"Just so you know, me, and anybody associated with the The Relief Bus, our goal is to love you like Jesus, so there's nothing you could say about who you are or what you've done that would ever make us think poorly of you."
I told this to a man tonight named Juan.
Juan had missed his bus while stopping to get hot chocolate at one of our outreach locations in Newark.
He was super frustrated, so I asked him where he was headed and if I could give him a ride. He said he was headed to the mall and that he would love a ride!
(Tonight I was driving our transport van that is used to aid and support our outreach locations by transporting people in need to places where they can get help. Often it is to shelters, detoxes, hospitals, ECT. Tonight it was to the mall.)
As we rode, I started asking him about his life. I found out that when he was 17 he was living the life. Fully involved with a gang, "running multiple blocks with an iron fist", wealthy, traveling the world to places like Argentina and Columbia.
That was all until he got picked up and charged with murder.
Because he was not yet an adult, he was not given the death penalty, instead he was given 18 years.
Six years ago he got out and was released to halfway houses, which eventually led to him being homeless.
I asked him what it was like to go from being the boss before he got locked up, to now basically being a nobody. His response: Humiliating.
This has led to the past six years of addictions of every kind. In January he was hit by a car and has pins and rods in his leg, adding to the pit of a life he has.
As we got near the mall, I asked him why he comes here. Said he comes here to ask people for their food they are throwing away and any change they have. He said he stays near where the Loews theater and Applebee's restaurant is because they throw out a lot of food.
I asked him if he's ever seen a movie at the theater, he said no but he would like to someday.
As I dropped him off, I asked him if I could pray for him, he welcomed it. Immediately after I finished, he said now it's his turn to pray for me. He prayed with passion asking God to give me strength to raise my family well and for God to bless me.
A murderer. A drug addict. Poor. Homeless.
Juan is living with a lot of ailments, he is broken.
There are multiple spots all over the Bible where it talks about sick and broken people approaching Jesus and he healing their wounds and making them whole. My favorites are where it starts with the line, "Being filled with compassion, Jesus…"
Oh, how I wish I could touch Juan and instantaneously have his addiction stop, his pockets filled, and his heart repaired.
As I drove away, I started praying those things, then I remembered that the movie theater. I thought about how cool it would be to give him a gift card so he can go and enjoy a movie for the first time instead of having to beg people for their leftovers as they are leaving.
So I went inside and purchased him a $30 gift card.
I went into the mall, found Juan, and handed it to him.
He began to weep.
He leaned into me and I hugged him tight.
I told him I love him.
His knee still hurts, he is still homeless, he still has to face his addiction daily, but he is loved.
God allows me to heal people with love.
How can God use you to heal others?