Never underestimate even the smallest acts of kindness. This week I saw a gift of a simple water bottle become the watershed mark between life and death.
Old Town Transit Center in San Diego is a giant transportation hub, with access to trains, trolleys and buses. People go to work, they go to Padres games, they take day outings – lots of travelers with specific destinations.
But in between the hustle and bustle, there is a cache of downtrodden, listless, and hopeless. Those without a destination, or a way to get there.
It’s those that Agape Now strives to see. These unassuming people, who form the outreach arm of Acts Now Fellowship, go down to Old Town every week to hand out water bottles, a smile, and prayer.
One of those recipients was a middle-aged woman, who I’ll call Gloria, wearing a man’s shirt and jeans that were too big, literally shuffling down the sidewalk. Her head was down, and she emanated sadness.
One of the Agape Now women, Naomi, offered her a water bottle, which Gloria accepted, and then asked if there was anything they could pray with her about.
Gloria never looked up, just nodded her head a fraction. Then I saw what can only be described as holy boldness rise up in Naomi. She started asking Gloria if someone had hurt her, if she was on the streets, learning that Gloria ran away after her boyfriend beat her up and had been sleeping under cars in parking lots for the past couple of days (that’s just the tip of the iceberg of Gloria’s horror story from literal debutante to derelict).
Naomi kept pulling up Gloria’s chin, telling her she was a beautiful woman, that she didn’t need to look down to anyone. Another Agape Now member, Linda, came over and put her hand affectionately on Gloria’s back.
Then Linda began to pray – not a rote prayer hastily spoken before a meal or bedtime, but an emphatic acknowledging of Who she was praying to and what power His spiritual kingdom holds. She was taking no prisoners in this fight against the enemy of our souls.
And here’s where I saw in action the second crucial part of Gloria’s transformation. The water bottle gift and heart behind it cracked open the door. The name of Jesus Christ and the power of God behind that swung that door open and allowed the light to flood in.
When Gloria first stopped by us, she could barely speak. Her eyes were clouded and downcast, her voice hardly above a whisper. The more they prayed and spoke life into her, the stronger Gloria’s voice became and the cloud that seemed to sink around her began to lift.
One of the things Linda did was tell Gloria how valuable her life was. That she was created by a God who loves her and has a purpose for her. Linda asked Gloria to say out loud “I am valuable. I am loved.”
Gloria couldn’t do it at first, just shaking her head. Linda kept coaching her, and eventually I heard Gloria clearly say, “I am valuable.” (Reader, can you say that out loud? Because it’s true of you, too!)
We got Gloria food, got the police involved to make a statement about the two men who had recently abused her, and got her to a shelter. She wanted to enter a detox and rehab program to get clean, which is the current step at this writing. She also gave information to contact her mother, who didn’t even know where she was.
While we were waiting for the police to come, Gloria and I were sitting against the fence, about a block down from the train tracks. Gloria looked over at the train, and matter of factly, said ‘that’s where I was headed. I was going to stand in front of that train, and then you stopped me and offered water.’
A few statements later, she said, “Now, I do not want to die.”
I am not exaggerating, or dramatizing that. Tears sprung to my eyes sitting there on the side walk with her, and they’re overflowing now. It’s not about a charitable Saturday morning, or a feel-good moment.
Our actions have an impact. In this case, to stand on the edge between life and death. It’s God that does the saving, but it’s ordinary people like us that He works through.
“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” Romans 10:14
“Also, I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I, send me.” Isaiah 6:8
Note: Later, we found out that Gloria’s mother, a pastor, had had a dream soon before all this that her daughter was going to die in front of a train. I have no doubt that the prayers she uttered after that helped put Agape Now in the right place, at the right time, to pull her daughter back from that ledge.
Image Credit: Max Pixel