Advent 17: Camping with Saint John

That evening, we went to the address John had given us. As I thought, it wasn’t a house. It was a campground not far from the mall. The sign said that the campground was closed, but even from the parking lot, I could see a couple of tents attempting, unsuccessfully, to hide from view. And a small fire.

fireAnd John. He was sitting by the fire like he was the one keeping it burning.

We were a hundred yards away so I couldn’t see details. But I knew it was John. There’s something about the way he carries himself. Confident without being arrogant.

We sat in the car. It was warm. And I wanted to see what was happening.

A young couple crawled out of one of the tents. She was expecting. Another guy crawled out of the other tent. They walked toward the fire.

Apparently, John had a pot in the fire. He reached for a bowl, filled it, and handed it to her. John took another bowl and filled it for one of the guys.

John stood up. He looked across the empty campground, across the parking lot, straight at us. He tilted his head in what may have been a nod. And turned back toward the fire and the young people and spread out his arms, just for a moment. And they all sat down.

We left, not saying a word. A little later, I heard Nancy whispering. “God, hide them in your hand.” After some recent stories about homeless camps being cleared out, I understood her fear.

When I asked him about it a couple days later, all he said was, “as I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

That night, we put some blankets in the car and went back to the campground. It was empty. “Loving one another is going to take some looking,” I said.

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About Jon Swanson

Social media chaplain. Author of "Lent For Non-Lent People" and "A Great Work: A Conversation With Nehemiah For People (Who Want To Be) Doing Great Works." Writer of 300wordsaday.com. I help people understand. Understand some of the Bible. Understand what Lent can be about. Understand what it means to follow.