At Jordan Outreach Ministries, we just never know who God will bring to our doorstep: Single moms with numerous children; recovering alcoholics and drug addicts; families facing domestic abuse; kids being bullied at school, or people who just need a hand out, a hand up or a wakeup call. But then…Jesus brings along a man like Jared.
Standing somewhere around five feet tall, this 76 year old wanderer pulled into our parking lot a few months ago in his 1980’s conversion van, along with his roommate Lucky, an 11 year old Labrador Retriever mix. Jared originally came to receive food but we soon discovered he was also looking for a friend. Just like a character out of a storybook, Jared turned out to be an unforgettable person. Originally from Florida, Jared has traveled all over the United States with countless stories to tell, however he ended up in the Coachella Valley because of health reasons.
“It’s the dry climate that helps. I can’t breathe otherwise.” Most nights he parks his van in the Walmart parking lot where he can get a good night’s rest. In the mornings, he drives to a local gym where, for $10 a month, he can grab a quick shower. “I have to go really early in the morning; otherwise the steam just gets too overwhelming when there are people working out.” Jared struggles with a form of Lou Gehrig’s disease which causes dysfunction of the nerves that control muscle movement. In its late stages, this disease affects nerves that control breathing and other vital bodily functions, resulting in death. Jared, like many challenged with this disease, has been unable to find hope for a cure, so he does his best to live his life while he has it.
Jared isn’t comfortable with “sponging off of people” (as he puts it), so he always finds a way to give back whenever he can. The first night he arrived at Jordan Outreach for food, he was already asking us what he could do to help out. He offered to fix things that might be broken, play bass for the worship team, or do just about anything to show his deep appreciation for our help. “You people are really nice and I’d like to help in any way I can.” His sincerity was plain to see even though his body moved at almost a snail’s pace. “I don’t move as fast as I used to, but God didn’t give me this body to just sit around.” As Jared gave Pastor Rob a tour of his home on wheels, he recounted multiple memories of what God had done in his life and the people he has met along the way. “I have a song I sing every day that I live my life by. It goes (singing melodically), ‘Help me Jesus. Thank you Jesus. What can I do for you Jesus?’ I always remember that song because God has done so much for me.”
Each week, we would either see Jared on campus or we’d get a call from him checking in to see how we’re doing or if we needed anything. As enjoyable as our moments with Jared have been, there was always something sad lurking just below the surface — Jared has no family. His only long-term friend lives in Florida, which is out of the question for Jared due to the humidity. His only real companion has been Lucky who isn’t too partial to strangers coming around his territory. Jared makes friends easily wherever he goes, but the transient life makes forming deep relationships nearly impossible. So it was easy to sense his need for friendship and belonging during every conversation, which became very apparent when he asked our ministry staff to act as an advocate/surrogate decision-maker for him if/when he becomes comatose or dies. “I don’t know how long I have, and I don’t have anyone else to turn to.” In the event of his incapacitation or death, he asked us to donate his belongings to people who may need them, and most importantly to him, he wanted to make sure Lucky went to a good home. “He’s been such a good dog and I can’t bear the thought of him being put down because I can’t take care of him anymore. I’m ready to go see Jesus when it happens — I feel it could happen anytime now — I just hate doing this alone.” We reassured Jared that he won’t have to go through any of this alone because we will be there for him.
As we stated at the beginning, Jared’s situation is not the typical one we come across here at Jordan Outreach. Please be praying for Jared and his situation. Every day is an uphill battle for him but we will walk alongside him as much as we can. Who knows? Maybe God will put it on your heart to also become a friend to Jared. However the Lord leads, we trust that Jesus has Jared in His hands and will take good care of him until He takes him home. God bless you and yours this month.