In the past month, I have felt God tug on my heart to be sensitive to the Lord’s leading for me to pray and minister to those He brings across my path. I have clearly felt the Lord asking me to be more willing to step out in faith. The other night, I was asked to help with some prayer and ministry with my friends Pastor Jerry and Tharen. We were praying over a house and a man who was struggling named Nate. As we were praying, we felt the Lord’s presence in a special way and experienced some breakthroughs for Nate.
After the prayer time, we felt led to go out and walk along the river. I was in an area of Wichita where I had never been before and there were many people walking by the river. My spiritual antenna was up as we were talking, walking and praying. As we went by the river, I saw a young man that I felt a tug to pray for. As I approached him, there was some fear in my heart as I wondered what he was going to think.
I asked him if I could pray for him about anything and he shook his head yes with a lot of emotion. He told me he was just released from jail that day and he had nowhere to go. He shared with me that his name was Ryan and he was a Christian who had grown up in the church in a good family but had found a life of drugs and ended up doing time in prison. For the past year and a half he had been in and out of prison. He was preparing to spend his first night homeless when we ran into him. As Ryan shared his story with me the tears were flowing as he realized the Lord was with him and noticing him. He told me he literally was just praying and wondering if the Lord still cared for him. He figured the Lord had given up on him after so many failures. I reassured him of the Lord’s love and we had a powerful moment as I could sense the Lord’s spirit ministering to him.
After talking and spending some time in prayer, I brought Ryan back to our group where I introduced him to everyone. It was awesome to see them immediately embrace him. They invited him to go to church with them and help get him connected. What was especially powerful was to see Nate embrace and connect with Ryan. They have similar stories and so they were able to connect in a deep way. God is in the process of setting Nate free and now he was being used to minister to Ryan.
We got him some food and a place to stay for two days so he could figure out his next steps. We closed the night taking communion together. As Pastor Jerry led us in prayer and as we served the elements, it was dramatic to watch Ryan being accepted back into the family of God. It was as if the prodigal son was returning home. As the tears came, I embraced him and assured him of the love of the Father.
Two days later, I met with him again and spent some more time getting to know him. He mentioned to me that his buddy Carlos was in town and Ryan wanted me to meet him. He told me that Carlos had accepted the Lord on July 4th and was recently released from prison. As I was introduced to Carlos, I saw that he fit the part of someone who had spent years in the streets and in prison. He had tattoos all over his body and a rough exterior; but as he shared his heart, I could tell his life had been touched by the Lord.
He shared with me that he grew up in the Wichita and his first ten years of life were filled with extreme abuse and violence. By age 14 he was on the streets, in gangs, using and selling drugs. In 1998, he was arrested and for most of the past 17 years he has lived behind bars. In his last year in prison, he got connected with someone who kept sharing Christ with him. He learned that Jesus could set him free from his past and from all of his sin.
So on July 4th, the day of freedom, he gave his life to Jesus. He said he felt a high like he had never experienced before in his life. He was released from prison three weeks later and now has moved to a small town to live with his wife and kids. He has connected with a church and pastor, and he is now in the process of building a new life. Every day is a battle for him, but he is fighting those battles by depending on Jesus.
All of these men know they have a tough road ahead of him. The odds are stacked against them from the world’s perspective; but these are the kind of men the Lord is raising up all over. In one moment they can be forgiven and set free. Men like Nate, Ryan and Carlos need the body of Christ to love them, take them in and give them support. Everywhere we walk, we are surrounded by people who are waiting to experience the love of Jesus. Let’s be mindful of the people we see when in public, and then let’s be obedient to the gentle and small promptings of his Spirit. You never know who you might have the privilege of meeting.