I wasn’t expecting to find myself alone in an alley at night with a homeless man. It definitely wasn’t on my agenda. I was actually on my way to San Diego to visit some friends, but I had stopped for a quick lunch and coffee on the way.
I first saw him after I parked my car and walked towards the coffee shop. He was in a wheelchair and had only a grocery bag hanging from the back of his seat in way of possessions. I felt my heart tug in his direction. I wanted to talk to him or something—to find out how he was doing. I wondered about his story. How had he ended up homeless in a wheelchair? It was just SO sad.
But I didn’t stop—I let my internal editor talk me out of it and went and got coffee instead.
I emerged from the coffee shop about an hour later as dusk was setting in, all caffed up and ready to finish the second part of my drive. But as I walked back to my car, I saw him again—this time wheeling off into a different direction in another parking lot.
My heart tugged on me for the second time. Was this an assignment?
The internal monologue started back up within me. What would I say if I walked up to him? Should I offer him food? I already knew money was off the table since I never carried cash, but I figured he could at least use some food. I had a friend who recently watched a documentary about the homeless. She told me it highlighted food and conversation as the two things that a lot of homeless people wanted most. Maybe that would be enough.
But what food did I have? I was pretty sure he didn’t want my half-eaten leftovers. Then I remembered I had a protein bar. And what about blankets? It was almost nighttime. I knew I had a couple blankets stashed in our trunk for when the kids got cold. Hopefully I could find one that WASN’T pink.
I grabbed the protein bar, dug out a green blanket, and started walking in his direction.
It was getting darker and when I finally caught up to him, he was at the end of a weird parking-lot alley. It was surrounded by various fences, so I mapped out my exit routes just in case this interaction went south. He was facing the freeway—just kind of staring off into the distance.
“Hello? Excuse me?”
What followed was a surprisingly pleasant interaction. I knew as soon as he started talking that he was lucid and safe. I was able to let my guard down a little and just engage in the conversation. I asked him if he wanted the blanket and protein bar. He accepted both graciously.
Then I asked him how he was doing. I dug a little more into his story. He told me about some of the rougher struggles with living on the streets—like his difficulty with getting the medicine that he needed and the very real harassment by harder cases like drug addicts that lived alongside of him. Any money and possessions were frequently found missing when he awoke from sleep.
This whole situation FELT orchestrated, like it was an assignment from the Father. But so far, I couldn’t figure out why he wanted me there—as opposed to someone else. So as I stood there chit-chatting with the man, I checked in with God. Father, why am I here? What do you want me to do? Is this just a compassion mission—giving this guy some needed provisions or is there more? What’s next?
I was so against the more old-school evangelistic techniques that left people feeling spiritually mugged, that I now found myself erring on the other side of caution. I wanted to tread carefully. I cared not only about his spiritual situation but also about his dignity and heart.
And then God threw me a clue.
The man mentioned difficulty with sleep and referenced something that sounded A LOT like demonic torment. “Oh! Do you mean demons?” I asked him to elaborate. Yes, he answered. He definitely meant demons. They were messing with his sleep and bringing him torment. “Do you want that to stop?” I asked. “Can I pray for you about that?”
His answer surprised me. NO. He didn’t want prayer. He had received prayer before and said the demons would leave temporarily, but that they’d always return. And it was always worse when they did.
Awwwww…the picture was now becoming clearer for why I was there.
I validated his experience and told him that scripturally that was true. If he kicked a negative entity out but didn’t fill the vacated spaces with more of God, then they WOULD return in greater quantity. So I went deeper with my questions: Do you know Jesus? I explained that if he did, then he actually had the authority to kick the critters out himself. Yes, he said. He’d previously worked that particular reality out.
So what was keeping this guy stuck in torment then?
And then it hit me: generational ties.
“How about your relatives?” I asked him. “Do you know of any ties to the occult in your family line?”
BINGO. I’d found it. The answer was yes, along with some specific details. I now knew why I was there. I could help this guy with the bungee cord that kept yanking him back into torment—IF he would accept my help. I gave him a mini explanation about how generational issues from our family lines can keep yanking us back, until we finally pray to sever them. Then I asked him: Do you want me to pray to disconnect this generational bungee cord?
His answer: Yes.
So we prayed. I felt the heavy spiritual atmosphere around him. It was thick and took some serious concentration to pray through. But we did it. And I hadn’t even made it all the way through my prayer, when the man started coughing up and spitting out huge chunks of mucus. That outward indication was helpful to know that the unwanted critters were vacating the premises.
We parted ways a short time later, shaking hands. He was looking forward to a good night’s sleep. I was gearing up for a major praise session in my car. I was just in awe at the whole experience. The God who plans ahead. Only God could set up a situation so perfectly—I just had to step into it and follow the clues along the way.
So glad he gave me TWO chances.
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25:40).
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:21).