“Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.”
– Luke 14:21 (NIV)
It started with a video. Or, thinking further back, maybe it was a book. And before that it was a feeling, a soft call brought on by bits of conversation strung together over a number of years.
A lot of Christians think that working for the church full-time is what their end-game is, or should be. But for me it was always the marketplace, the streets. Beckoning to me. All the hurt and broken people crying out for a saviour, if only they could know His name. Know that Jesus wasn’t just a curse word, and that the church wasn’t only made up of bricks and timber. That the person they cried out for, from the moment of their birth, was not only their creator, but had been the silent (or sometimes not so silent) presence beside them during every moment since then.
The streets. Such a daunting place in various ways. So I prayed for a week straight. For protection for our youth group. And, in the end, it’s a good thing I did. I also prayed for opportunities. For us, and specifically me (the one whose idea it had been) not to fall on our faces.
Eight of us went out, just enough to fit into one of the parents’ people movers. We met and prayed beforehand, to hear direction and also just to focus. On went the worship music and almost as soon as I closed my eyes I saw a picture of a blonde lady in a white t-shirt sitting down with a little dog, like it had been waiting for me. I meditated on that to see if the picture would change but it just got clearer.
I also saw a picture of a big, dark guy (I thought possibly Islander) on crutches with a cast on his ankle.
When I asked the group what they’d seen, there was some confirmation. Tristan had seen a big Sudanese guy on crutches with a cast, while Holly had seen a picture of an ankle with something wrong with it. We were definitely onto something here. Confirmation like that can often build faith because people who are learning to hear God know that it‘s not just their own thoughts (ever wondered that?).
One of the girls had also gotten a picture of a bridge, and somehow, all of us knew before she explained which one she meant. The bridge that I had been told not to walk on, under or near, even during broad daylight. Brilliant.
With genuine fear in our hearts, but just a smidge more of faith, we piled into the Kia and drove towards the centre of town. On one of the main roads I glanced to the left while driving and freaked out because sitting there was a blonde lady in a white t-shirt with a little dog. Such a calm, collected leader I screeched, “What do I do?” and sped up to the normal speed again before someone suggested that I pull over into a side street.
A few seconds’ hesitation in the car at 60 kilometres per hour meant at least a 200 metre walk back to where this lady was (I guess those old “wipe off five” ads from TAC had a really valid point). It’s crazy how even when something has been your idea, you can still freak out in the moment. I asked for someone to go with me and one of our young men volunteered. The rest of the youth group agreed to pray while we approached this lady to say God only knew what, literally.
As we strolled towards her, trying to act casual, I kept praying, “Lord, now would be a great time for you to tell me what you want me to say to her.” By the time we had reached her all I had was “hi”. So I went with that (they don’t call it faith for nothing).
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”
– Luke 5:31 (NIV)
I looked a little closer and started to feel a lot less self-conscious as compassion filled me. This lady was middle aged, sitting on the grass on the side of the road, leaning against a bus stop sign, crying. I had my second confirmation. Lord, you care for the broken ones, I thought.
We started speaking to her, asking her if she was okay and what was wrong. Through apologetic tears she explained that her husband had left her, her son was no longer speaking to her, and her grown up daughter had just kicked her out of the house.
As our hearts broke for her the words started to come. We told her that we were Christians and that as we had been praying only 20 minutes ago, God had shown me a picture of her and her little dog. I told her, “Jesus loves you and he cares enough about you to highlight you to me today. He sees you and cares about the pain you’re going through.”
When we asked if we could pray for her, she said yes and asked that we also pray for the young people in the community because she saw a lot of things that troubled her. So we prayed a simple prayer for her, her situation, and the community. Most importantly I asked for revelation for her of who Jesus is and what he’s done for her.
As we walked back towards the car (she was heading the same way as us) the boy with me felt prompted to offer to buy her a meal. She graciously said no, for what reason we don’t know. This can be disheartening but the most important thing is that if you hear God’s voice, you say yes to him and step out in obedience. For this guy, offering the meal was all he had to do; it wasn’t his responsibility how she responded. God knows whether maybe she just needed to hear that offer of generosity.
Back into the car we got and drove in the direction of the shady bridge, everyone scanning the streets for a dark guy on crutches, keeping our ears pricked should heaven chose to intervene with any new people as well.
Not seeing anyone on our way who either matched that description or jumped out at us, we parked near the bridge.
By this time it was starting to get dark. We looked down under the bridge (there is a very small river there and a lot of grass) and saw a big pack of teenagers and young adults having a loud, drunken party. I quickly consulted the other adults in the group whether they thought we should go ahead, then asked Lucas to lead the way. We decided, let’s just go for a walk, as a group, in that area and see if we see the guy from our visions. If not, we would go home. We were as comfortable as could be with that plan considering the circumstances.
We walked slowly along with much trepidation, praying and attempting to spot this guy if he was here, while simultaneously trying to avoid direct eye contact with any people in this group that outnumbered us by at least four times.
“It is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.”
– Matthew 18:14 (ESV)
And who should we find under the bridge but a tall, Sudanese young man on crutches, with a cast on his ankle, separated a little from his three friends, about 50 metres away from the party? We were in the right place.
About three of our cluster, comprising the two other kids who had received part of the prophetic picture, approached him. A young girl and her baby walked away with the pram as she saw us approaching, stopping to watch from a presumably safe distance.
I don’t know the first part of the conversation, having stayed behind with the bigger group to pray and try not to look suspicious. Soon enough, they motioned for us to join because the boy had invited them over to meet his friends.
He was blind drunk (somehow not falling off his crutches) but we weren’t discouraged. How else do you expect to find displaced youth on a Friday night who are in need of a touch from God? Sometimes you need to go out and seek the ones who would never step foot in a church, like Jesus did.
Some of us were speaking to him while others were chatting to his friends, one of which had read a lot of the bible and was quite the theological debater. One of the girls was carrying a much-loved, well-worn bible which the young man picked up and began to read aloud all the highlighted passages (there was a lot).
“Wow!” he said. “This is powerful stuff!” He looked up at the owner of the bible. “Can I keep this?”
Smiling, she asked him to hand her the bible and said, “Can I show you something?” Opening the front cover of the bible she read aloud from the inscription page, “To the person whom Jesus loves.” She smiled again. Six months earlier, after she had gotten back from an overseas mission trip, her grandma had prophesied that she would give that bible away. Borrowing a pen from me, she requested his name and wrote it in the front cover, under the inscription.
A group of us prayed over him for healing, and to receive the Holy Spirit and a revelation of who Jesus is. He hugged us all goodbye—it was fully dark by this time—and we walked back safely to our car. Thank you, Jesus.
Sometimes when doing this kind of thing, people can feel pressure to witness to a certain amount of people, or see people saved and changed in an instant. But often that is for a sense of validation or success, and Jesus calls us to go out and sow the seeds (remember that the farmer sowed on all kinds of ground). That night we simply made ourselves available to God and said, “Jesus, what are you doing in our community tonight? We want in.”