'Why did nobody come and visit him and weep?'
Margaret’s story | What she did for the least of these brothers of Jesus
“I came to Central Asia in the winter of 2003. It was very cold. My plan was to study Russian and teach obstetrics to the post-graduate nurses. Within the first week of my arrival, though, I looked out of my apartment window and I saw three homeless people picking food out of the dustbins, with the dogs. I thought of the verse from Isaiah 58, ‘Share your food with the hungry.’ (verse 10). And so I did. I went downstairs and I said, ‘Would you like something to eat?’ The lady said, ‘Yes, please!’ So I went back upstairs and got the chicken casserole that I’d cooked earlier that day and I served it to them on the dinner plates that I’d brought from England. They ate it, squatting on the ground. Then I said to them, ‘If you’re here again next week, I’ll give you another meal.’”
“That’s how it started. I soon found out there were 3,000 homeless people living in my city, with no services, and a life expectancy of only three years after they were on the streets. It was so cold. Most of them lived in manholes. So I kept feeding them, and then I started doing their dressings. I noticed that many of them had wounds on their hands and their feet. Some of them had frostbite. Then, over time, I got the local church involved and we started a homeless centre. We’ve been running it now for 15 years and we serve food every Monday, Wednesdays and Friday.
“I love the fact that the people come. They can shower and have a haircut. We have a laundry and they get clean clothes. We have music and a devotional time. It’s good, but early on, one of my frustrations was with other people’s attitudes to the homeless. Other Christians, in this city and even back in the UK, didn’t always see the homeless as their brothers and sisters. They either blamed them or they avoided them. They thought they were dangerous, so they kept their distance.
“Then one year, five homeless people died, all of whom were believers. I was so sad. I visited one of the men in the TB hospital. His name was Ural. He loved the Lord. He used to come to the local church, but he couldn’t overcome his problem with alcohol and he developed multi-resistant tuberculosis. He died in the TB hospital. I sat with him at the end and as I was leaving the hospital after his death, I wept. It all seemed too hard. Why didn’t anyone else care? Why did nobody else come and visit him and weep? Why didn’t they remember that Ural was their brother? I couldn’t understand it.
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“Then when I got home. I happened to be reading Matthew 25:40 again. I noticed for the first time that it says, ‘Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Jesus actually said, ‘these brothers of mine’. Jesus thought of Ural as his brother. Nobody else might remember that Ural was their brother, but Jesus did.
“It helped me. When it feels like nobody else is noticing, or caring, I have to remember that Jesus loves them. They’re his brothers and sisters. He died for them. He rescues them time and again. Sometimes, I think he takes them home early. Maybe he knows that their lives are not going to get much better here. Maybe it’s his mercy. His forgiveness is so great. He reaches down into their hearts – these people who have nothing to live for, and he draws a longing for himself. I’ve seen him do it again and again.
“Some years back, a homeless man wrote to me, in Russian. He said, ‘I want you to know that your love and acceptance of me, has shown me that God still loves and accepts me.’ That made me cry. That’s why I’m here.”