Below is a short piece I wrote about a friend of ours at Southwest Central. Her name was Narcene. We received a phone call this morning that Narcene passed away on September 5th in a nearby hotel called Tweeties. She enjoyed staying at Tweeties periodically because it was the only affordable place that had a handicap bathtub that she could fit in. It was probably the only place that she would bathe.
I'm at a loss for words this morning. I'm glad that God sent Narcene our way. Sometimes I wonder if people like Narcene are sent to us for us to help, or to help us. We will miss her.
I was sitting in my office wrestling with Luke 5, brainstorming how I can get "my people" into this story. How can I tell this story in a way that captures the imagination and calls us to follow Christ into the crevices in life where exilic people abound? As I was engaged in the sermon process of wrestling scripture with a pad on the desk and a pen in the hand, a doorbell sounded. Benevolent cases are routine around our place, but this day it was Narcene—a heavy set woman who lives across town in a compressed, one-room motel. Narcene rarely showers. She wears the same sweatpants and sweatshirt until she can’t wear them anymore. She disposes of them only to put on the next pair which will last a few weeks. Needless to say, when you are within a 20 foot radius of Narcene, all 5 senses suffer. Put her in your car, and you’ll smell her for a few days. This particular day, she visited us because she was hungry. I invited her to walk with me—while keeping my distance—to the convenient store to purchase a bottle of water and a few items to eat. In times of giving, I seek to speak redemptively, wanting people to know that giving is in the name of Jesus. As I was blessing her, Luke 5 wouldn’t let me go. This story of Jesus kept nagging me. God-in-flesh touched the leper, and this text was calling me to touch her. I refused, bargaining with God for a possible “dap” or a rubbing of the elbow. Yet, this text compelled me. So, I put my hand on her shoulder and I blessed her in the name of Jesus. A smile came across her face that hadn’t appeared before. It had been weeks since she had been touched. My eyes were opened to see that I was in Luke 5. I could see Jesus, the leper, and the crowd. I could smell the Judean countryside. I was in its space. That day, God used Narcene to host me in this redemptive narrative.