Meet Samuel. This man has been part of a gang since he was a young teenager in south Chicago. He has lived his whole life as part of this gang, rising to the rank of #3 in charge. This is not a good life. In fact, he was just recently released from prison after serving 28 years for murder.
Samuel didn’t start out this morning planning on being introduced to a Godly lady from Dallas. He didn’t start out this morning with an eye on meeting Jesus. Actually, his plan was the direct opposite of that. He was headed to confront a man who had done him wrong, and the consequences of this confrontation likely would have been deadly. Fortunately for Samuel, God got in the way of his plans today.
Early this morning, before the sun was up, The Lords Hands and Hearts crew was in south Dallas setting up tents and preparing for their weekly ministry outreach to the homeless in that area. As she was working, Leann, the founder of the ministry, noticed a man walking towards her, he seemed emotionally unsettled and was without shoes. It wasn’t uncommon to see men in distress in this neighborhood, in fact, it was men like this the ministry was trying to reach. So Leann did what she always does, she greeted the man and invited him into the ministry camp. Samuel didn’t say a word and followed her in. They sat down in chairs next to a campfire and she attempted to engage him in conversation, but he did not look at her, nor speak. Other members of the ministry came over to minister to him too, sharing words of encouragement and trying to get him to open up. The words touched his heart and tears flowed down his cheek, but he still wouldn’t look at them or engage in conversation. Although Samuel was tough, Leann didn’t give up. She continued to talk with him sharing words of hope, faith and love. Leann’s husband Bobby noticed Samuel was without shoes, so he found him some socks and even gave him his own boots. All this generosity was received by Samuel, but he still wasn’t willing yet to engage. He just stared at the campfire. Leann took a short break, and then came back. She got in his face and gave him a BIG smile. It was a smile so big and bright that Samuel couldn’t help but smile back. This gave Leann hope so she continued to engage, finally, Samuel started to open up. He shared about the confrontation he was headed to, and he was upset about it. It really wasn’t something he wanted to do. He had just spent 28 years in jail and he didn’t want to go back. Leann shared hope and reminded him that he had a choice. He did not have to do this, he could choose not to do it. Samuel thought about this, but as a high ranking officer in his gang, not following through with this order was not an easy choice to make. The consequences weighed heavily on his mind. Leann continued to share hope for several minutes, and Samuel just couldn’t ignore her BIG smile. He sat and listened but after a while became unsettled again and told Leann that he would soon have to go. Leann stated that he was free to go, but if he was going to follow through on his plan he must leave the boots because they are very special boots. They are her husband Bobby’s boots and Bobby is a pastor. She went on to tell Samuel that if he took the boots, they were to be worn as boots of peace. Samuel considered those words, and knew she was serious about this. He wasn’t ready to give up the boots yet, so he stayed a little longer. As he sat in his chair, Leann continued to share encouraging words and the other team members also came around Samuel in support. They fed him breakfast and loved up on him.
After a while, Samuel accepted an invitation from my husband Jim to talk about his situation and to discuss other alternatives. Jim listened to Samuel’s life story and then opened up the bible and started to tell him about the love of God and Jesus. He shared about how as a young man he to had lived a very tough life, constantly in and out of trouble. It was so tough that he really didn’t believe he would live past 30, but God had other plans for him. On a day when Jim was very desperate, God heard his pleas and sent a young lady to tell him about Jesus. Her words gave him hope in his heart and it wasn’t long after that Jim gave his life to Christ. Jim shared that when he chose Jesus that God gave him a brand new life. He shared about Jesus’ promises of a new life for those who made the choice to turn from their old life of sin and accept Him as their savior. He shared John 11:25-26 ” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” and Romans 10:8 “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved! Samuel listened and heard the words of truth. He really didn’t want to go back to his old life, but it was the only life he really knew. Jim continued to share the gospel of Jesus’ love. Samuel knew in his heart that it was time to change from his old life and to live a different way. He was tired of the old life and was ready to receive the gift that Jesus was willing to give him of a new life. So, Samuel made the decision to accept Jesus into his life today and not to confront the man who had wronged him. Halleluiah!!
What an amazing testimony of the goodness of God. Samuel came into camp today thinking that by noon he would be in a deadly confrontation, which was why he was so distressed. But God had different plans. God knew that deep in his heart Samuel really didn’t want to live that life anymore, so he put people in front of him who would reflect His love and let him know that he had other options. As a result, Samuel received that love and opened his heart to Jesus. By doing this, he may not only saved the life of the man he was going to confront, but even more amazingly he saved his own life FOR ETERNITY.
How great is our God?!! 🙂 It truly was an unbelievable thing to experience. I have never met a high level gang member before, and certainly not one on his way to deadly situation, and then who instead of moving forward with his plan, had a collision with God.
Praise the Lord. God is certainly moving through The Lords Hearts and Hands ministry and I’m blessed to serve beside them. So much so, that I can’t wait to go back next week!
Here is a link to a short video about Samuel.