I am a former atheist who discovered Jesus in June of 2000. Now I am a chaplain and a licensed UPC minister who loves the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. . . I once was blind, but now I see. . . never say never.
Had a wonderful evening tonight on Middlebury Street. The weather was sharply crystalline sunshine, a frolickingly pleasant breeze, mid summer warmth and moderate humidity. Walking west into the sun was downright hot. I had sweat pouring off of me, but after the turn walking back east was very nice. I was expecting large numbers of people out on their porches on Middlebury Street, as was the norm in years past. Those days may have passed, at least until better economic times. There were not abundant people to be found on Middlebury Street itself. The River Run low income apartments were another situation entirely. Life Line was having a hot dog and potato chip cookout and everyone was out. Lots and lots of people were out walking and talking in the apartment complex.
You just never know. Again and again and again, I leave a flier on a porch with not even a small clue that it ever gets read. . .you can tell the continuity of residence, by the furnishings and by the care of the landscaping, by items uniquely found on each porch. . .one such house, very well kept in all respects, tonight, unusually had a toddlers gate installed across the porch steps and a very small chihuahua, maybe a pup behind the gate. I was just trying to innocuously place my flier in a seam between the pieces of this little wooden fence. The tiny dog was making a small ruckus, but not being overly noisy or obnoxious, just enough to alert his owner to someone's presence in his domain. A Hispanic gentleman, maybe a few years younger than I, came through the door, peered earnestly into my face and asked, if I were the one who always left the fliers on his porch. His English was somewhat broken, but even with my poor hearing understandable nonetheless. I told him, that yes, I am the one who leaves the fliers each week. He seemed fascinated at my consistency. "You always, never give up?", he haltingly spoke. If I had to guess at the furnishings of the house, etc. I would say that he has lived there for probably 2 years. He said slowly, ponderingly, "That is what Christians are supposed to do. . .try and reach people." He asked if I were the pastor of the church. I told him, that no I am a chaplain. I'm in the jail on Wednesdays and on the street on Tuesdays. He said that his name is George (using the Hispanic pronunciation ~ Hor-ge), or as he repeated it again in English ~ GEORGE. . .I told him I prayed for the neighborhood. . .for the drug houses to close. . .for people to quit shooting each other. . .for good things to happen to people. I told him that Jesus healed people to show them how much He cared for them. . .and that He still answered requests in the same way today to show men that He loves them. . .I never asked him, but George volunteered that he would come visit our church. "I will come visit you", He said. . . I told him that we have Hispanic services in the afternoon. I gave him one of my cards showing the service times. Later at the other end of Middlebury Street I saw him riding his bicycle toward town. I gave him a familiar salute of recognition. . .he tipped his hat at me in return. . .It was a sweet moment on the street. . .one that makes everything worthwhile. . .
I prayed with numbers of ladies. On lady in particular I prayed with 2 weeks ago for her shingles. She said that she was improved since we last spoke. Talked with several ladies who I believe were working the street. The did not want prayer. They scoffed not at me. . .not at God, but embarrassedly at God's being interested in their prayers. . .not a laugh directed outward, but toward themselves as being unworthy objects of prayer. . . Prayed with some real toughs in the apartments. One particular big man who threw out maybe without meaning to, out that he needed a financial blessing and then, after I said that I would pray for that, seemed to be shocked that I would pray for God to bless him in that way. He did not want anointing. He said maybe next time. . .lol. I prayed for God to bless him in a unique way. . .
The highlight of the evening was a group of 5 or 6 children maybe between 6 and 12 years old, almost back to the church, within a half a block or so of LTC. They met me at the sidewalk, not accustomed to me or my wagon as are the children in the apartments. Curious as to what I was doing. They like all the children, loved my fliers with the colorful string and pretty little bead on each one. I told them I was praying for the neighborhood and if they needed prayer for anything to let me know. . .They all took their fliers, and started walking away until one of the last little boys, mentioned that I could pray for a friend "Lance" who was in jail. I asked, "juvenile hall?" "Yeah", he said. He was in Goshen, but now he's in Indianapolis. The name Lance was a magnet for all the children. When they heard his name, they quickly came back and all drew close. I poured oil into each one of their hands. Had them rub their hands together, and then we held hands and made a little prayer circle, there on the sidewalk. The 6 or 7 of us lifting up Lance before God. . .asking for God's protection for him. . .asking for God to let Lance know He was near. . .It was a very very wonderful moment. . .I say it again and again. . .there is nothing better than this. . .nothing better than lifting up God and praying, especially with children!!!!! in the golden warm sun on a wonderful May evening. . .
Terry Wallin and I had a really good night on Middlebury Street last night. I was unable to go Tuesday evening. As it turned out it was a very rainy night and we probably would not have been able to go in any respect. Last night was a beautiful evening. The clouds finally parted after days of rain. It was warm and very windy. It was just a grand evening to be out walking and talking to people.
There are so many empty houses on Middlebury Street this year. It is incredible the number of empty places, many of them boarded up, that were full, many of them with young families last year. I find it a bit sad. Where have these people gone? Hopefully to places offering better opportunities for them. We talked with David this week and stopped for a bit and talked with Ralph, another regular on the street.
One young man toward the end of Middlebury Street wanted to argue with me. Terry Wallin remembered him from the jail. I did not. For some reason he was very emotional. His lips were quivering he was so intense in wanting to engage me in an argument. I refused to be drawn in. I do not believe anything comes of arguments about religion. Either a person has an open heart and is seeking God or they are not. I loved to argue as an atheist, but I wasn't seeking to find God at all. I was seeking to damage or destroy the Christian's faith. . .There was an elderly gentleman sitting along side of him on the steps, who seemed embarrassed and apologetic about the young mans behavior.
I anointed and prayed with another lady in the apartment area, whom I have seen in the jail over the years. There were many people out in the apartments. It was very good to talk with lots of people.
We were almost through the apartments, when I saw a familiar young woman coming out of the door. I just broke out in an ear to ear grin. As I walked up, I asked her, "How long has it been dear? 3 years?." She smiled broadly also, "Yes" she replied. I've seen her and her boyfriend over the years at the apartments. He is in and out of jail. We have prayed for him over the years, both in jail and out of jail.
She told me it was so coincidental, she and her boyfriend (who is currently again in jail), had just been talking about us. He had told her that those guys who come through the neighborhood passing out fliers are really good guys. Apparently he had been at one of our meetings at the jail recently. Her little boy attends either a day care or after school program at St. Vincents church. She wanted her child to have exposure to religion, as she did when she was growing up. He is asking her about God. Wanting to know more. . .she is looking for a church. We talked about Life Tabernacle and its Sunday School. . .and the powerful worship. . .and how the best thing she can do for her child is to foster a relationship with God within him, and to live for God herself. . .She is planning on being at church this Sunday morning. . .
It was just a wonderful evening. Terry and I had a grand time. It felt good to have Terry along with me again. He has had some physical problems that have prevented him from walking with me over the past year or so, but he is fine now. . .It was a great night.
It is hard for me to remember a day with which to compare to today. . .It was an amazing day. . .
Sunday Jackie and I brought Mikah, our youngest grandchild to church. We have six grandchildren. Mikah is the third grandchild I have danced and worshiped before the Lord with at Life Tabernacle. There is nothing quite like having a small child in your arms and dancing before God. It is an extremely rare pleasure. . .
Mikah's father was in Life Tabernacle's altar a few weeks before with his hands raised to God, with tears streaming down his cheeks, but it has been an uncertain and veering path for Jeff. You can read about much of Jeff's struggle with addiction at his blog: foreverlikethemoon.blogspot.com
Jeff had texted me last evening telling me that he wanted to come with me on street ministry tonight. I was surely grateful for that. I haven't had much communication with Jeff in the past few weeks and I was glad for the opportunity of fellowship and hopefully a chance to minister to Jeff's needs. While at work today Jackie emailed me that I should read Jeff's latest blog entry. . .He describes in an article titled, "The Beautiful Struggle" how he was filled with the Spirit of God and spoke in tongues for the first time, while writing his blog. . .Jackie and I and others at Life Tabernacle have been praying for Jeff these past couple of weeks and this is the answer to many prayers. . . .
That was the beginning of the day. . .
Last week I had seen a front page news article about a young man, 16 years old, who had been reportedly caught by the security personnel at Walmart shoplifting. When confronted he lifted his shirt, showing a weapon. Running from the store he was reported to have carjacked a vehicle and in a chase, he wrecked the stolen vehicle miles away in Elkhart. Now rather than a relatively minor, maybe class 'd' misdemeanor as a charge, the young man has several class 'b' felonies. His showing of the gun even though it was only, as it turned out a BB gun, changed the shoplifting charge to armed robbery and precludes his being tried as a juvenile. I don't know what he was stealing, but maybe for a $10 pair of sunglasses, this young man is now facing possibly 40 years in prison. . .(these figures, etc. are just guesses on my part). . .He did something really dumb. . .really stupid and he may spend from his 16th birthday until he's 40 years old in prison. . .wow. . .talk about a tragedy. . .
I wrote the young man a letter. Told him I was a chaplain at the jail. Told him if he wanted I would come see him. . .I got a call Sunday from him (the jail staff allowed him to call me for free somehow). He sounded very humble. . .very open. . .He wanted to see me. Tonight just as I was getting ready to leave the church, I received another call from the young man. . .again the staff let him make a free call. . .He told me that he has been an atheist and he desires to open his heart and turn his life over to Christ. . .He wanted to know if we could talk about this tomorrow when I come to see him. . .Oh my!! Almost exactly 10 years ago, I came through the doors of Life Tabernacle for the first. . .as an atheist. . .Yeah young man. . .I think we might be able to find something to talk about tomorrow night at the jail. . .I had asked yesterday for prayer about this situation from a few at the church. . .Pastor Johnson responded. . .praying that the Lord go before us in our ministry. . . boy oh boy did the Lord listen. . .
I'm already pretty long on this, and I haven't even gotten to the Street ministry. . .Jeff N. (Mikah my youngest grandson's daddy), Brother Henry Cruz, Pastor Sanchez, and I went on the street ministry/prayer walk this evening. It was not an exceptionally warm evening. It was nice and beautiful walking weather, but there were not great numbers of people out on their porches. Later in the summer we will have many more people to speak with, but for a first evening of the season, it was surely a nice evening. Saw a few of the old regulars of the neighborhood. Some church was having a hot dog cookout in the low income apartments. So there were lots and lots of people out over there. Brother Cruz and I anointed and prayed with David Gilbert (Zoe's husband). His health is very very poor.
It felt good to be out talking to people. . .spreading the good news of the Lord on the streets of Elkhart. It's been a long season since we were last out there. . .Jeff saw numbers of people who were high on drugs and noticed houses that probably had dark things going on behind their drawn curtains. . .He has already posted a blog entry about his experience tonight.
I was almost back to the church, walking past the cemetery on Middlebury Street, when I spotted two young women about a block away walking together as they pushed a young child in a stroller on Cemetery Street. I walked down to them, the one young woman with the stroller began grinning broadly as I approached. There was a flicker of a memory, but not much more. Maybe seeing the puzzlement in my face, she said, "Yeah, you anointed me almost two years ago. . " and it came back to me. She was with 3 or 4 friends walking around the low income apartments. I had seem them make several loops as I passed out fliers and prayed with people. They were having a grand time. The friends cutting up and laughing hilariously with this woman as they walked, who at the time was about as pregnant as a woman can get. She was ready to pop and her friends were walking with her, hoping to jump start her labor pains by the walking around and around the apartment complex. I chatted with them. Telling them I was praying for the neighborhood and would love to pray with them of they had anything to pray about. The young ladies wanted prayer for their pregnant friend and her unborn child. I poured anointing oil on their hand and they lifted her shirt and rubbed the oil on her belly and out in the open air, we lifted up a prayer for this woman and her soon to be born child. . .
Tonight, she smiled broadly at me, when I approached them. . .She reminded me that I had prayed with her almost 2 years ago and the child in the stroller tonight, was that unborn child. He was a little boy named AJ. . . I asked her if she would like prayer again. . .and "yes" she responded, "she would like it much. . ." I poured the oil in the two ladies hands and we laid hands on the little boy, praying for God's protection on him. . .for God's wisdom to come on this young mother. . .for God to hear her prayers for her child. . .it was a golden moment. . .in the lengthening shadows of a most golden and most godly evening. . .
My God. . .what is an evening like this worth. . .