It was my birthday weekend and I had received several gift cards, so my family and I headed out to an outlet mall for the day.
Turning into the parking lot we saw an African American man, probably in his 40’s, standing on the thin grassy median. He looked hungry, cold, and like he had been sleeping outside.
His handmade sign read:
Homeless. Would appreciate a small donation. Anything else would be a blessing.
The second I finished reading the sign, which was no more than a split second, God clearly said to me:
“Give him everything in your wallet. Ask him his name. Then, pray over him.”
God’s voice was so thunderous, yet so tender in my heart. I started shaking. I will never forget that sound. It was like snow gently falling, yet so heavy it could collapse the roof of well-built house. My heart caved in.
God’s Spirit must have also touched my husband’s heart because the second I looked over at him, he nodded and began pulling into a bank parking lot near where the man was standing.
As I carefully navigated through piles of leftover snow and waited for traffic to clear, I watched the people in the turning lane lined up beside him.
Some were rolling their windows up so they wouldn’t have to decline his pleas. Some were shaking their heads, clearly annoyed he was walking to each vehicle asking for money.
The second I reached him, those irritated glances were on me.
I reached out my hand to shake his. He looked at me with hesitation. He had watched me climb out of my mini van in the bitter cold, and walk to him instead away.
After a few seconds, he grabbed my hand and said, “hello.”
While holding his hand, I said to him,
“When I saw you, God told me to give you everything in my wallet. Then He told me to ask for your name and ask if you had any prayer requests. I am going to pray over you.”
“Is this for real?”
“Yes,” I answered.
He paused and then quietly responded,
“My name is Tony. My prayer request… is to survive another day.”
His hands started shaking and I started crying as I prayed out loud for him in the middle of all of those dirty looks, the traffic, and near freezing temperatures.
In that moment, however, it was like nothing I had ever experienced.
This complete stranger. Tony. I instantly felt as though he was family. I cannot explain it more than that.
I handed him the money. Before I could stop myself, my mouth started to open and I blurted out,
“God loves you. He sent me to tell you that.”
He started crying and shook my hand with both of his saying,
“Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. God bless you.”
I walked back to my mini van trying to see through tears that were now streaming down my face. I couldn’t even speak about it to my husband until later that day.
I frequently think of Tony (his actual name) and wonder if he was able to find a job, or a church, or some other believer who could help him more than I could.
It’s been over a year and I still can’t think of that day without tearing up.
I pray for him often.
This is an illustration of what God did for every one of us.
He sent His one and only son, Jesus, to reach out to us. Love us. Rescue us.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life ~ John 3:16.
Jesus walks to us across the divide of our sin. Will you grab His hand and accept His love?
Sometimes what God calls you to do isn’t sensational or extraordinary. Sometimes God just calls you to be obedient with unplanned, ordinary moments.
Maybe one day I will find out who the other people were along the chain of love that chose to help him when God gently pressed down on their hearts
“Will you be my hands and feet today?”
Sometimes, God asks you to do a simple task.
Say a simple sentence.
If you surrender and choose to obey, it could change a life forever.
If every believer were to choose to surrender…well, that would change the world.
It also changes you.
My favorite gift that year was the look in Tony’s eyes and that indescribable feeling of God’s Spirit resting in my heart as I walked back to my van with tears pouring from my eyes.
Like a tender explosion God whispered,
Remember Tony in your prayers today.
Pray for all of the Tonys in this world.