“Excuse me…excuse me…”
This is the phrase that Brad and I both heard out of a crowd of people on a busy street in the tourist town of St. Augustine, FL. As we heard the ladies voice say, “Excuse me…”, we both turn around and there she sits on a bench staring right at us. We walk over to her where she sat with her bicycle. She proceeds to tell us a story that she’s probably told many people before…“I was just wondering if you had any money to spare for me to get a bite to eat because I haven’t eaten in a few days, and I’m very hungry, and I’m 3 months pregnant and worried.” Now most of you have probably heard something similar to this before if you live near a city. For years I feel as if I’ve been trained to say no to the these people, that they should find a job so they can provide for themselves. And the worry of, if I give them money, I have no idea what they will really do with it. But God has been doing something in Brad and I both over the last year or so, and the way I saw this lady wasn’t how I would have a few years ago. I realized, it’s not food that she really needs, she needs Jesus. She needs hope of a better life and a future. So by the work of the Holy Spirit, God communicated to Brad and I both without us having the chance to talk it over, that we were to feed her physical belly AND her spiritual belly. On this busy strip of touristy St. Augustine, there were cute little restaurants and cafes all over the street. We asked her what she would like to eat, that we would take her somewhere (rather than give her money…this gave us time to spend with her). She was very humble and mentioned maybe getting some fries from a little place, but we encouraged her to get a good meal. We ended up at a perfect little joint where we went in, ordered her food, and just sat down with her to talk. People were packed in the place, so I know that people could hear our conversation as we sat there with her. She told us her name was Erika, and asked if we were on our honeymoon. I laughed and said, “No, this is actually our 12th anniversary!” She told us congratulations and said she thought I had the sweetest sounding voice, so I took that and rolled with it:) I told her I’d be glad to talk some more if she would be willing to let me share some things with her. She was all ears and eager to hear. I was excited as I took her through the Gospel, and shared with her about everything from our sin, to the love of God to send His Son to save us from our sin, and that He wants to not just pick her up and give her a little air, but to rescue her and clean her up for good. She was very receptive of what we were sharing with her, and Brad was also able to really speak to her heart. She told us that no one had ever shared that kind of truth with her before, and that she was very thankful and would be praying and seeking God as He pursues her. After some time, we got her on her way….she hopped on her bike and headed out, and so we continued on down the street, on our “vacation”, praising God for opening our eyes, and allowing us to be blessed by carrying His Gospel to a sweet, hurting lady.
The very next day we prayed before heading out to town again, that God would just take control of our trip and put us wherever He wanted us to be. And it didn’t take long. We spotted a man sitting on the side of the street with his cute little dog. We walked on to the end of the street, went into a gourmet popsicle shop where we got the man a water and a strawberry popsicle. We went back to him, gave him the cool treats, and just sat down next to him and his dog. He told us people called him “Shorty”, and his dogs name was “Baby”. We sat there as listened to this mans stories for a good long time. We could tell he was just enjoying having some company to talk to, and he was a very kind man. He told us how he ended up on the streets of St. Augustine after losing a good contracting job as a roofer when the economy went downhill. Now he just picks up work wherever he can find it. Brad told him a little about us and our ministry and calling, and asked if we could share a few things with him. He was very open to hear, so Brad went through the Gospel with him just as we did with Erika the day before. He was very responsive and interested and encouraged to seek God more I believe. We left it with him and have been praying for him ever since.
There’s something really amazing that God has shown us both through more and more experiences like this…..it is normal! It should be a natural part of who we are and what we are created for to share the Gospel with everyone. Not just in our churches, small groups, and families….but everywhere we go. We are all the same, not one created better than the other. I’m finding that these people that I once looked at as scary, mean, or bad, are just real people just like us, who are in need of real love and our very real Jesus. It was completely changed my perspective on sharing the Gospel of Jesus. There’s not one who doesn’t need it, and there’s not one who is lesser deserving of receiving the salvation of Jesus Christ. I will not ignore Him any longer, and will take every opportunity to notice those around me who I once would have overlooked or ran from. Jesus died for them too.
I hope you are encouraged to be the hands and feet and most importantly, the HEART of Jesus to everyone you meet!