Sidewalk, Octavia Street

(a story shared with the congregation of First Baptist Church in July)
Outside of First Baptist, a hundred people are lined up along the sidewalk, waiting for dinner. I am talking to one of my friends waiting in line. He never misses dinner on Wednesday night. We both here yelling toward the end of the line and look up in time to see a woman swing a red milk crate and hit her boyfriend in the face. I quickly jump up and move toward the conflict. I see another friend, David Ramirez, moving in to hold her back and I expect the fight to be over before I have to do anything. As David steps in, the woman also hits him with her milk crate. Now I am close. I see her face, her rage in gritted teeth and clawing fingers. I look into her eyes and the ice cold presence of the evil one active and working in front of me freezes my blood. I am suddenly small. I am completely terrified. I hold out my hands toward her and begin to pray for peace. The woman is screaming about murder and still trying to get to her boyfriend. With my hands stretched out toward her, I begin to move her up the sidewalk away from the crowd. Still praying for peace, I feel the Spirit of the Lord first in my hands then in my whole body. I ask the woman her name. As she is yelling, she tells me her name is Marilyn, then lunges toward her boyfriend again. This continues for a few minutes. She is getting angrier and screaming louder. I am trembling, scared. Marilyn in the name of Jesus Christ I command you to be quiet. The yelling immediately stops. She begins to quietly sob as she lowers herself to the ground. Kneeling down beside her, I place my hand on her back, and continue to pray for her. I softly say, “It’s o.k. Marilyn, it’s o.k.” Suddenly, Marilyn tenses up and begins slamming her head against the wall we are resting against. Startled, I quickly hold her head in my hands and ask the Lord to free her from the oppression of the evil one. She collapses into my arms. Peace finally comes. Sobbing, she begins to tell me pieces of her life on the streets, pieces of a life lived under the wait of addiction and prostitution. She looks up from the ground, eyes filled with tears, and says between sobs, “I‘m a whore. No one will ever love me.” Breathing in deep, trying to hold back tears I say, “I love you Marilyn. I love you because Jesus loves you.” With tears flowing down her cheeks, she says, “I want to marry Him.” “Marilyn, he wants to marry you. If you want Jesus, pray this prayer with me…” That night she married Jesus. Church, Body of Christ, bride of Christ, breathe in deep the love story of Jesus that you are a part of and let it impact every part of your life. Amen.