THE CALLING OF JOHN WILLIAM MALLORY
READ: Colossians 1:-14
“…we have never failed to remember you in our prayers and ask that through perfect wisdom and spiritual understanding you should reach the fullest knowledge of God’s will and so be able to lead a life worthy of the Lord, a life acceptable to the Lord in all its aspects, bearing fruit in every kind of good work and growing in the knowledge of God, fortified, in accordance with God’s glorious strength, with all power always to persevere and endure, giving thanks with joy to the Father who has made you able to share the lot of God’s holy people and with them to inherit the light…” – Colossians 1:9b-12
“… a life acceptable to the Lord in all its aspects, bearing fruit in ever kind of good work and growing in the knowledge of God...” This is a worthy goal for the Christian disciple … to allow the miracle of faith to so change one’s life that his or her life then becomes an instrument of God’s goodness and a servant unto God’s people.
Today I take my turn serving at the soup kitchen. When I arrive, a gentleman will welcome me, a gentleman dressed in laborer’s clothes, clothes in need of a wash and a face in need of a shave. In his shirt pocket will be a well-worn New Testament and on shirt collar, a pewter cross. He meets me every day I serve food at the soup kitchen and his name is John William Mallory. Today’s devotional is about this man of God who is also a man of the streets.
I first met John William Mallory on my initial day of service at Merton House, our local ministry to the homeless. When I arrived, Sister Anne, the head of Merton House asked John William Mallory to “show me the ropes”. He introduced himself with a rather elegant flair, with a tip of his felt hat and the bow of his weathered frame. His smile lacked a few teeth and his appearance was somewhat ragged, but not bad – considering on most nights he sleeps in the streets. As he showed me around the men’s sleeping lodge and the kitchen, John William Mallory shared bits and pieces of his story. Born out-of-wedlock to laundress who worked in Chicago, Illinois, his father lived out most of his years in prison. He struggled with school, in the end dropped out and joined the Army. He served in Viet Nam during the worst of the war and doing the worst of the fighting. He left two fingers on his left hand in the jungles of Nam, and carried home shrapnel in his leg and a surgical scar where they tied together his “innards” before sending home to stateside, to a VA hospital for a eight month stay.
He worked for awhile at meat packing plant, but took drinking and lost his job when he took to fighting with a drinking buddy. He first lived in the YMCA in Chicago, then over time, the Salvation Army lodge, before serving six months in jail for petty theft. After that, he took to living in the streets, first in Chicago, then Gary, Indiana, and finally making his way here.
Five years ago, John William Mallory was befriended by a Franciscan monk, Brother Lawrence, a legend in these parts now gone on to heaven, who shared with him a meal each day, leading eventually to his agreeing to spend a night at Merton House. One day John William Mallory asked for a Bible, he received a used leather New Testament from the hand of nun, Sister Anne. Each day, John William Mallory would come early to the dinner line and Sister Anne would share some thoughts on how Christ changes the lives of those whom He loves. One day John William Mallory said a prayer that began his new life of prayer. And since that day, John William Mallory has become the evangelist of these city streets, gathering souls for a meal and talking with them about how Jesus changes the lives of those whom he loves.
So today, when I arrive at Merton House, John William Mallory will already be there before me. He will be standing outside the door reading with strong voice words from the Gospel from his well-worn New Testament. Most will ignore him, but a few will listen, but all of them will be loved and cared for by once broken man now caring for his people. For a living, John William Mallory sweeps the sidewalks for the store owners, both of the dust and the derelicts – the dust into the gutters and the derelicts into their cots at Merton House. He used to sleep in the men’s lodge, but decided awhile back to make room for someone new. So nowadays he sleeps in the streets, the streets where he preaches to and cares for those wandering souls whom he loves along with the Lord.
The grace of the Lord does change lives, the lives of those whom he loves and are willing to come home from the cold.
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