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Possibly the Most Committed Christian I’ve Ever Met in My Life

April 9, 2014

It was one of the most dramatic days of my entire ministry.  The Holy Spirit was moving so powerfully that before I was even ten minutes into my message, over fifty young people came forward and accepted Jesus Christ at the altar.  It was the most powerful chapel I had ever seen – it was stunning to me.  I will share the story of that special time in another entry.

I want to concentrate on telling you what happened after that service.

Specifically with one young man.

That evening was a time of all-church visitation, to be held at the Sinai Church, the overseers of the school’s ministry. The church had started the school years back, and many of the Christian school’s students were members of the Sinai congregation.

Church visitation has always been a challenging and rewarding night for me. Some visits were to be made at the hospital, seeing those with health issues. Still other visits were what might be termed “cold calls.” These were visits to homes around the San Diego community in the form of invitations to the church or perhaps a more bold inquiry about the person’s standing in the face of eternity. Cold calls were the 1bbbmost challenging, and the results are often unpredictable.

I was in the car with Dennis, on our way back to the church to join in on the church-wide visitation. Dennis was a member of the Sinai church and was an assistant to the youth program; in fact, he was in charge of the youth portion of the evening’s visiting assignments.

“Do you mind if we stop by McDonalds for a quick bite?” Dennis finally asked, and I nodded.   We’d easily run out of superlatives to describe the events of the day. Instead, we kept looking at each other and shaking our heads. It would be a day we would never forget.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the continuation of the revival when we get back to the church.” I said finally.

“Oh? You mean more decisions?” He turned down a side street into a subdivision.

“No,” I replied. “I mean the results of the scores of decisions that were made. You said there were almost fifty decisions this morning?”

“Yes,” Dennis answered. “Fifty-six or fifty-seven, I was told.”

“And most students attend Sinai Church?”

“Yes.”

“Well,” I said, “let’s see how far their new commitment goes. Let’s see if they follow through on their decisions by coming out to visitation tonight.”

Dennis turned a corner and bobbed his head. “Good thought, good thought. Tonight the proof will be in the pudding, I guess, if that’s the phrase.” He pulled up to a small home and waved to a young man who was trotting toward the car. “I hope you don’t mind, but we’re going to have an extra guest coming with us to McDonald’s and then to the church visitation. His name’s Steve and he’s fifteen years old. He’s a student at the school and – “ Steve was pulling open the back door of the car.

“- there’s a story about him that I’ll share with you later on.”

We drove to McDonald’s and this fellow Steve was a bundle of energy, sparkling and crackling and ready to get to the church.

“Man, this is going to be a great time tonight, don’t you think so, Brad?”

“Yes, I do, Steve, you never know what exciting things will happen when you let the Lord lead.”

“Oh, yeah, good words, my man,” he said enthusiastically while looking out the window. “Tonight will indeed be God in the driver’s seat.”

We pulled into the McDonald’s and Dennis insisted on paying, so he handled the orders. Grateful, I set up the table with the napkins, condiments and whatever else you could set at a fast food booth.

Soon Dennis and Seven were sliding into the booth, doling out the evening’s eats.

Dennis looked over at Steve. “Would you mind giving the prayer of blessing and thanks for our food, Steve?”

Steve’s eyes lit up. “Oh, yeah, sure, Mr. Sparks.” He looked down at the food, surveying it while keeping his eyes open and presenting his prayer:

“Hey, God, it’s good to talk to You. We’re over here at a McDonald’s on – “ he looked up for a nearby street sign – “West Valley Parkway, and we’re having a little dinner before going out and doing ministry work for You.   Mr. Sparks has a Big Mac, some fries and large Coke, and Brad here has a chicken sandwich – grilled, I think it is – and some fries and a Dr. Pepper. Me, I’ve got a Big Mac, some fries and a milkshake – it’s a chocolate milkshake.

And with that he leaned over and started plowing into the food, shoveling fries into his mouth at an incredible speed. Dennis winked at me and motioned for me to wait.

“Say, uh, Steve, it looks like I’ll need some extra ketchup. Would you do me a favor and go get me some, say about three packets?”

“Oh,” said Steve, looking up. “Sure.” He wiped his mouth on the back of his sleeve and headed toward the far side of the restaurant.

“I wanted you to see Steve up close and give you a quick background on this fellow.” He leaned in toward me and cleared his throat before speaking.

“Steve had been a drug dealer for over a year on the streets of Escondido, moving narcotics of all kinds for his parents. They ran a crack house that was the center of drug activity in this area, but they never were caught by the police. Steve was one of the reasons. He was young, innocent-looking and smart as a whip, knowing when and where to hide. The kid was selling on the streets after school and on weekends, and I heard he was amazingly good at it.”

“Last summer, one of our church members was walking around the block on visitation and happened to come across Steve standing on the street corner waiting to make another sale. Who knows how the conversation started, but God moved in like a lightning bolt whenever our man told Steve about freedom in Jesus Christ, the new life he could have, and the delivery from the bondage of sin.”

Dennis looked me directly in the eyes. “Steve was bowled over by this message of Christ. He fell to his knees next to the man, called upon Jesus to save him and change him, and stood up with his hands raised in the air. He became a Christian.”

“Steve was so excited about the life Jesus offered him that he took out his pocketfuls of drugs and threw them down the sewer grating. He ran back home and kicked open the door, shouting for his parents. ‘Mom! Dad! Something happened!’ he yelled. Remember, his parents ran a crack house and they immediately freaked out. ‘What? What? Did you get caught by the cops? Were you robbed by another dealer?’ they shouted. ‘No!’ he exclaimed as he ran into their kitchen. ‘I just took Jesus in to my life and He’s changed me! He’s gonna take care of me! In fact, He can take care of all of us! We don’t need this crack house anymore! We don’t need to do anymore selling! Jesus will take care of us!’”

Dennis looked over at Steve, who was waiting in line to get the ketchup, and turned back to me.

“They told me that his father was a big burly guy. ‘That so?’ his dad asked. ‘Jesus gonna take care of you?’ ‘Yeah! In fact, I threw away all of the drugs, threw ‘em all down the sewer! We’re free now! Jesus will take care of us!’ Steve kept yelling. They say that when he told his dad that he threw the drugs away, the dad snapped. He beat Steven from one side of the house to the other, punching, kicking and slamming him. He shoved him through the garage door and smashed him to the floor and took every can of paint and oil and poured it all over Steve. Then he bodily threw him out the garage window – through the glass. ‘Let’s see Jesus take care of you now,’ his dad yelled. “And if you ever come back here again, I’ll kill you.’”

I sat back, shaking my head.

“Oh, wait,” said Dennis. “There’s more.” I raised my eyebrows.

Dennis continued. “Steven picked himself up and checked his cuts and bruises, never complaining. ‘Well, that Christian guy did say that Christians would suffer for the cause of Jesus, so I guess this is what happens.’ Steve then made some amazing decisions. ‘I need to get a job so I can get a place to stay. And I need to get an education about this Bible so I can understand more about what Jesus wants me to do.’”

Dennis tapped the table with his finger. “Brad, Steven refused any charity, feeling that’s not what a disciple of Christ should do. He met with an older couple and worked out a living arrangements and their overseeing of him. Get this – this young man went out and got himself a job in the evenings so that he could rent a room in their remade garage for his ‘apartment,’ and he took on extra work so he could pay for his tuition at Sinai.”

“Wait,” I said. “You mean, he’s paying for his own schooling – and he’s not even sixteen?”

Dennis nodded as he saw Steven coming back. “Yep. He gives the money to the elderly couple each month. He’s paid up to date. “ He tapped the table with his knuckle. “I believe Steven is one of the key reasons revival has come to our school.”

After our meal we headed to the church. As we entered the auditorium I smiled. The effects of the revival were beyond emotion. There were more than forty students standing in the auditorium, ready for visitation.

After a joyful prayer the senior pastor handed out the assignments for the night. Adults played the part of chaperone and visitation leader for each car. All vehicles were stuffed with enthusiastic teens ready to do God’s work and see His power in action.

My Aspen was also packed shoulder-to-shoulder with kids. Steve was in my car as well, thanks to Dennis. I looked at the map and got in line with the caravan of vehicles. Our assignment was in a subdivision in San Diego that had not been approached by the church in years. We were heading into virgin territory, as they say, and Steven could hardly wait.

The traffic wasn’t bad, and the weather was great, but as we navigated the streets I could hear Steve mumbling, “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s get there.”  I didn’t find it disrespectful at all; in fact, I was humbled by the respect and submission that Steve showed to me throughout the evening up to that point. He wanted to be taught in everything in the Bible, and he looked to any authority to help him in his quest.

We found the subdivision, and that’s where the action started.

I had not even brought the Aspen to a full stop when Steve burst open his door and sprinted to the first house on our route. I mean, he sprinted – took off and dashed towards the nearest house, leaving my car door still open.

As the other teens piled out and I went around the car to close the door, I looked up and saw Steve vault onto the porch of the nearby house. With both fists he impatiently pounded on the screen door. A forty-something pudgy man in a T-shirt opened the door, eyebrows raised.

“I need to ask you something, sir,” said Steve, with an urgency in his voice. He pointed at the man’s face. “When you die, are you going to Heaven or Hell?”

The man paused for a second and looked up at the clouds. “Well, now, that’s an interesting question that really has no answer.” He closed his eyelids halfway. “You know, there are many different routes to take to answer that –“

Steve threw up his hands in disgust. “Aaaaaahh!” he groaned, frowning as he turned off the porch and vaulted over the man’s flower bed, running to the next house.

The man stood speechless. I can’t say I blame him, either. How else would you respond if, on a quiet evening. you were startled by a wide-eyed who teenager pounded at your door, pointed in your face and demanded to know about eternity? How else would you act if that same teen leaped off the porch and ran away before you get a full answer out of your mouth?

“I’m so sorry, sir,” I said as I scooted up to the porch with another teen. “We’re from Sinai Church down the road, and that fellow’s a bit overenthusiastic. Here’s Tanner – he’ll tell you a little bit about us.” I pushed Tanner towards the puzzled man as I leaped off the porch in pursuit of Steve.

He was already at the second house, pounding away on the screen door. As I scrambled up the steps, he was met by a lady who was holding a dish towel in her hand. He gave the same introduction: “I have one question to ask you. When you die, do you know if you’re going to go to Heaven or Hell?”

She rubbed her hands on the towel and squinted. “Well, I look at it this way. Nobody can really know these things. I call myself a relativist, and I feel that the afterlife is mostly guesswork –“

Steve again threw up his hands in disgust. “Aaaaahh!” he yelled, turning and vaulting off of the porch. She stood frozen, trying to comprehend what had just happened.   I slipped in quickly with a deep apology and produced another teen to introduce the church in a more civil manner.

This time I caught up with him as he was leaping onto the porch of the third house. “Steve, Steve,” I gasped as I grabbed his shirt and pulled him back. “You can’t approach people this way.”

He stopped and looked at me blankly. “Why not?”

“Because,” I said, catching my breath, “there’s a more gentle way to introduce the Gospel to people.”

He shook his head. “They’re playing around, man. If they’re not gonna get serious about eternity, I don’t want to waste my time with them.”

“People need to be reasoned with,” I said. “They need explanations, and often that takes time. You need to hear them out and gently take them through the Scriptures.”

“Ah, there’s so much to do, man, there’s so much to do.” Agitated, Steve ran his hands through his hair and squeezed his eyes. He took a breath, looked me in the eye and waved his arms toward the row of houses.

“Look, Brad, look way down here. Look at how many houses there are out there? How many do you think?”

“Hundreds, Steve,” I said. “No, thousands.”

Steve nodded, gulping. “We have so much work to do.” He looked down the street. “So much work. And I don’t have time to mess around with people who aren’t serious about their eternity. I want to reach people who need to know, who are looking for the Answer.” He looked back at me. “Doesn’t that make sense?”

And I slowly nodded my head.

Yes, Steve, it made sense. Steven, you make sense in this crazy world of churches that are obsessed with numbers and programs and music-fests and brightly-lit stages and leaders who adopt an odd wardrobe and a puzzling lingo.   Unknowingly, Steve, you became my teen version of a John the Baptist image, flying in the face of ecclesiastical politics and one-upsmanship and pharisaical desires for glory. I mulled all night over this boy’s urgency to get out the Word. It sank deep into my gut and gave me new insight.

Steve, you’ll never know how much you made a breakthrough for me.

You showed me a heart intensely devoted to Jesus, and Jesus alone. Your fervent desire for the Lord was a soul-gripping lesson for me on the road, opening up my heart to see the real reason we all do this work.

It was defining moment in my life, brought to me by a fifteen-year-old boy.

Steve helped me see the pure, exciting, fervent work of the Kingdom once again.

—–

Once again, the week was too soon over. The many other amazing things occurring that week will be reserved for me to tell at another time.

Now it was over, and I sat in my Aspen, turning over the thoughts of the most dynamic week I had experienced on the road.

Then I looked through my wallet. I had no money, and I needed to get to Michigan. The school had no money to give me.

Well, Lord, I guess I’ll see what You’ll do now.

I pulled my car to the edge of the gravel parking lot, my headlights pointed towards Detroit, Michigan. Looking right and left to see that the highway was clear, I paused for a moment when a flicker of activity in the rear view mirror caught my attention. I adjusted the mirror and saw a dust cloud coming toward me. No, it was a person running, raising the dust. Running with all their might.

It was Steve.

I put the car in park and rolled down the window.

He scooted up to the window and leaned in. “Brad, I can’t tell you what it meant for you to come and be a part of this week. We’ve all seen God work and we’ll never be the same.”

“Steve,” I said with emotion. “You’ll never know what your enthusiasm and Godly determination have meant to me. I will carry the memory of my time with you to the day I die.”

He thrust his hand in the window and shook my hand. When I pulled it away, I found my palm filled with ten dollar bills.

“No, Steve, I can’t take this money.”

“You gotta, Brad.”

“No, I don’t, and I won’t.” I paused. “ I… I know how hard you’re working and how you’re spending your money on tuition and-“

Steve set his jaw. “Brad, God told me to give you that money, and I’m giving it to you. Are you going to go against God?”

No, I wasn’t.

I pulled out of that parking lot, waving my hand out the window and watching Steve in the rearview mirror, standing there grinning and returning my wave.

I cried for the next hour.

But I was also smiling.

 

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4 Comments
  1. Beautiful and inspiring. Thanks for making my day, Brad. 🙂

    • Diane!
      It is SO good to hear from you! Thank you for the kind words. Please let us know how you are doing in your ministry!

  2. We are in Farson, Wyoming now. My husband is pastoring as well as doing side jobs in auto repair and working part time at a shop in town. We have recently seen four new families attending regularly…young families with sweet spirits. It is a breath of fresh air in this tiny community! We have a Facebook page if you want to check it out: Eden Valley Baptist Church. 🙂 My best to dear Jill.

    • Diane, bless you, it is great to hear from you! We definitely will check out the FB page. We would love for you to come and visit here in Knoxville! Bring the whole family!

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