Today I stopped to pick up a pop at the gas station on the way to our prayer room. There was a lady outside the little convenience store, partially hidden by the ice machine, who was wearing a thin spaghetti strap tank and a pair of shorts and flip flops (unusual attire for a chilly autumn morning). She was very thin and her hair was disheveled and she kept flailing her arms and legs around, almost as if she was arguing with herself or with something unseen. Her motions were erratic enough that I assumed she was strung out.
My heart was drawn to her but I was not sure what to do, except quietly pray. I entered the store, grabbed my pop, stood in line to pay, looking back out the window to see if I could catch of glimpse of her still. Suddenly, this same woman entered the store and headed back to where I had grabbed my drink. After I paid, I went back to find her. She was pacing erratically back and forth, holding a large bag of popcorn and a fountain drink.
“Are you okay? Can I help you with something?”
She immediately tried to cover her semi-exposed chest from my eyesight.
“I’m so embarrassed. I’m so embarrassed. [Mumbled name] sent me here like this. I feel so sick. I have a fever. I have a fever. I have money,” as she clung to a bill folded in her fist.
She continued to move her head and body like she was strung out. Dark rings circled her glassy eyes that avoided eye contact, blue and grey bruises speckled her entire body with sadistic patches, and her right arm had a large, dark hole. Literally, a hole. Her body looked like it was slowly dying.
“How can I help you? Are you coming down from a drug right now? [Yep, I actually said that.] Can I pray for you? What is your name?”
“Yes, yes, please. I’m Deborah. No. I really want drugs right now.”
I felt her head to see if she was feverish. Her skin was clammy, but not burning. I laid my hand on her shoulder and I prayed and declared healing for her as well as asked the Lord to intervene in her life and give her the help she needed.
“How can I help you? Can I drive you somewhere? Can I take you to the Gospel Mission?”
“No, no. I’m fine. Too much God there,” she mumbled.
“Thank you [for praying].”
I walked back to my van and thought about the new sweatshirt I was wearing. Father, should I give her this one? She obviously could use a shirt to help her feel more covered. As I was contemplating how best to help, I opened the van door and spotted a brand new, light-weight jacket my mom had given to me last week (did not fit her or me) and she wanted me to give it to someone at my church. I immediately shut the door and walked the jacket back into the store for Deborah.
“Deborah, I have a jacket. Would you like it?”
“Yes, thank you.”
She put her food down on a shelf and I helped her put it on. Then, not sure what else to do, I turned to exit.
Deborah called out to me, “Hey, what should I get if my stomach is not doing good?”
“I’d get Vernor’s and some bread.” And with that, I walked out and returned to my van.
With tears stinging my eyes, processing my encounter with Deborah and thinking about all the Deborahs out there, I drove to KHOP in silence.
Stopping for the one.
I’ve heard Heidi Baker say over and over again that we should stop for the one. Jesus Himself taught about the Good Shepherd who leaves the 99 to go after the one. And He modeled this truth over and over again in His earthly ministry by purposefully interacting with people whom the world had marginalized: the Samaritan woman at well, Zacchaeus, the woman with the issue of blood, etc.
So, I’m thinking about this in the context of Deborah, a woman whose bruised and tattered body shouted drug and probably some sort of physical and/or sexual abuse. So many things I should have said. But in the end, I said what I said. I know I can’t change that. I offered what I could in that unscripted moment: I offered her an encounter with our beautiful Savior. And a jacket. Not sure it was enough, but it was what I had.
Here’s what I’m processing - what if the one we go after does not want to be rescued?
God obviously knew I needed some encouragement, so a few hours into my time at KHOP, an older lady named Theresa walked into the prayer room. Her right arm was in a sling. She told me that she had come to give God thanks for helping her survive cancer and to ask Him to help her find freedom from drug and cigarette addictions. She wanted to live to be a blessing to her grandchildren. We prayed together, believing that the Lord was releasing freedom into her life. Then, at the end, we prayed for her fractured shoulder and we both felt heat enter her shoulder. (Always a good sign!) She left our prayer time encouraged and uplifted, as did I.
I am thankful for my encounter with Deborah. I am growing. I am learning. Help me to tangibly love those around me, Father. Please help me not to judge. Help me to see everyone through Your perfect eyes of hope and love.
And I am thankful for my encounter with Theresa. Her thankfulness reminded me of the story of the leper in gospels who remembered to return and give thanks after Jesus healed him.
And I am thankful for a beautiful Savior who freely offers new life to everyone: extravagant love offered to everyone, every day.