Light illuminated the dark corridors of the unexplored bridge. With bated breath, the team inched their way through the narrow walkway as we looked for any signs of the living. This was not a bridge we’ve ever explored in the past, yet despite warnings of danger from our other homeless friends, like a group of pioneers, we set out on an adventure to go to this uncharted area searching for an unknown community. Shocked, we find several tents fortified with broken down plywood, cardboard boxes, and tarps. Clothes hanging on walls drying, bicycles parked outside their tents, and bags of supplies littering the entryway, these people have been living here for who knows how long unnoticed; unseen by the world and invisible to their unsuspecting neighbors. With apprehension and fear, some responded to our presence, and with reluctance received the food, water, and clothing we gave them. For some of us who have been serving on the streets for a while, this night brought back memories of Year One of Rising Hope, the early days when we would explore and search for hidden people in camps and bridges, slowly wearing them down with the love of Christ until we were called friends; sometimes even family. We emerged from the bridges to return to the more familiar streets of downtown Bellingham, but something tugged on my heart take a different, unexplored route.
“This way,” I called, and at once the team turned around and followed. The path became less and less familiar until we arrived at a dead end. A shadowy figure looked towards us on the park bench. With a light piercing through the darkness, our flashlights shined upon the man. “Hey man, how are you?” and one by one, we introduced ourselves. “My name is Dave,” the man replied. He was quiet and his voice gave away his tension. In a moment, I felt as though God had given me a word for the man. So without hesitation I asked him, “Can I ask you a question? This is going to sound weird, and you may not believe me, but you are here because a girlfriend of yours broke up with you right?” The man stared at me blankly for about 10 seconds in what felt like an eternity. “Yes,” the man replied with a slow nod. “She hates me. How did you know?” “You may not believe me, but it was God who told me. And you might not also believe that we’ve never been here before, this is our first time taking this road and we felt like we were being sent here. And I believe it was so that we could meet, Dave. This is not an accidental meeting, we were sent here to find you and to tell you that God loves you, that you don’t have to be alone anymore, and you don’t have to be afraid. Jesus can set you free if you would give your life to Him and receive His Holy Spirit, it’s the only way to be born again, to have a new life, a brand new start in Him. Is that something that you want?” We continued talking a bit more, going through Scripture and exploring what it meant to be ‘born again’ until he said, “Yes, I want this.” So after I prayed for Dave, I prompted him to speak in his own words to God, and that I wasn’t going to give him a script for what to say. To paraphrase, Dave began to speak in his own words with closed eyes, “Lord, I need you. I need you Jesus to forgive me of my sin, to give me a new life. I’ve made so many mistakes in life, I don’t know if I can forgive myself. But I know you can and so please help me, give me a new life and I ask to be born again and to have the Holy Spirit living in me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Daniel and I looked at each other in shock, as if we were both thinking the same thing, Did he just say all of that in his own words? For a person’s first-time praying, it couldn’t have been more perfect of an expression of surrender and trust in God in that moment. But it wasn’t the first time we had seen a radical transformation happen before our eyes. In fact, a similar story happened the week before. In an alleyway, while our group spoke to some long-time homeless friends, we were introduced to a new face. His name was Miles. We spoke briefly getting to know each other until again, God had given me a word of knowledge for the man. I looked in his eyes and past the surface-level chatter, I saw something I hadn’t seen in a long time. I saw the same desperate, hurting, and soul-searching 17 year-old version of myself pre-Christ. My tone switched and began to speak with authority. “You’re sick of living like this, aren’t you? You’re starting to realize that you’ve been searching for happiness in all the wrong ways and you’re trying to find out if there’s any ‘true’ happiness out there, right? Because it feels like you’ve been on a treadmill, not actually moving forward, but chasing a carrot on a stick, never fully acquiring, never really having the one thing your heart truly wants. I know this because when I was 17 years old, I thought I had it all too. I had this tough front, and made all kinds of mistakes in my life to try and appear ‘tough’ so I could win respect and power over others. And it got exhausting and empty, because I knew I was lying to myself. Inside I was just a scared little boy, and you’re feeling like this too, aren’t you? You’ve been feeling this for a while, like you’re at a crossroads, not sure which way to go.”
The entire time I spoke, his jaw fell open. He was feeling exactly what I was describing, and it felt like I was reading his life like a script in my hand. Morgan spoke up and said, “Dude, I’m getting a sense that you struggle with fear, is that right?” And Miles literally jumped the moment he heard those words. “Oh my gosh, yes!” He begins to pull out a self-help book on dealing with fear out of his backpack. “I’ve been reading this book for a while, and fear has been a huge issue for me lately.” With every sentence from that point forward, Miles broke out in awe and wonder as we talked about who Jesus is, and how He is the answer to everything. And in a moment, Miles cried out, “What must I do to be saved?” He didn’t know it, but everything he was asking us that night was taken straight out of the pages of Scripture. “What must I do to be born again?” he asked. We walked through the process and explained from Scripture what happens and how one can receive God. “Tonight is your night Miles, you don’t have to spend another second living in your old life. Are you ready? Because you will never be the same again.” “Yes, I am ready.” Miles said. “I’m not going to tell you what to say, but given everything I just told you, I’m going to first pray for you. When I’m done praying, I want you to pray in your own words. Say whatever you want to Him, ask Him for whatever you want to ask for. This is YOUR moment, Miles.” So he began to pray. But I’m going to let Miles tell his story from here, as you’ll see in the video below.
“You are free,” I said. Never before have I ever witnessed such a profound and immediate transformation in one’s life. I’m happy to report that Miles is still walking with the Lord 3 weeks after this event, and that he is currently in treatment right now to overcome his addiction and finalize his recovery.
With David, the man we spoke to on the park bench, I had also received another word from the Lord. “You were here to commit suicide, weren’t you?” And he replied quickly, “No, I wasn’t.” However, a few hours later, as we sat down at a restaurant eating, he looked at me and said, “Jon, you guys saved my life tonight. I was going to kill myself, and I couldn’t admit it but you guys stopped me from jumping over that bridge. Thank you.”
These were two of the most powerful stories of the last two months, but we have literally dozens more just like this. Jacob who was given a prophetic word that his foot was in pain and was immediately healed, same with Isaac and Bob with their knees, Jordy of his pneumonia who after praying with took his first deep breath without pain and without coughing in weeks, Joe and his stomach, Eric and his hurting liver no longer hurting, David and his hip, Amber and her father’s heart issue, Sandra and April who we led to Christ last month and is now living a new life free from addiction and homelessness, Deborah who accepted Christ a few weeks after meeting her back in November and no longer in need of using a walker to get around, and all the hungry people we spoke to, loved on, fed, and hung out with: Timothy, John, Bob, Alex, Julee, Johnny, Jeff, Amber, Ice Box, Cory, Derek, Dennis, David, Michael, Rick, Juno, Cathy, Shawn, Ray, Jamie, Anitas, Donnie, Sparkles, the three Japanese exchange students who accepted Christ, Gunner, David, Matt, Mark, and all the others who’s names I didn’t mention. God is moving, alive, and incredibly active in our city. Please keep praying for us, and pray about joining us to take this city for the Kingdom!