Here we were again on the street – sidewalk to be precise. The city of Baltimore has wonderful wide sidewalks, even in the residential areas like the one we were in. This, however, was no normal neighborhood as you would find in suburbia. Gunshots were common. Substance abuse was rife. Our hosts’ car had been recently firebombed on the orders of the local drug lord (see last blog).
Seeing the hunger that the residents displayed during a prayer walk, our inner city home group thought it would be a great idea to have a kids outreach on the sidewalk outside of our hosts’ row house. The area was literally teeming with elementary age children and youth.
We printed fliers and passed them out just prior to the first night of the outreach. Our hosts’ children, who were more savvy to the neighborhood, joined our kids in canvassing the streets and handing out invites.
Our oldest, Brian, came back from his mission quite shaken up. He had naively invited a rough looking teen to attend. In response to his invitation, the teen threateningly looked him in the eye and warned “boy, you’re in the wrong neighborhood”!
Despite his jitters, Brian set up his keyboard on the sidewalk and began to play as we prepared for the outreach. All of us were a little concerned that we might have bitten off more than we could chew, safety wise. Brian’s amazing music filled the streets (and us) with a deep peace. It would be ok. God was here. We could now sense His presence strong. He was more concerned about reaching these kids than we were! Hearing the music, people came out of their row houses and sat on their stoops, obviously chilling to the sound and enjoying the invisible river of peace that was now flowing down their street.
Soon, we had about 35 kids and teens of all ages sitting on the carpet squares that we had placed on the sidewalk. There was a big red carpet on which stood the rest of our children who were now leading worship for the kids in attendance. We had set up a small PA system through which they played their digital drums, instruments, and vocals. The neighborhood kids loved it and joined in.
It was time for the gospel message. Right on cue, a dirt bike with a bad muffler began racing up and down the street while I was trying to speak. The kids were restless. I thought a story would be good at this point.
I began to tell the story of Moses and the burning bush. My intent was to show how Moses was changed forever when he encountered the presence of God manifested in the bush. To illustrate my talks, I like to choose a child to help act out the story as I tell it.
Looking out into the crowd, I thought that I had found my Moses and called him to the front. He was a young teen, rather large for his age. As I went on with the story, there was noticeably something terribly wrong. In addition to acting up and not being cooperative, my Moses was wobbly on his feet. Then, in the middle of my story, he fell over. Moses was drunk.
The crowd of kids died laughing! So much for my discernment!
Trying to avert disaster, I dismissed Moses and changed the direction of my talk. The story of the sheep and the goats came to mind. Using my large sketch board to keep their attention, I drew sheep on one side and goats on the other. After stating that one day, Jesus will separate them into two destinations, heaven and hell, I asked a question. “Do you want to be a sheep or a goat?” Instead of verbally responding to my rhetorical question, immediately the entire group got up and literally moved to the “sheep” side represented on my sketch board.
That might as well have been the altar call! However, I had Brian start to play his keyboard again as I delivered the invitation. You could almost see and feel the hands of God reaching out of the music and drawing hearts to Himself. Virtually every youngster in the group responded to repent and receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
While the heavy intoxicating presence of God saturated that inner city sidewalk, we moved through the crowd, laying hands on their heads and praying over them. We asked that the Holy Spirit, Who had just now invaded their world, would expand from a match flame into a raging furnace of love for Jesus in their hearts.
Many went out in the Spirit on the spot. Kids were laying all over the carpet pieces having visions and hearing the tender voice of the Father for the first time.
We continued to move among them praying. Some began to weep. We comforted them as stories of rape and molestation were uninhibitedly expressed in the safety of the presence of Jesus. Hugs and prayers for healing were given in response.
In the crazy insanity of a drug infested neighborhood, an obnoxious dirt bike still roaring up and down the block, Jesus was standing, touching and holding His new lambs.
Suddenly, a car drove down the street. Small objects were being thrown out the windows of the car as it drove along. We looked and saw women literally on their knees in the street frantically picking something up. Sherry, our host, explained later that the drug dealers, to increase their illicit business, would scatter drugs in this manner, hooking and re-hooking the residents.
As ministry time on the sidewalk continued unabated, a few of the moms who were on their knees in the street wandered over to our meeting out of curiosity. Hearing the music, seeing the children lost in God, and feeling the tug of the Holy Spirit themselves they asked “can we get saved, too?” We led them to Jesus and prayed over them in hopes that they would have a life-changing encounter with God as well.
Our outreach meetings continued for a total of three nights. Many more came to Jesus. Sherry and her husband would perform the follow up as they lived right in the neighborhood. God was good. He not only protected us but also reaped a great harvest.
Back in our church, word of what God was doing on the street got out. One of the associate pastors cornered us after church. “Why are you doing this on the streets? Don’t you know that God can even more powerfully use you here in the House instead? Why don’t you do it here. You can give puppet shows to our Sunday School church kids”.
We were not swayed. For us, the streets were where Jesus was. We needed to be where He was and no where else.
Back in the neighborhood, we had just arrived and were getting out of our minivan. Suddenly, Debbie had a strong impression. She could not explain it other than she knew it was time to leave…and leave quickly. I objected. There were things we had planned to do that day in the neighborhood. Why leave now? Debbie was not deterred. She ordered our kids back into the van. “We have to go now!” she again demanded.
Reluctantly, I got back in the van and drove us away. This wasn’t making sense to me at all.
Later we found out what the urgency was. Sherry told us that right after we left, there was a gun battle in the very place where our van had been parked.
The moral of the story is this. There is much fruitful ministry awaiting in the inner cities of America and the world. However, one must only go when God says to go. Conversely, when He says to leave, obey and do so immediately! He is Lord of His harvest. We must submit to His leading and timing.
Our very lives could be dependent on it!
Next – “Face to Face” and “Mr Ed”