about a God that loved him enough to die for him; he would have gone all day. It was so wonderful, so otherworldly for Jason, a guy who for four years lived on the underbelly of society, it was like waking up in Narnia. “Out of all the alleys I could have walked into, I walked into this one,” he said to himself as he climbed back into his box, his ears still ringing with the songs and his heart still full of the presence of God.
As he nestled into his box for another night and began to drift off to sleep, this time with an emotional headwind for the following day when he would apply for a job down the street, he felt great about his chances. Perhaps if he got that job, he could live nearby and continue to go to the Rock, he hoped. Just then, he heard a noise that he knew spelled the end to his two-day fantasy. It was a security guard walking the alley. Jason made himself small but braced to have to be on his feet and on his way. The dark figure approached and looked right at him. “Good evening, sir,” the security guard said with a kind voice and holding out a thick blanket. “This is for you from Rock Church.”
Jason took the blanket, wrapped it around himself on this cold night, and shook his head.
“What kind of church is this?”
Smiling from ear to ear, Jason slept good, and warm, and more deeply than he had in years. He felt profoundly cared for.
In the weeks since, Jason has received clothes from the church, a new backpack, food, rides, encouragement, prayers, and friendship in droves from the people of the Rock East County. He even found himself the recipient of a new smart phone and service from a member of the church who also happened to be the manager of a service provider. It appears that people of East County are living out their Do Something charge.
Jason got the job he applied for and has even found a place to live. And, eager to feel what he’s been feeling for the last month and a half, he attends just about every event and service held at the church, his new spiritual home.
Jason is amazed a life can change so dramatically in such a short amount of time. He’s clean, doing life as a productive member of society, and involved in reaching out to the community alongside the rest of his new family. Best of all, he’s living a life of gratitude to God for providing the best box best in El Cajon—that led to the people of the Rock Church who, when they saw a need, took him on as one of their own. And he is.
For more information about the Homeless Services Ministry, click here.
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