“…And he spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance…
Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” (Luke 15:3-7, 10 -Parable of the Lost Sheep as told by Jesus Christ)
I came across the following quote and it struck a place in my heart, recalling an event that transpired a little over a week ago. It was offered by Evangelist and Bible teacher Beth Moore. This was probably meant to be significant for close relationships with people, but it spoke to me due to what God had just done before my eyes, while using me as His vessel:
“What if the next person on your path is meant to become one of the most important people in your entire journey. One of the dearest? Most influential? What if he or she is the extension of God’s index finger, pointing you that way?”
Pointing us what way? Well, for me it was toward a form of ministry I would never have seen myself entering if it weren’t for Jesus’ divine interjection. The parable of Jesus above is that of the lost sheep. His heart is found both topically and deep within the message: God would drop everything he was doing, cause the earth to tilt and move things into position, in order to win back just one of His children from a life of sin. He loves us that much! How much? As far as the east is from the west! (Psalm 103:12)
I’d never felt led to go out and minister to those whom are very downtrodden in this world, until I met the man I’m married to. He had been involved in the founding of a ministry with his sister and brother-in-law some years prior, that involved street ministry: Their main outreach – reaching the lost on the streets or living in run-down hotels (homeless, addicts, etc.). He and I talked about it a lot and the more we did, the more compelled into this I felt. After I relocated and we settled into married life a bit, we felt led to go into the city and put boots on the ground. I made a dozen PB&J sandwiches, we bought bottled water to take with us, and also our dogs. As we walked, I prayed over the streets and for the city.
There is no shortage of homeless, those with addiction or prostituting on the streets of Cincinnati, Ohio. It has been this way for longer than my 42 years on this earth. (I have walked on these city streets right alongside them, often talking with or providing them with food.) God soon sent us in the direction of those he desired we reach with food, water, kindness and prayer that day. In the days that followed, my heart was flooded with love, compassion and a deep desire to continue down this path, hoping God would lead me to that ONE.
Fast forward many months, and through a lot of personal trials where you might think a person’s soul would just want to rest – but mine, no way! God must have wanted me to make up for lost time. It took some waiting and patience but I was finally sent out in the trenches with a local street ministry, out into the dark city streets making connections with those out there in the midst of the struggle…
Mind you, this was my very first night out! I had been led to fast that day and to spend some time alone with the Lord – on my face in prayer – as I relented to His will and asked to be used. The common theme of my life as of late has been, “Here am I, Lord…send me!” This day was no exception.
The ministry team embarked onto the streets in two vehicles. We drove a large circumference, seeing very little activity. We ended up heading downtown, near the Ohio River and the stadiums because there was a known homeless camp there. We were just about to end our evening, when a man and a woman dropped their stuff about a half a block from us. The team leader and I exchanged knowing glances, grabbed water and food, then headed their direction. The woman walked away before we reached them but the man stayed and approached us. The team leader spoke with him in brief and then asked if we could pray with him. He gladly accepted, so we joined hands (we’d been joined by another gentleman on our team) and he led the prayer. A moment after finishing, the woman with him walked back up.
She seemed eager to catch us as she approached our broken prayer circle, asking if we’d been praying. We said ‘yes’ in unison and the woman, whom I’ll call Miss B, asked if we might pray for her. “I’d love prayer,” she stated. After a moment, I realized she was high on something and I could smell alcohol, but for some reason my every sense was honed in on her. Something she said to us suddenly pricked my spirit and I sensed the Lord’s presence with us and felt he didn’t want me to let Miss B get away. So, as led, I asked her questions and engaged her in conversation. I heard her, over and over, saying how hard it was being out on the streets, homeless. She had been there for a month.
As to not give too much detail I’ll fast forward a bit: We’d been standing there with Miss B for a good chunk of time. The more I engaged her, the more of her life she shared. But above all else it was made crystal clear to me, that I was sent there that night to help her. She focused on me as her eyes seemed to be pleading to Jesus. Having received clear marching orders, and hearing her desire for help, the Holy Spirit led me to ask Miss B if anyone had ever offered prayers of deliverance over this addiction and her situation. She said ‘no’…then, she looked me straight in the eyes and asked me to please do so.
I explained to her what I was about to do and she nodded. I placed my hands gently on her shoulders and she reciprocated. We were forehead to forehead when I heard myself ask Miss B if she had ever accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior; she said yes, and I saw tears falling onto the ground. Jesus was weeping with her, through my heart! I felt Him wrap his arms around us as the Holy Spirit led me in prayer, and had me leading Miss B in prayers of deliverance over herself. Jesus was so present in that moment! I prayed and prayed, then finally felt the release of His arms from us. I gave her a big hug and she just stood there weeping and thanking me. I knew this was not the end…for as I was praying, my Lord was whispering the next steps into my ear. Come back for her!
Without hesitation, without an ounce of fear and without care of anything but being obedient to my Lord, I asked Miss B if I were to come back in the morning (it was already well after midnight) and take her someplace to get help, would she meet me in that same spot. She instantly said yes. “Yes, I will be sitting right here waiting for you.” I had given her my word and would not let God or this woman down. I knew that there was a reason for the waiting period – you never know if someone is serious if they aren’t sober. But, the Holy Spirit assured me, she was ready for help.
And, she was.
The next morning, I pulled up to where we’d met her the night before and Miss B was there, dozing on a bench. I parked my vehicle and started toward her. Something must have startled her because she rose up, looked around and spotted me. She was so excited to see me that she jumped up, hurried toward me and gave me a hug! Wow…God knows! We stood there chatting for a moment and then she gathered her sparse belongings. I suggested we go somewhere to sit and discuss her options. I’d spent some time in the overnight hours (since I was so drenched in the presence of the Holy Spirit, I could not easily fall asleep) researching where in the city I could take her for help.
We got into my car. A few seconds later she told me she’d been up early and the first thing she did was throw away her rigs (needles) and residue (left over heroin that she could have used to get a fix). She said she knew I would keep my word. I told her how happy I was for her, that she was able to do this without hesitation and she said, “…and the amazing thing is, I do not feel sick this morning!” (There is a reason people get addicted to heroin quickly and easily – in order to not feel ill, they have to keep using. When they don’t it’s like a bad flu hits and it takes days to get over.) I asked her how she felt otherwise and she said she had no desire to use. She was done. I said, I’d be giving God the glory for that and she said, yes, I have been! (Hallelujah!)
We reached a place to sit and talk; I presented the options I felt were solid and she weighed them briefly. What came next I did not expect, but was praising the Lord after the question exited Miss B’s mouth: She asked, if she could get into a detox facility, would I take her? Uh, yeah! She tried but there were no beds, so her next thought was to get checked into a hospital. That was the direction we went in. But before I took drove there, I felt led to get some nourishment into her! I had brought her a PB&J sandwich and she devoured it immediately. I knew this poor child hadn’t eaten a good meal in a while, and despite not really having the money, was led to take her to a restaurant and treat her to a full meal. (And just to show you how great our God is…while sitting in the restaurant my employer texted asking if I could work extra hours over the weekend! This covered the meal and gas used, times 3!)
She was so grateful and expressed her amazement at how, even after eating, she didn’t feel sick! Miss B firmly felt as though God had delivered her from this addiction! However, to be safe and get her into a safe place (off the streets) where there wouldn’t be any temptation, we proceeded with the plan to get her checked into the hospital. It took some finagling but God was on her side, and after several hours of waiting she was admitted.
I stayed there with her just to be certain all went okay. I watched her sleep. My heart was so flooded with God’s love for Miss B. I felt released to leave her after about 4 hours. I called to check on her over the weekend and each time, she was sleeping or heading that direction (I did speak with her twice and she said she still didn’t feel sick). I prayed that this sweet slumber was a sign of God healing her from the inside out. I called to check on her, plus see if she needed a ride, on Monday, and she was no longer there. I didn’t fear for her, although, I was concerned where she ended up going. I trust that the hospital wouldn’t have just released her without a plan of action. More so, I trusted that God had her back and was taking care of his child, while releasing me from further responsibility. (God knows my caretaker heart all too well!)
The realization of how happy God was that this ONE was now safely in His midst, overwhelms me still, over a week later. There is another side to this story…my side: Apparently I had gone completely outside the boundaries of this ministry’s protocol (which I was not made aware of beforehand) and the founder felt like I was a risk. It was stated that I would no longer be on their team schedule. Yes – fired after saving just ONE lost sheep! You know what? I am perfectly okay with that because I obeyed God and taking risks – being radical for the Lord – is who I am called to be.
Thankfully, even after hearing this story, another street ministry opened their arms to my joining them. Although, I have a sneaking suspicion this is just the beginning of what is to come on this unexpected path the Lord has me walking down.
“My prayer is that when I die, all of hell rejoices that I am out of the fight.” ~ C.S. Lewis
Miss B, you will forever be ONE person whose path I crossed that affected my life for the better, for His purpose. His finger pointed me to you and my prayer for you, dear ONE, is that you hold on tighter and tighter. Fight the good fight, sister! He loves you! He desires you! He will restore you and what the locusts have eaten away from the years of your life and that of your family. I pray that the Lord will move mountains to keep you in his perfect will and, as you stated out loud that day, you become a testimony for all he has and will do in your life. Fix your eyes on your Savior and never take them off, sister. Walk with Him and deny temptation in Jesus’ holy, holy name!
“It is written: “As surely as I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow before Me; every tongue will confess to God.” (Romans 14:11)
“…as a plan for the fullness of time, to bring all things in heaven and on earth together in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:10)