Proverbs 16:25 – KJV – There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

We met “Harvey” at the end of a church service in Ft. Lauderdale. He had arrived out of nowhere it seemed, a recipient of an offhand invitation from our associate pastor. You see he had been visiting a funeral hoping for a handout, spotted our associate pastor, and engaged him in conversation. It was probably a one-sided conversation, given the fact that Harvey was one of the misfits of society. So began a relationship that would become the beginning of a course of events that changed all of us. He was the catalyst.

“Harvey” had been virtually abandoned as a small child left to raise himself and make his own rules for living. He was mentally unbalanced; we didn’t know why. He had just come down from New York for the warm winter weather. He wore an old beat up cowboy hat and some old clothes. He smelled horrible. In some ways, he was like a child, totally trusting of mankind, however, he wasn’t innocent. He had been married and had a son, who was in foster care. Despite his rough life, “Harvey’s” great love was to be a cowboy. 

That Sunday when he approached us, we tried to be friendly, because no one else was. We felt sorry for him, knowing his problems were beyond our means. So we talked to him. When we left, we figured we wouldn’t see him again.

We were wrong. He came back for the evening service, and he sat with us. I soon realized the congregation wasn’t too happy to see Harvey. In short, he was an embarrassment! He didn’t know the service routine nor did he know the hymns. Yet he sang very loudly, off key. They felt he was a disruption, and sometimes he was. I guess I’m a rebel at heart, particularly over just causes! I was incensed at their rejection. It made me want him there even more! I had forgotten the human frailties of sin follows each one of us into the door, and sometimes doesn’t leave.

Before long, we had gotten into the habit of taking Harvey home each Sunday evening to the overpass bridge. When Harvey wasn’t at church, he wandered the beaches making a nuisance of himself to the sunbathers, or to the police by leading them on merry chases at excessive speeds on the freeway. He thought it was all great fun! If he was lucky, he would be arrested and have a night in a real bed with a bath, meals, a television and a free phone call! He always called us with his free call. To him, this was heaven!

Christmas wasn’t too far off. We didn’t want to do too much for Harvey, because we really couldn’t solve his problems. So we turned him to the one who could, Jesus Christ. For Christmas, we gave him a box of small colognes. It was the only gift he received, and he was overjoyed. Over the next few months, we prayed for Harvey, worried over him like a child, and hoped that somehow, God could reach him.

Harvey visited with us at our new church home on occasion. When he did, he always sat with me while my husband played in the orchestra. I was always a little amused and thankful because the ushers and security people were concerned for my safety. Harvey was still unkept and wearing a very old cowboy hat, but they would relax when I explained Harvey!

After Christmas, several weeks went by and we didn’t hear anything from him. Worried? Absolutely, but we waited and worried, hoping he would call. Then one night we got the call from Harvey we’d been praying for. While he was still in Ft. Lauderdale, he had seen a vision on the beach. He tried to explain it, but we weren’t really sure what he was talking about. All he could tell us was God is real, and he knew he had to go to Texas. So that’s where he was…in Texas!

A couple of months later Harry came back to Fort Lauderdale, but this time, he was different. I admit to skepticism when he told us he had received Jesus as his personal Savior. After all, the guy seemingly couldn’t read or write. He could barely communicate. We watched him, and we discussed him at length. There really was something different. Someone he had met on his travels had given him a Bible. He who hadn’t been able to read, began reading his Bible. He began to grasp the truths and to preach them to others. He reconciled with his estranged wife who herself had come to know the Lord. His threats and ramblings ceased, and he began to talk in a rational manner. It was simply a miracle!!

Why was Harvey the catalyst to changed lives?

Harvey caused us to think, a lot. What was our purpose as children of God, and what was the purpose of the church? His presence revealed sin in the hearts of all of us. Some of us were changed by our relationship with Harry. Others had not accepted him or engaged him in any way. They hoped he would go away because he was an embarrassment. Harvey was the last straw, and they didn’t want Harvey! The end of the story is simply this; lives where changed, including ours, because of Harvey.

*My husband and I had reconciled ourselves to one of society’s misfits. We put aside our lack of love and unforgiving spirit for those who “can’t make it”. We purposed in our heart to reach out a hand to help bring Harvey back into society and most importantly, into a relationship with Jesus Christ. We also left that small church; we were needed elsewhere.

*The associate pastor came to know the Lord about four years later in the same church we were attending.

*Harvey began attending a church who welcomed him and whose membership took on the task of his discipleship. He also reconciled with his wife.

How amazing it was to us that a friendly conversation and a simple gift became a bridge for Harvey to our Lord and to the rest of humanity. What a blessing in disguise he turned out to be! 

Linda is an inspirational writer and photographer. Her writing has been published in, Union Gospel Press, Gospel Blog, Frontline, Dollar Stretcher, Discipleship Journal - DJ Plus, At the Center magazine, Simple Joy, Cross & Quill, Hot Cars, and others. Linda's story "Stretched to My Limit" about dealing with dementia was featured in "Stolen Moments" by Elizabeth Bezant. Linda's first non-fiction book was "Homeschooling: The Modern Day One Room Schoolhouse." In it, she shares her experience as a homeschooling mom, explaining the basic principles of homeschooling for the beginner. She successfully completed her first fiction novel through Chris Baty's 2006 National Novel Writing Course (NaNoWriMo). Linda also writes inspirational articles on her Words of Encouragement Blog. Enjoy Linda's photos at Words of Encouragement Designs.

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