His Thirsty Face

THE FACE OF MERCY: Stories and Reflections from the streets of New York

“Jesus Christ reveals the face of the Father’s mercy.” (Pope Francis)

Of You my heart has spoken: Seek His Face.” (Psalm 27)

February 24, 2016

I met him on a muggy July evening. I was perched on a wooden park bench with a few other LAMP Missionaries. Drowsy summer twilight gilded the trees and long shadows stretched across the grass. A few die-hard hippies played Beatles’ music on the bench across from me, laughing occasionally at their own amateur attempts at harmony. I only half-listened as I lazily observed the other people meandering through Central Park.

An older gentleman in a faded red shirt was loudly trying to sell “WATER! ICE COLD WAAATERRR!” With just a few plastic bottles left in his hand, he decided to take a break on another bench near me.

I don’t know why he stood out in particular. Something about his earnest attempts to make a few bucks. Something about how he suddenly got still and quiet when he sat down.

“Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well” (John 4:6).

The man looked tired. He was sweaty. He was probably thirsty.

I try to carry Scripture tracts with me no matter where I’m going. It’s a habit I acquired from serving with LAMP. One of the cards we consistently hand out reads, “You are precious in God’s eyes” (cf. Isaiah 43: 4). More than any other Scripture quote, this one seems to speak deeply to the heart of the recipient. The fact is that we each need to receive this simple truth – over and over again.

I glanced over at the man and dug a card out of my bag. Getting up, I approached him. He looked up, startled.

“Hi,” I smiled. (What a precious Face You have, Lord.) “I don’t need a water, but I want to give you something.”

The astonishment on his worn face grew as I handed him the small red card. He held it in his hand as he read the message.

“What’s your name?” I inquired.

“Junior,” he responded softly, as we shook hands. “Thank you. Thank you so much.” Tucking the card in his shirt pocket and holding his hand there for a moment, he looked up again, “I’m always going to keep this next to my heart.”

I returned to my bench, so touched by this humble man. A minute later, I could not resist looking over at him again.

Junior was hunched over now, and he was weeping.

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4: 13 – 14)

– LAMP Missionary Kirsten Goza