By Joan Wester Anderson
Twenty-five-year-old Dave Carr of Bangor, ME, was feeling one of those inner urges that defy logic and reason. He had a strong impulse to open a gathering place for the homeless or people down on their luck. “I thought of providing them with a soft drink or coffee and something to eat, along with a hug and some words of encouragement,” Carr said. “Most important, I wanted them to learn about the Bible and hopefully to accept Jesus into their hearts.”
This “heavenly nudge” grew stronger over the next several years. But Carr argued with it. How could he open such a place? True, he had always lived a life of service and had helped on similar projects through his church. But he was a truck driver, not a minister or psychologist, and he had a young family to support, with nothing left over for rent on a drop-in center. The whole idea was impossible.
But Carr continued to think about it. Street people led hard lives, he knew; not only were they hungry and often cold in Maine’s hard climate, they were vulnerable to threats from those stronger than them. Recently, a man had been murdered in the middle of the night, and thrown over the bridge into the Penobscot River. The police had not found his attackers. And without some kind of safe oasis, Carr thought, such a thing was sure to happen again.
Finally, Carr drove to downtown Bangor at about 10 p.m. one September evening. It wouldn’t hurt to at least look at possible sites. “I need nighttime hours to think quietly, and I thought it would be easier to check out storefronts without being distracted by traffic,” he said. He parked and walked through the neighborhoods, looking at abandoned buildings. Some possibilities, but nothing definite.
At 1:00 a.m., Carr was ready to call it quits. But he hadn’t investigated Brewer yet—the city that lies across the Penobscot River from Bangor. He would look at a few more sights there, then head home.
The street was deserted as Carr started walking up the bridge. Then a car approached from Brewer. As its headlights caught him, the car slowed. Uneasily, Carr realized there were three men inside. Despite the cool night air, their windows were rolled down. “Let’s throw him over!” Carr heard one of them say. The car stopped, its doors opened, and all three jumped out and came toward him. Horrified, Carr suddenly remembered the murder of the street person. It had been on this bridge! Had these men done it? He would be no match for them, he knew—his only option was to pray that he survived the icy water. But as he looked down, he realized that the tide had gone out, and only rocks and dirt were directly below him. “God help me,” Carr murmured.
Immediately, he felt a presence near him, something unseen but definitely there. A warm, safe feeling flooded him. His fear vanished, and he knew, without quite knowing how he knew, that he was not alone.
Now, the men were almost upon Carr. All three were large, muscular and leering. “Get him!” one shouted.
Suddenly, they stopped. “They all stared at me, then looked to the right and left of me,” Carr said. “They seemed terrified. One said, ‘Oh, my God!’ They turned and began shoving one another to get back to the car. And when they sped away—it sounded like they tore the transmission right out. I could still hear them cursing and yelling, “Run, run!”
Carr stood for a moment on the deserted bridge, basking in the warmth that still surrounded him. What was it? What had the men seen? Whatever it was, it had shielded him from certain death. “Thank you, God,” he whispered.
He felt exalted, so buoyant that he decided to go on to Brewer and finish his search. As he crossed the rest of the bridge, Danny, a friend of his, drove by, honked at him, and kept going, unmindful of Carr’s narrow escape. Carr waved, still surrounded by peace.
A while later, Carr came across some derelicts standing on a Brewer street corner. But as he approached, they all fell back.
One put his hands over his eyes. “You’re shining!” he whispered. “It hurts to look!”
“I can feel the Holy Spirit all around you!” said another, as he inched away.
Carr was awed. It was heaven’s glow surrounding him. It had to be! But he wasn’t absolutely positive until the next day when he ran into Danny again.
“Sorry I didn’t stop for you last night on the bridge,” Danny said, “but I had passengers and I never could have fit all of you in my car, too.”
“All of us?” Carr asked, puzzled.
“Those three huge guys walking with you,” Danny explained. They were the biggest people I have ever seen. One must have been at least seven feet tall!”
Carr never resisted a heavenly nudge again. He eventually opened and funded a Bangor coffeehouse, which is still running today under a friend’s management. At least 100 people are fed every night, with coffee, hugs—and the word of the Lord.
Joan Wester Anderson,
Excerpted from her book,
Where Angels Walk.