If most of us had met Troy, a teenager, on the streets of Los Angeles many years ago, we could not have known that some day he would be an evangelist and eventually a pastor in that very city, leading thousands with similar stories to a new life in Christ.
In his testimony, Troy states he was high on drugs every day from the age of 12 until he accepted the Lord as his personal Savior at the age of 18. Someone handed him a tract as he walked those Los Angeles streets, asking if he “knew Jesus Christ.” He was so “unchurched” that he had no idea who this Jesus Christ was, but he became determined to find out. After spending a year at a Bible camp and attending a Christian college, he spent several years as an evangelist, telling his story across the country. The church he now pastors sponsors a thriving ministry for reaching people on the city streets. His obvious love for the Lord and enthusiasm has had a tremendous impact on thousands of lives.
If most of us observed, Dave, a man in his mid-twenties, bicycling the streets of Ocean Beach to bars while his wife, Jennifer, headed off to work, we would not have guessed that some day he would be a pastor of outreach presenting God’s Word to hundreds of families in that same community.
By his own admission, Dave was drunk before noon every day until the Lord brought him to his knees when his marriage fell apart. Dave begged the Lord he had found as his Savior at a young age to help him win back his wife and to put his life back together. After counseling and hard work, he won her back. Today Dave and Jennifer work together leading a sports ministry at their church.
Kids from pre-school age to young adults come from all over the county and beyond to attend the various sport camps and events. Most of the families and kids are not affiliated with a church. Each day of sports camp, or at each sporting event, a devotional is presented aimed at introducing the participants to Christ through stories about Christian athletes. The church sponsors barbeques and other events to foster camaraderie which provides further opportunities to share God’s message with their parents. Dave estimates that 6,000 plus kids are involved in these various sports camps and events during the year.
Dave recently shared this story. A woman arrived to sign her son up for a summer sports camp on the recommendation of a friend. After signing up for the camp, she realized her son would be attending devotions each day. She flew into Dave’s office full of anger that she’d been tricked, her friend had not told her that religion was involved. Dave calmly told her that no one was forced to participate in the devotional time and her son could sit in the bleachers away from the group. He advised the coach of the situation. Amazingly, the son wanted to attend the devotional time and soaked up everything that was said. The coach was ecstatic the day he e-mailed Dave to tell him that the young boy had accepted Christ as his Savior.
If most of observed Sam, a man in his mid-fifties, sleeping on the streets of New York City a few years ago, we would not have imagined that some day he would be leading groups of teenagers and young adults in training sessions about reaching out to the homeless.
Sam spent a career in banking, but in his early fifties lost his job when his bank merged with another. He spent the next eighteen months searching for a job while gradually using up every resource he had. Ultimately, he ended up on the streets, often sleeping on subway grates where he could soak up a bit of warmth. Daniel, a street pastor from a homeless outreach center, found him one evening as he walked the city looking for someone to come alongside. Daniel spent hours ministering to Sam and eventually Sam recuperated from his misfortunes enough to help out at the homeless outreach center.
After a couple of years volunteering, Sam was asked to work for another local ministry which provides week long opportunities for church groups from across the United States and Canada to come and learn about ministering to the homeless. Besides the fact that he was once again earning his way, Sam was thrilled to share real life understanding about the needs of the homeless. Not only does Sam help instruct and go out with these groups to minister, he shares his story with them. He has been written about in blogs and on facebook and in church bulletins and newspaper articles in the U.S. and Canada as these young people go back home and share their stories.
If most of us observed Sarah, a young woman in her late teens and twenties, as she roamed the streets of the major cities in the U.S. with various other prostitutes, we would not believe that several years later, she would be telling these same women of their need to flee from this lifestyle. Sarah knew God’s way, she had been raised in a Christian home and taught the Scriptures as a child.
After 10 years of many people praying for her, Sarah came to realize that she no longer wanted to live in the darkness, she wanted to return to the light of living God’s way. One of the most amazing moments in her testimony is when Sarah relates her realization that she had traded her soul for money and how she determined to get it back. Sarah plans to write a book about her experiences and the steps she has taken in her journey back to God. She is so very thankful for the unconditional love of her family during the years she wandered so far away.
It is by God’s grace that any of us can love that way. A poem by 19th century missionary, Amy Carmichael cries out: “Love through me love of God, there is no love in me.” Without the love of God and the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ covering our sins and creating a new heart within us, we too would be wandering the streets of life, lost in our sin.
Romans 5:8 says, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (New Living Translation)
Who are we to say which person we meet is “worthy” of the time it takes to share the love of God with them.
~Deborah Kaye McDade~ NOTE: All the stories shared above are true, however, all names and locations have been altered.