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Church on the Streets

· Faith,missions

This week I’ve had the privilege to be out on the streets of Baltimore, with my Jesus family distributing brown-bagged lunches to my friends who have no home.

Yesterday, my friend Michelle, her daughter and I hopped out of our car to give a few gentlemen, lunches. One was a tall, black man with a smile that lit up that corner curb. He gratefully took the sandwiches, introduced himself as Jeremiah and said, “Can we pray?” I think Michelle and I answered in unison, “Of course!”

He left us to go put his lunch in a safe place then came back. He grabbed both of our hands and began to pray. Now, have you ever prayed with someone who KNOWS where his daily bread comes from? Or with someone who KNOWS who watches over him while he’s sound asleep in an exposed parking lot? Have you held hands and had worship with a brother or a sister who knows they’re never alone because their heavenly Father talks to them and keeps them company every day? Here’s the thing, it’s a powerful, heaven comes to earth, kind of prayer.

Jeremiah quoted scripture as if it were his daily manna and he talked to Jesus like He was holding hands with us in that circle. Then, he blessed us. He prayed our Father’s protection over us. Our Dad, the God we all know intimately, known by all of was a sort of family reunion at that moment.

Jeremiah then broke out into a hymn...

Lord you know that I'm your child

And I'm doing the best that I can

Why my way gets so dark

You know I just don't understand

Oh Lord (oh Lord)

I need You to hold my hand

I can't make it without You, Lord

Oh Lord, I need You to hold my hand

Whoa, listen to me now

As I traveled from place to place

Many times I'm treated so bad

Then I sit and think about

I can't miss a friend

That I never had

Oh Lord (oh Lord)

I need You to hold my hand

I can't make it by myself, oh Lord

Oh Lord, I need You to hold my hand

One more thing, church

I'm gonna continue to run for Jesus

Even if I have to run alone

Because it's my determination

To make God's beautiful heaven my home

He’s not the only one who has stopped to pray for us. Another day, my son and I pulled up into our usual spot, in front of the “Penthouse” Club and was greeted by another man. He said, “Can I pray for you guys?” He also prayed a powerful prayer of blessing and health over us, asking Jesus to keep us safe while we served. Then we asked to pray for him. The Spirit of God was with us! I could feel Him as clearly as the sound of my own voice, “Holy Spirit I recognize You in my brother here. He is full of You! I pray that you continue to fill him so he can pour out Your love and joy to everyone he meets.” At that moment, the wind whipped up and blew so hard we almost blew away. He started laughing, threw his hands in the air and said, “Well, if that ain’t’ confirmation!”

For many of our friends on the streets, social distancing is not a thing. One man talked about how a few of them huddled in a tent while the rain poured down, and blew into their tent, trying to stay warm. Another said, “If I don’t have people and contact, I think I’ll die. Physical contact keeps me living. It gives me something to live for.”

I was talking to another friend who is a recovered addict who now serves on the streets as well. One of her favorite verses in the Bible is, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Ps. 34:18

Jesus is right where you find the brokenhearted. He is right there on the streets, in the alleys, on the abandoned stoops and under the bridges. He is all about our friends who have no place to lay their heads, no regular place to find their food and right where the lonely, live. You know what else? They know Him in ways I’ve barely come close understanding. They have nothing, but Him. The ones that know Jesus, know they have keys to His Kingdom. They know who provides their daily bread and Who gives them a reason to sing even when they have no one. They teach us every day what the gospel looks like lived out in the purest and simplest of ways.

We spend so much time building our churches and our programs, coming up with creative marketing programs and ways to attract members. I have found that the Church on the street corners don’t need any of that. The harvest is right there. The workers and believers are already there. There are pastors and prophets, evangelists and caregivers, right here on the city streets of Baltimore. Everyone is hungry for community, family, and connection, no flashy marketing plans are needed. Jesus just needs obedient followers who are willing to let Him strip them of their preconceived ideas and give them fresh eyes to see what He sees. Man, what He sees is so beautiful! I’m beginning to see with more clarity the Kingdom of God right here on earth, right here on the streets of Baltimore.

Photo @zpotler

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