by Kerri Gailey

pops painting

Most every Thursday night, you’ll find me at my book club.  We read and discuss all kinds of books, we’re not picky about genre.  If you join us, you might find us discussing the plot of the latest James Patterson mystery.  Heck, you may overhear us arguing whether we’re Team Edward or Team Jacob.  It’s a pretty small club, but entertaining none the less.  My book club usually only consists of me and one other member...Pops. 

No, his real name isn’t Pops, but if you know him, you know the name suits the tall white-haired gentleman. What I know about Pops has been gleaned from a half dozen conversations, and he never ceases to surprise me with some little known fact about himself. 

Here’s what I know.  He’s a United States Marine and war veteran, having served three tours in Vietnam.  He’s 61 years-old.  He LOVES to read.  He doesn’t care for Stephen King’s books, although he really liked the movie version of The Green Mile.  Oh, and he lives in the woods.

When I say he lives in the woods, I don’t mean he has some neat little rustic cabin tucked back in the mountains.  I mean  He sleeps in a tent, with a cooler of ice to keep his meager food stash cold.  That is, he gets ice when he can get a ride from someone, so he doesn’t have to walk for miles with a cooler full of ice. 

Our book club meets at The LOT Project, if Pops shows up, when I volunteer on Thursday nights.  He doesn’t like to come if he can help it.  He realizes it’s a pride issue, and he’s working on that.  He lived on the streets for two years, eating one meal a day, before breaking down and getting food stamps. That’s the way he tells it.

On Thursday nights he waits around (talking my ear off about books) until everyone else has been served before getting a plate for himself. I truly believe he loves reading more than eating.

But more than the pride issues are changing for Pops. A year and a half ago he met Jesus. “It is a change of heart produced by the Spirit.  And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.”  Romans 2:29b. You can’tmeet Jesus and not be changed.

You might wonder how he came to the realization he needed Jesus in his life.  The same way many of the LOT guests have:  He began coming in for a meal.  From there, someone discovered his loveof books and began bringing them for him to read, opening up a relationship. That person invited him to church, he finally accepted and the rest is history.

I gave my book buddy a ride “home” one night.  I realized as I watched him disappear into the trees, in a very Field of Dreams-like moment, that The LOT Project is so much more than free food and some clothes.  True, it may have started out that way for Pops (and many others), but it becomes a place where relationships are built, and people come to fellowship and share a meal.  It’s aplace where life change takes place.