A Life is Changed

A Life is Changed

By Rev. John C. Clark

There are so many stories of need here in Florida and the world.  In 2017 Hurricane Irma landed on the east coast of Florida, and a series of events unfolded. It started with my chance meeting of Enrico. Years ago, on a green card, Enrico came to the United States from Cuba and settled in Arkansas.  He found work at Purdue Farms processing chickens. It was a hard and dirty job; but for Enrico, life was good.  Every year, Enrico was required to renew his Green Card at the location he entered in the United States. Annually, this middle-aged man traveled by foot and bus from Arkansas to Miami.

I first met Enrico in mid-August of 2017.  He was on his annual pilgrimage to Miami. It was after Sunday service, and coffee hour was in full swing. Fr. Rob introduced us and asked if I could give him some food and water before he started on his trip to Miami. Enrico is a gentle man, soft spoken, with a special twinkle in his eye when the conversation turns to God.  Fr. Rob explained that Enrico always stopped by St. Gabriel’s to visit with him and receive his annual blessing and prayers.  A few weeks later, sometime in early September, I ran into Enrico walking around the church property.

He was on his way north again and had stopped by the church to receive his customary blessing and prayer before he started the long walk and bus trip back to the chicken farms in Arkansas.

But this time, he had a story to share. “I am an American citizen,” he declared with the pride of a new father.  Enrico was granted American citizenship. We didn’t have much time to visit; it was just days before Irma’s storm-force winds and rain hit the coast.  Everyone, including Enrico, was hustling to get out of the path of Irma. We both cut the visit short.  I loaded him with what food and water he could carry, prayed for his protection and off he went to catch the next bus north.   

Irma was a huge storm and terrifying for those, like my wife and me, who stayed to weather her fury.  A few days after the storm, I was at the food pantry with some team members doing an assessment of the damage. I heard a gentle knock and a voice from the door. “Deacon Johnny, Hola!” There stood Enrico, a bit weary and happy to see a friendly face. Enrico explained that he missed his bus north.  He, like others got caught in the storm and had been sleeping on the streets in the carnage left by Irma.  We greeted and embraced each other like long-lost friends. It was good to see he was safe.  Hearing what he had endured by holding on for dear life in 130 mile per hour winds gave me even more reason to be thankful. He was standing in front of me, grateful that he was saved from potential death.  Then more good news, as he explained that his bus tickets would be honored for a few more days.

Enrico, now an American citizen, was leaving town the next day for his home in Arkansas.  Exhausted and in need of a shower, he was looking forward to returning home and going back to work.  I made a call to a friend who owns a nearby motel and booked the last vacant room for him.

The aftermath of the storm caused many, including the food pantry, to be without electricity. When Enrico showed up at the pantry, the workers were finished loading up the van with frozen meat to be taken to a nearby pantry with electricity and freezer space. Now we had another challenge.  How do I get Enrico to the motel in an overloaded van with no room except for me, the driver?  At that moment, my wife Jacki drove up at the pantry door, perfect timing to take Enrico to the motel. As they drove off, he waved to me; and in his broken English voice shouted, “God bless you for your help.”

There are no words to express the overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit while ministering to God’s people. There is no way of knowing how a life is changed by sharing the love and compassion of Jesus with another human being. Many times, the only Jesus others see is the Jesus in us, as we share His love and compassion with them. All we can do is be obedient and follow the commandments of Jesus to feed his people in body, mind and spirit.

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Rev. John E. Clark serves as Deacon at St. Gabriel’s in Titusville.  Deacon John is active in Giving Hope ministry, he is the OSL Florida State Representative and serves on the OSL North American Board of Directors. Rev. Clark also participates in the No One Hungry ministry whose mission is to reduce hunger.

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A Life is Changed


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