I had an incredibly frightening and surreal experience the other night.
Well first off, let me preface this story a little bit. I spent the last week in Nacadoches, TX with a group of about 114 at an event called UMARMY. “UMARMY” is an acronym for something but I don’t remember what it stands for. Basically it is an equivalent to Habitat for Humanity except on a broader scope. A collection of churches bring their youth to a community and for an entire week, those youth demonstrate the practical love of Christ through various projects throughout the community. This could involve painting, construction, lawn work and other miscellaneous activities that people have been unable to do because of poverty, health issues, etc. Anyways, it was an incredible week and an absolute testament to God’s goodness and grace. I had the opportunity to lead worship during the week so it was extra cool for me to see the students and adults lifting their love and admiration to our Amazing God.
Thursday night however, was an incredibly bizarre night to say the least. Being that I was one of the members of the leadership for the week and part of the team that planned the next days’ event’s, I was usually up into the late hours of the night with various activities and preparation. I’d say it was around 12:30 a.m. when I was walking down the main hallway of the church to go to the bathroom. I heard one of the college leaders holler at me from the entrance of the church so I turned around to go see what was going on. A man was standing there next to him, prob in his early 50’s, with his hat in one hand and the other outstretched to greet me. “I’m Bobby Jones”. “And I ran out of gas and could use a ride to go get some”. So I extended my hand, introduced myself, and said. “ absolutely, let’s go get you some gas.” So Bobby, the college leader, and myself all pile into my truck.
Now having had experience as a employee of a homeless shelter, I had been taught that the number one rule when dealing with a stranger in need, is that you NEVER give them money. You do this to avoid being an enabler. But instead you serve them in the needs that they present to you. In this instance, Bobby needed gas. So I’m thinking, let’s get this guy a gas can, and then go fill up his car. So, I present this option to Bobby, but I am immediately met with resistance, “nah man, let’s go over to my friends house, he has a gas can we can borrow.” So, somewhere in my brain, I think “oh ok cool, well at least we wont have to go buy a gas can.” What I didn’t realize is that the next thirty minutes would be an adventure through a maze of deserted and brutally dark back roads, alleys and neighborhoods that had long been forgotten.
As we drove, I got to talk with Bobby about a lot of different things : his job( he worked at a plant in Lufkin), his family (he has a wife and eight kids), how much running out of gas sucks (b/c I’ve been there too... more than once... stop laughing) but most importantly we got to talk about Jesus. “Are ya’ll those Christians?” he asked both of us, to which we both answered “absolutely”. I then prodded a little bit and asked “what about you Bobby? Have you met Jesus?” to which he answered “Oh yeah, I go to church, I really like it”. I couldn’t tell if it was a deflection or not, so I let it drop. Partly because I didn’t want to press the issue and partly because I had not been paying attention to our surroundings during our conversation, and had been jolted back to reality at the neighborhood we were in.
Bobby had instructed me to stop and let him out ( I assumed that this was his friends house, that we were going to borrow the can from) and as the car came to a halt, I felt this alarm go off in my spirit. Lined along the road were several beaten up cars, and perched on the cars were groups of men, prob about six of them. You know that feeling, when you know you’re being watched or that something bad is about to happen. I had that going on, big time.
So i began to pray, hard. “God, I don’t know whats going on, I have no idea where I am or what’s about to go down, but I do know that you love Bobby, and I pray that you use me to show Bobby your love, and that I could be an accurate depiction of Jesus to him. Just use me Father, protect us right now, with boldness and grace and in the powerful victorious name of Jesus, the lamb whose blood was shed and who conquered sin and death, the name above every other name I pray, amen”.
Right about then, Bobby returned, with no gas can, and got back in the car. “He’s not there, but I can just hang around here, it’s cool, thanks for the ride”. At that moment I could have taken the out that he had just given me and said “ok bro, take it easy, sorry about that”. But something in my Spirit was saying “just a little longer”.
So I asked him “are you hungry? why don’t we just get something to eat, we’ll buy you a gas can and fill up your car for you” To all three of these questions we received a big fat “no”. But then Bobby offered something up that we both agreed to. He looked at me and said “Hey man, if you could just give me a couple of bucks, then I can get out of your hair, I aint no bum, just having a rough time.”
It was one of those moments of clarity for me when I realized, here’s a guy who doesn’t want to ask for help, who prob has an incredibly difficult time doing so, and he has asked me for help. And even though I’d been taught to never given a stranger cash, I felt compassion for Bobby in that moment, I felt compassion for his situation (even though I don’t know the extent of it, I knew that God knew, and i felt like he was saying “Jase, in my name, give him some money) So I pulled through an ATM and withdrew some cash and held it in the hand furthest from Bobby. I looked at him and with compassion and words that came from a from a place that only God can claim I said “Bobby, I’m not giving you this money because of me, but I’m giving it to you because I’m in love with Jesus Christ, and he loves you so very much, that he wants me to give you this.”
A few more minutes go by and Bobby suddenly asks to be dropped off on a corner of some random road. As he gets out of my truck he says thank you and then walks hurriedly into the night. It’s now 1:30 a.m. I have no idea where I am. I don’t even know if I’m still in Nacadoches. I just sat there for a moment in silence, as the college leader jumped up in the front seat. And as Bobby disappeared into the blackness I felt as if God was saying “I love Him, just as I love you”.
An incredibly strange night, but an incredibly eye opening night as to the vastness of the love of God.