A friend of mine has an outreach ministry to homeless people in downtown Portland, Oregon. What makes her ministry unique is the relational focus she places on her outreach. Her love and kindness to those a city has deemed unlovable is truly remarkable. On a particular Saturday, I had decided to join her in her evangelistic efforts. We were able to pass out socks and hats to many people, pray for dozens of hurting people, but above it all one encounter stands alone.
In downtown Portland there are places that are aptly named Park Blocks — where entire city blocks are public parks. While this sounds nice, the park blocks are usually a fairly rough area marked by drug dealers and homelessness. Typically when I would go to Portland, this is an area I would avoid. However, my friend boldly decided that is where we were going to share the good news of Jesus. To be honest, I was unsure about the idea — but I was committed to see the love of God manifested more in my life, so I obliged to her decision.
When we arrived at Park Blocks there was a crowd of people on a corner near a public restroom. That was the perfect place to start handing out the supplies we brought with us. While we were passing out the hats and socks, a man in the bathroom could be heard shouting, “Don’t let her leave! Don’t let her leave!” It was clear that he was desperate to get whatever was being passed out. When the man rushed out of the bathroom he anxiously looked around in hopes of getting some clean socks and a hat. I had approached him and told him that I had what he looking for. The next few minutes were very special.
He had asked me what hat looks best on him, either the blue one or the burgundy one. We had a passing conversation about how the burgundy hat would match his sweater, and that was the one he chose. I believe that the simple acts of kindness, and the respect shown towards the man paved the way for the incredible things that God had planned for Him that afternoon. It was clear that not many people had treated him like that recently.
I asked if I could pray for him, and he immediately put his hands on my shoulders and bowed his head. Honestly this took me by surprise and made me slightly nervous. The area around us was becoming more and more tense. During this time a lady had ran up to those around us and began to yell about how she was just robbed while selling drugs. She was using extremely profane language. In addition to this people were coming and going exchanging baggies and cash — it was clear we found ourselves in the middle of many drug deals. To make matters worse, the woman who had just been robbed began to fight another group of people that came over. Regardless, I prayed for the man.
I began to feel a strong sense that he was like a big brother to the people around us — that he wanted to protect them, but also to guide into a better life. I simply began to tell him what I sensed and he began to hug me and cry. He said that absolutely resonated with him, and that he wants to take people out of the world of violence and drugs. I continued to encourage him, and he continued to hug me probably over a dozen different times. Before I left him, I asked him if he had any pain in his back — this was a thought that had popped into my mind while I was talking with him.
He said that he did indeed have pain in his back. When asking him what it was from he said, and I quote, “I have seven herniated discs in my back.” He continued to share about how he didn’t have health insurance but that he was trying to save money for a back operation. What came out of my mouth next surprised me. I said “Let’s get your back taken care of right now, let me pray for you one more time.” It was almost as if the words poured out of my mouth on their own, I couldn’t believe I had just said that! With my hand on his back I asked him where his pain level was at currently, on a level from one to ten. He quickly said that it was constantly at a seven out of ten.
When he said that I had this sense, like the ones I had before, that God was going to heal him right there on the spot. With drug deals and fights surrounding us, I commanded healing into his back, and rebuked the herniated discs. Nothing long, profound, or eloquent was said — I simply did what I thought Jesus would do in that moment. I then asked him where his pain was at, and I told him to be honest with me. He said, “You know, it’s honestly at a zero out of ten right now.” I was deeply moved to see the joy on his face as I briefly told him that it was Jesus Christ who just healed him, and that God loved him deeply.
Even in the midst of darkness, the light of God came and forever changed a man’s life. The Holy Spirit within us is not scared of drug dealers, and the rough areas of our cities — so why should we be? The presence of God is with you wherever you go. To see His glory put on display, you need to be brave and step out.