Imagine inviting a homeless, jobless, HIV positive stranger off the street into your inner circle of friends, your closest community, your home? For most, if not for all of us, that would be way outside of our comfort zone, and yet that is exactly what former Army captain and seminary student Chris Plekenpol did. In Stumbling Souls: Is Love Enough? (Authentic, May 2010), Plekenpol shares his unexpected journey from “learning Christ to living Christ” as he reaches out to a homeless man who happened on a newcomers’ meeting at the author’s home church.
What follows his introduction to James is an adventure of twists and turns as Plekenpol tries to minister and change this man’s life, only to find that, through it all, he too is changed. With authenticity Plekenpol tells of his inner struggle over whether to invite this man to live with him, learning to serve with no thanks, discovering what it means to really help another person and how to give a hand up to those who need it, and, above all, the scary messiness of living by faith.
“I went from a Christian ideologue to a person who has an understanding of life on the streets and an understanding of how Christ makes believers righteous on the basis of grace, by means of faith,” writes Plekenpol. “I have a deeper love for the lost. I have a better grasp at how rotten I can be in my own sufficiency. There wasn’t just one stumbling soul in this book; my sins were pretty apparent, and God is still working on my selfishness and pride. I know that with God all things are possible.”
From a surprise trip to a theme park and timely help from a stranger to a late night search when James goes missing, the adventure is a roller coaster ride with an unexpected twist. In the end, Plekenpol challenges readers and leaves them with practical ideas that everyone can use to begin to live by faith in service to others.
Plekenpol is a 1999 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After completing seven years with the U.S. Army, he attended Dallas Theological Seminary, where he graduated in 2010 with a Th.M. with an emphasis in media. An irresistible communicator, Plekenpol has a dynamic speaking ministry. After his experience retold in Stumbling Souls: Is Love Enough?, the author was led to join the movement and ministry I Am Second, where he serves as the conference director and community organizer. He intends to use the rest of his days on earth to reach as many people as possible with the gospel of Christ, hopefully by pastoring a dynamic, culturally engaged church.