Archbishop Gregory Aymond led faith leaders from many religious denominations in an Interfaith Prayer Service for New Orleans Homeless Dec. 7 at St. Joseph Church on Tulane Avenue.
The service included a memorial reading of the names of those who died on the streets in 2016, each represented by a lit candle carried to the front of the sanctuary.
Rev. Gregory T. Manning, pastor of Broadmoor Community Church, told the story of a homeless man who came to his house five times for help and for food. Rev. Manning, who is almost completely blind, said he found out only during the last visit that the man had been badly burned as a child over 85 percent of his body.
Seeing the invisible
He said that was one of the many times he was thankful in his life that he was blind because the man’s appearance did not place any obstacles between the man and his love.
“He’s allowed me to show him love,” Rev. Manning said. Outside his church is a 6-by-12-foot banner – “Almost big enough for me to see” – that says, “No perfect people allowed.”
He said the homeless man looked back at the sign and said, “That means me, right?”
And Rev. Manning said, “That means me, too.”
Rev. Manning said people should take advantage of every encounter with a homeless man or woman to show God’s love. “He allows your day to come to a halt when someone knocks at that door and they look at you and say, ‘I want to know what love is.’ And God says, ‘I want you to show them that in this city, in this place.’”
At the end of the service, David Johnson, who was living in an abandoned home after he lost his job due to medical problems, said he was given a new lease on life by the help he received from the Harry Tompson Center, which cares for the homeless with food, social services and medical care.
Sometimes, Johnson said, he would wake up and see that his belongings had been stolen.
“The streets were not always fair,” he said. “Through that time, I had a lot of people who encouraged me, people that I slept next to who told me, ‘Hang in there. It’s going to be all right.’ Unfortunately, some of these people are not here today. They died. I think a lot about that.”