Help Him!

In the Words of Jenna Cappel, Sacred Heart in Troy

You don’t know when or how Jesus will choose to speak to you.

I had just passed a man walking along the side of the highway in Troy, Missouri, in January 2021. It was 10 degrees outside, and he appeared to be older, maybe in his 70s. I could tell he was homeless. What gripped my heart more than him out in the bitter cold, his age, or his tattered clothes, was the fact that he was walking at a 90-degree angle, hunched over in what must have been an unbelievably uncomfortable way.

My heart broke for him, as it always did when I saw someone homeless. But usually I would say a prayer for them and give some cash if I had any. On occasion (rare occasion, if I’m being honest), I’d bring in food and Christmas toys to our local Society of St. Vincent de Paul ministry at Sacred Heart parish. But that day was different. I heard Jesus say to me very clearly, “Help him.” I turned the car around and gave him what little cash I had on me. “There,” I thought, "I've helped him.”

The next day I saw the man again and Jesus had the same thing to say, “Help him.” Again, I gave the man a little cash and said, “God bless you” as my car rolled by. I thought my actions were enough. Jesus did not. Over the next few days, Jesus started to sound like a broken record. “Help him, help him.” I’ll bring the man a new coat, I thought. What about new boots? That will be good. But the more I tried to bring him things, the less I could actually locate him, but Jesus’s call remained. Exasperated and confused, I asked Jesus, “What do you want me to do? I can’t even find him.”

“I want you to help ALL of them,” was the response I heard.

I didn’t even know we had homeless people in our community, but now I was seeing them. The veil lifted and the heart opened to the suffering our neighbors were facing.

I emailed Fr. Mike Lydon, my pastor, on February 2, 2021, and asked about what we were doing to help the homeless. Can we open the church or the school gym overnight? Jesus had all of a sudden imparted on me a great sense of urgency and I had many questions and concerns. I had no idea how to help, zero experience in the nonprofit world, and was hardly a go-to parishioner for such things. But Jesus emboldened me to move beyond my inexperience and comfort zone. Matthew 25:40 became alive, “And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’”

The email exchange with Fr. Lydon kicked off a journey where God has worked through me and many others to bring His request to life. All of a sudden the right people at the right time were coming together: same mission, same heart, but with different talents, backgrounds, and denominations. We were truly acting as one body of Christ. My role became more clear and it turns out there was a place for my talent.

It has not been easy, but it has been spirit led without a doubt. The nonprofit organization we formed is slated to open an emergency shelter and crisis stabilization center in late 2023, named Bridge of Hope. Currently, there is no place in our community for men, women, and families to stay if they find themselves without a home, but now there will be one.

In the hustle and bustle of daily life, it can be easy to forget that the Bible is still alive, that the God of the universe is still speaking to us, that miracles still happen, and hope is still ours for the taking.

All Things New in an initiative that will evaluate the effectiveness of the Church in St. Louis in proclaiming the Gospel and will identify opportunities for improvement and renewal within all parishes, schools and curia offices and agencies. When we become better stewards of God’s gifts, we can improve our social outreach efforts with help from people like Jenna.

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