Communion. Midnight. Children. Shootings. Jesus. Hookers. Drug dealers. Ministry.
Yeah… those were the days.
In this vignette, I will now tell of the night we stopped a murder with a communion service. This was truly a highlight in my life and ministry. Perhaps we could call it clandestine consecration.
Special Agent D (SAD) and I were learning clandestine consecration. Here is how we figured it out: When we heard the name of a rumored drug dealer out on 65th Drive (and then passed it on to a handful of little grannies in a prayer circle back at church), those drug dealers would wind up going to jail. It was quite remarkable. It only took a couple of weeks worth of prayer before God seemed to move in dramatic fashion to bring about change in the lives of these guys.
First we heard about a guy named “Blue.” We passed the name along to the prayer-warrior grannies. About two weeks later, we heard that “Blue” had been arrested and was in jail. Then we heard of “Black.” We passed the name off again. About two weeks later, “Black” was in jail. This got us thinking and talking. And soon drug dealers in the neighborhood began to dread us. They actually heard about this little process and feared us getting their names and passing them on to the grannies!
I can’t make this stuff up, folks!
We represented the cutting edge of Vandelia in a spiritual swordfight on the streets of Lubbock. Through us, God was having a real and mysterious impact that was just bigger than the sum of our parts. SAD and I were not coordinating these events; we were not conducting this orchestra or choreographing this dance. We were not that smart. But we knew well enough to take advantage of the bridgehead God had given us in this battle for the Promised Land. We put word out on the street that our grannies were hungry for new names to pray for. Thus our message was: REPENT! The time has come, and the Kingdom of God is at hand! (Mark 1:15).
The Spirit of God hovered over the sea of chaos in Genesis 1, and out of that came to birth all the wonders of old creation. Fast forward through the eons to the Vandelia Village in Lubbock, Texas, and we were witnessing the Spirit of God hovering over the sea of drugs, prostitution, and drive-by shootings – the mess from which New Creation was coming to life.
This was the backdrop for the scene where God stopped a murder with a prayer service. It happened one night when I went out on the streets with a handful of men from several other churches as well as Vandelia. It was a real ecumenical effort on this particular night. And one of the men who went with us was (the late) Rev. Rodney – a formerly homeless ex-con-turned street evangelist who had gone to prison under a life sentence for murder only to get out when a law student from Illinois took his case as a class project, wrote a writ, and got him freed. That actually was not what turned Rodney’s life around, but it was part of his story that proved very meaningful on this particular night.
As had become our custom, we set up our table on the dark, empty lot of 65th Drive and gathered around the lantern to pray and meditate. That’s when we heard it: A voice from the darkness. It could have been a voice from heaven, but then again it was asking a hard question rather than making a proclamation.
“Hey! Are you the real Christians?”
I was looking around the table at a couple of guys from some very hardline Church of Christ congregations, but also at a Methodist, a Pentecostal, and a Baptist. I almost wanted to say, “No. We are not the real Christians; we’re Methodists!” But I sensed that my idea of humor would not really be funny, so I stifled my joke. And then the same voice interrupted the silence with his own answer, “You must be…. No one else would come out here to pray.”
Then the voice in the dark announced, “I need prayer. I am about to kill somebody.”
Wow! At that, the motley crew gathered at the Lord’s Table began urging the man to come out of the shadows and join us. He did. His name was Juan. He was already quite inebriated and filled with rage. He said that his woman had taken up with another man. He knew right where they were and what they were up to just then, and he wanted to go shoot them both.
That’s when Rev. Rodney found the right words for Juan. He said, “Man. Let me tell you. It’s not worth it. I did exactly that very thing. I went to prison for it. I was there more than ten years. When I got out, I found my daughter. She said to me, ‘Daddy, Where were you when I needed you?'”
Rodney’s daughter had been raped while he was away in prison. His moment of vengeance not only took the girl’s mother away and effectively ended his own life, but left his little girl to fend for herself in a vicious world. And as his story tumbled out for us, it really sucked the fire and the poison out of Juan! Juan sat there and prayed with us for half an hour in the dark, empty lot by the lantern and ate the Body of Christ and drank his Blood instead of killing people. Our little ministry was an adventure to us, and it saved at least three lives!
We went back to that spot a couple of weeks later, and Juan found us again. A couple months after that, we met Juan yet again. He continued to be very thankful for the hand of God and Rev. Rodney’s wise words in his moment of need.
Again, I tell these stories so that my readers, and especially anyone from Vandelia, will know what the left foot of that Body of Christ was doing in the dance just then! Not many from Vandelia were there to see it. I don’t know how many there are even aware of it. But this was Vandelia’s ministry to that dark place in the neighborhood God granted us as a Promised Land. It was good times. And I remember them fondly like treasures in my heart.