Homeless to Hopeful

Peter came to work at the World Impact Thrift Store (WITS) through a job-assessment program. He was a hard worker, putting in the 80 hours required by the program, and then he was gone.  We did not hear from him for over a year.

Then one morning he walked in the back door of WITS. He came into my office drunk and began to pour his heart. With tears streaming down his face, he told me he was an alcoholic. He had left WITS the year before and hitchhiked to Chicago. There, he spent five months downtown with no work—homeless. He began the journey back to Wichita, still without a home. He told me that one of the main reasons for returning was his tie to WITS and me. He didn’t know of anyone else he could, or would, trust and not be judged for his past life of going back and forth from prison to the streets.

Peter wanted to know how I could help him in getting off of alcohol during the day. I told him he was welcome to spend his days at WITS with me and other staff there. The stipulation was that he had to be totally sober and could not come in smelling of alcohol. After about an hour-long conversation and much prayer, he agreed to my guidelines and said he would see me in the morning. I had no idea if I would see him again or not. I took him downtown to his “home,” which was in the alley of a boarded-up, abandoned building. He had one little corner in that building to call his own. With no heat, water, or electricity at all, Peter slept in two sleeping bags at the same time to stay warm enough to survive the winter. It was hard for me to leave him knowing I was headed home to a warm house with soup on the stove.

The next morning, along he came, looking clean and neat. We had given him some clothes and toiletries from the store and he had cleaned up in a Quick Trip bathroom downtown and walked from there to WITS (looking all along the way for someone else’s dropped bus pass that was still good). Peter spent the day helping us around the store. He heard sermons on the radio and asked lots of questions. I provided him with a hot meal at noon and a bus pass for him to use. (Praise the Lord for people who give us full bus pass cards to help people like Peter!)

In order for more stable environment, he moved to southeast Kansas to live with his mom.  It was there he began reading the Bible we had given him and he accepted Christ as his Savior! He called me a couple months ago with tears of joy. He thanked me for being there for him when he was homeless and an alcoholic. Today Peter is married to a Christian woman, is a manager at a Family Dollar store and looking for a church home.

WITS is much more than just a thrift store—it is a place of ministry. It is a place where people like Peter can come and find hope, trust, and, most importantly, Jesus Christ. There are times in the midst of working with hurting and lost people where we do not know if what we are doing and saying is making a difference. Sometimes we plant seeds, sometimes we water the seeds, and then there are times we reap the harvest.  With the Lord’s help we planted and watered in Peter’s life, and the harvest took place later on. Praise God for the amazing opportunity we have to represent Christ to Peter and many others who come into the World Impact Thrift Store!

David McCloud is the manager of the World Impact Thrift Store in Wichita, Kansas.