Have you ever looked at someone and thought, “that person is hopeless.” I have a confession. Sometimes, despite everything I’ve been taught about what a good Christian should and should not think, I have thought these things. And there have been many times when I’ve felt discouraged in our work with the homeless. We see the same hurting people destroying their lives and the lives of the people around them. It can be hard.
But this isn’t a story about how hard it is here in beautiful Hawaii. This is a story about how despite how hard and difficult things can be, our God is so good. So, during this Easter week, I’d like to tell you a story about Jesus. He is risen and He is alive.
There’s this family I know in my city. It’s unclear just how long they’ve been on and off the streets of Waikiki. Four generations of them. The matriarch, a sassy, spit-fire who gave up prostitution after receiving prayer from RK one night, knows just about everyone on the streets. She’d been forced into prostitution years ago by the father of her children. Her daughter, a sweet woman by all accounts, almost lost her sight after years of alcohol abuse. She spent her days in a drunken stupor with a man who beat her and friends who watched. And her grandchildren, known drug dealers, spent their days sitting around the pavillions selling weed.
Her great-grandchildren were often the involuntary witnesses to domestic violence and brokenness.
Years ago, when she told me her story, I could hardly believe it. How could this woman in her late sixties be a prostitute?! We’d seen her rolling through Waikiki on her scooter, smoking a cigarette as she went. Sometimes we’d even spoken to her. A few words about Jesus in passing. And yet, she was a prostitute. We’d had no idea. And then one night as we were on our way home, RK saw her and hurried across the street to catch her. He prayed for her. A quick prayer. And then she went on her way and decided never to sell herself again.
Her daughter was another story. She’d heard about God her whole life. And there were many Tuesdays where caring believers would sit and pray with her. She’d often say, “I have God up here” and point to her head “but I don’t have Him in here” and point to her heart. She’d cry as she said this. We’d see her, barely able to walk, slurring her words, with the evidence of abuse on her face. But still she remained in her bondage. She’d stay with that same man, drink with those same friends, and fall to pieces over and over again.
And then, just like that, as if the clouds parted and the sun came out, she had changed. She was sober. She showed up for church, with her mom, sober. Her hair was brushed, her clothes clean and she even had some makeup on. She looked good. A week later, she looked even better. And the following week, when I saw her taking care of her grandbaby, my heart swelled with love and joy. I imagine that this must be a little bit of what the Father must feel for us when we find our way home.
In the spring, we celebrate the risen Lord. We celebrate life. Sometimes when we look at people we just see the dirt. We think, “will this person ever change?” And we can’t see it. We can’t see how love is ever there, like a seed in that dirt waiting for spring.
And yet, the Lord is near. Even when you can’t see the end, He does. He’s working in ways we can’t see. And even when things look exactly the same week after week, He is at work.
And then, just like the changes I’ve seen in my friends from the streets, spring comes and we see that He’s been at work all along. He is risen and He is alive.