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Photo: Felix Carroll

In addition to being director of operations for the House of Mercy, Kellie Ross, left, organizes a monthly "Feeding with Mercy" program in Washington, D.C.

A Stranger Knocked

Then He Painted (Mercy Really Does Shine like Gold)

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EDITOR'S NOTE: On Nov. 1, the Missionaries of Our Lady of Divine Mercy, a non-profit Catholic outreach organization, opened the House of Mercy in Manassas, Va. Distributing free household items, religious material and adult and children's clothing, the House of Mercy fills a void in service to the area's poor and underprivileged.

"Love is the precursor to mercy," said Kellie Ross, director of operations for the House of Mercy. "We believe that to love God is to show the mercy to our neighbor in thought, word and deed. The House of Mercy is built on the foundation of Divine Mercy and is expressed through our volunteers by action." The following testimony is written by Kellie:

To say I was a bit nervous about moving into the House of Mercy was an understatement. "How are we going to make the rent?" "Do people really want used clothing?" "How will the poor react to our spirituality?"

These were just a few of the questions that ran through my mind as we began renovating the store. Within a week, volunteers would trickle into the store asking what they could do to help. What surprised me is that, although I knew a great deal of the volunteers, there were many, many more I did not know. In fact, some of the people who offered to help were themselves in need of assistance.

I can remember clearly being challenged trying to paint what we call the "chapel" gold. We tried once. Twice. Three times. It didn't look gold at all. Rather, the chapel was so dark I felt like I was on the inside of a squash. Then there came a knock on the door. It was a gentleman. He asked us, "I was told you were a free clothing store. Do you have a coat I can have?"

I was so startled to see him, I stuttered in my reply saying, "We ... we ... we're not open yet, but will be on Nov. 1." The man gazed around the concrete floor noticing that there appeared to be more paint on the floor than on the walls. Knowing what he was thinking, I said lightheartedly, "Children are my best painters." Then he did something that amazed me. He walked in, took off his hat and said he would like to paint for me. He said he was a laborer and could paint well.

Immediately, I took him into the chapel to see if he could make the squash look like a golden chapel. At first, he paused. He hemmed and hawed as he looked at our multi-coats of paint on the walls, and then he went to work. He was silent. He did not ask for money, food or clothes. He humbly just wanted to help us in our need.

I left the chapel and went to work on the other parts of the store. There was so much work to be done that I doubted we would ever open on schedule. From time to time I would go back in the chapel and watch him work. I was amazed at his skill and the speed to which he covered the walls. I felt bad I had nothing to offer him. We hadn't yet been taking donations. I thanked him profusely, but I still didn't feel at peace.

This man, who appeared to be homeless, was painting the chapel for Jesus. It reminded me of St. Joseph and made me wonder if St. Joseph made furniture for Jesus or fixed a room for Him to sleep in. I left the store and began praying: "Lord, I am an unworthy servant. I have nothing to offer him for his service. What can I give him for making your chapel so beautiful?" Interiorly, I heard these words, "My child, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, give drink to the thirsty, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. As often as you do these for the poor, you do them for Me."

It sounded like the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, and yet it was very personal — very directed towards me.

I went to the store, bought a coat and came back. He had been there almost four hours. I walked into the chapel and felt the presence of Christ radiating through this man dressed in rags. He was so beautiful, it looked as though Jesus Himself were painting the chapel.

He was singing softly to himself and smiled when I turned to greet him. Tearfully, I gave him the coat and told him I wished we could do more. He laughed and said, "You are doing more. You are going to help a lot of people."

After placing the coat in his arms, he embraced me and left. I have never seen him again. Jesus in disguise? Maybe, or perhaps just an ordinary soul used by God to be the first person to bring mercy to the House of Mercy.

The House of Mercy's phone number is 1-877-BE-MERCY.

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john - Jun 19, 2007

Mercy is the flower and Love is the fruit. Where there is Love....God.

Bea - Jun 19, 2007

This is a beautiful story!

Don - Nov 23, 2007

This story touched my heart.