This is going to go in a completely different direction than you may imagine…You see, Santa was not really Santa but a homeless man that we served for years at our soup kitchen, Holy Start, in the city of Poznan, Poland. We all called him Santa. He loved it.
And this is what he looked like:
His name was Wojtek.
And I loved him.
Not because he was perfect. In fact, there were times he was outright obnoxious. And there were a couple times where we packed his food for him and told him he had to leave. Not hungry. But leave the same. Because when you are trying to serve many and there are some that make commotions, this is just the way it works.
And he would leave…But the next week he would always be back. Sober. In time for breakfast. And happy to be back amongst us.
You see, Wojtek was like many, many, many that we serve in Poland.
Homeless. Alcoholics. Lost. And alone.
And as difficult as they may sometimes be—they could also be beautiful.
Yes. Wojtek made a choice. And that choice was alcohol. And then alcohol made a mark. And Wojtek had a hard time overcoming.
And no matter what offers of help we made. No matter how much prayer. No matter how much was shared about how much God loves and believes in him. Wojtek let alcohol do the talking…do the thinking…do the walking in his life.
And one day—one day far too soon—we lost him.
He went to sleep near the lake in the summer, when the weather was fine, and never woke up.
And from the moment I heard that at the soup kitchen, my heart broke.
It broke because I knew that Wojtek was so special.
I knew that Wojtek had so much he could offer.
I knew that God made Wojtek unlike any other out there…And, yet, Wojtek never beat the beast.
He never kicked the habit.
He was never victorious. He was the constant slave. And his owner, Alcohol, beat him down and won. He took his life.
Wojtek died without giving God the chance to help him change his life.
And it broke my heart.
I still think of Wojtek and I love looking at his picture-doesn’t his face tell a million tales? Don’t his eyes hide beauty? Don’t you love the man you see?
And yet I still look with sadness.
Because Wojtek is no more.
Wojtek is not the first person we’ve lost to the harsh realities of addiction or homelessness. And he won’t be last.
But he will always remain a sad reminder to me that deep in the inner man of who he, Wojtek, is-God had created someone for so much more.
I am not sure if you have a family member or perhaps a friend that battles with addictions. If so, I know with all that you are you love them. And you care.
God does too.
I pray for yours. May they not die like Santa. May they come to see the demon that wants to enslave, get the help they need, and beat that sucker down.
May victory come in morning.
God bless you, friends!
Update: I know that it is not only the homeless that have problems with addictions. But what I do know about addictions is that IF the person fighting this demon does not want to get help, there is little anyone can do but hold onto hope and PRAY!
We all saw this past summer as someone rich and famous passed away because he could not overcome his own demons. Cory Monteith…So, friends, let us never say, “Oh, that will never happen to me!” Because addiction has no socioeconomic barrier. An addiction is an addiction. And all need to be addressed, receive help, and by the grace of God conquered.
In Poland we offer help to all that come to us through two different outside programs that we partner with: Monar, Teen Challenge. There is also Alcoholics Anonymous and our very own New Life Center. All centers and programs are there for the benefit of the individuals—to help them receive hope and freedom. And in Kalisz, Poland, there is also counseling through our foundation for the entire family. Addiction does not just impact the addict—it impacts the entire family, too.
So, if you have a loved one—or if you are that person—fight hard, hold onto hope, offer help (or receive it if you are the one in need of help), and continue to pray hard. May your belief, although very difficult at times, be unwavering.
Again…God bless, friends! I know addiction is the battle for someone’s life…And that person is greatly loved by God and by you.