I sat and waited to hear Devin O’Connel’s story. I didn’t like being in the south side of Chicago; I didn’t like these people, but I needed the money.
Known as the Street Preacher, Devin stood at a makeshift pulpit and began, “We sing a song that says, ‘I once was blind, but now I see, was lost but now I’m found.’ Well, I can tell you that I once was dead, but now I stand before you...alive.”
There were no theatrics, just a humble man who looked every person in the eye, except for me. Surely, I thought, he doesn’t know who I am or why I’ve come? Suddenly, I felt conspicuous and shoved my hands into my trench coat pockets. I let go of the papers I’d been writing on, but I kept my right hand wrapped around the cold metal inside my other pocket. If something happened, I would just shoot and run.
Devin’s voice was deep and hauntingly convicting, “November 22nd, 2007. Thanksgiving Day. Just a week ago...”
I looked around for any evidence of technical equipment that would explain why his voice sounded like it surrounded me, but I found none as he continued.
“I no longer shivered from the cold of the wind-driven snow and ice. My heart had stopped, but my soul never skipped a beat. I saw hands reach down through a bright mist and take hold of my arms. I felt the warmth of the two angels, who escorted me through a star-infused universe. It was the same sensation of movement that I’d felt when I used to travel in virtual games.”
No one moved. I held my breath. I was vaguely aware of background noise, but there wasn’t a sound where we were gathered.
Devin continued, “I couldn’t tell if we were passing galaxies, stars, or planets; they all appeared as streaks of light. Each streak grew intensely brighter until we entered into a realm of such golden radiance that it permeated my very being. I absorbed it until I felt it, breathed it, smelled it.”
By now I was no longer concerned about how out of place I felt. I only knew that I didn’t want this man to stop speaking.
The preacher closed his eyes. “I stood on the banks of a river and saw the Lord on the other side. I plunged into the water, but instead of waiting for me, He met me in the middle. He saw my confusion and gently said, ‘Not yet; you are needed now.’ With His nail-scarred hands, He wiped away the tears on my cheeks, and then I fell backward into the river.”
A man jumped up and shouted, “And that’s how I found him--lying in a puddle of water, his face as ashen as a winter sky.”
Another man attested to the fact, “I was there. Strangest thing I ever seen. Water no deeper than my ankles, yet there he was, drowned if I ever saw a dead man, and then, dang if he didn’t just sit up!”
“Preacher,” a man sitting beside me stood slowly, his voice sounded far away, “did you see heaven?”
I looked at Devin and saw tears forming.
“I did...for a fleeting second. I saw a city of gold, so transparent that it was clearer than crystal.”
“Did you see God?” someone else asked in a hushed voice.
Devin brushed the back of his hands across his eyes. “No, and yes. I saw His Son, who is one with the Father. But, I couldn’t stand to look upon Him, for His being was of a fiery brilliance that was unbearable to behold.”
An old man warmed his hands over a fire in a barrel. “Tell ‘em why He sent you back,” he called out.
Devin looked around again at the street people, who were cold, hungry, homeless, and then he looked at me. “To bring you the hope of eternal life, to tell you that Jesus Christ died for your sins, and that He lives so that you might believe in Him and be free from those sins.”
The earnestness in his voice pierced my conscience. I pushed my way through the outcasts who were answering the street preacher’s altar call.
My hand shook as I took out the article I had started and threw it into the fire. I let go of the camera in the other pocket. There was no sensational story here, just the truth.
John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” NIV
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