I have been meaning to write more about my friend Luis for a long time now. Life just hasn’t afforded me the time or energy to do so lately, but I do have some amazing things I would like to share about him and what’s been going on in his life lately. I figure it’s good timing to focus on him this week anyway, because we will be sharing more of his story next Sunday at the Gathering as a part of our “Stories” series.
To put it in a nutshell…Luis is a walking miracle of the redemption found in the Gospel. He is a small Hispanic man from Chihuahua, Mexico who came over to the states several years ago. Soon afterward his wife took his two daughters and left him. This of course caused a great deal of pain for him that he still deals with to this day, and it sent him off on a spree of drug use and drunkenness, traveling to and fro from big city to big city, working here and there to get by. He has told me that his goal for that period was to just be numb with drugs and alcohol so he wouldn’t have to feel the pain.
So somehow, after hitting sprawling cities from Salt Lake City to Atlanta, he wound up in the small town of Orangeburg, SC. At this point he was tired of being lonely, of fighting and struggling to survive, so he went to a policeman and asked to be put into jail. At least he could have food and shelter there, he thought. The nice policeman told him that he would have to do something to be put in jail. So he did. He caused enough of a ruckus to be given a 21 day jail sentence and served it gladly. On the 21st day the guard apologized and told him he was going to have to stay one more day for some reason. Luis replied, “Don’t apologize…I want to stay here! I don’t have anywhere to go out there.” So on the 22nd day, Luis was kicked out of jail.
At this point Luis met an angel of a man in Orangeburg. He approached the man and asked him for some work, and the man explained to him that it was going to be hard to find work there. He told him that he needed to go to a bigger city like Columbia to find work. “How am I going to get there?’ Luis asked him. “I’ll take you there,” the man replied.
So the man drove Luis from Orangeburg to West Columbia, dropped him off and handed him $60 for food. This was in September of 2007.
Some college students from Midtown first stumbled upon Luis in Finlay Park several months after he arrived. He tells me that he was passed out drunk in a ditch when they came walking by him, and as he squinted up at them one of them said, “Wake up.” And then he says, “I did.” These students started a relationship with him and a girl named Toni started bringing him to church every week. This broken, scarred little Mexican man was introduced to the love of Jesus and the wide open arms of family.
What’s next? Well, it is now August 2008, less than a year after he arrived in Columbia, and here is where Luis stands:
*He now has a relationship with Jesus.
*He was baptized by Toni back in April.
*He is not homeless anymore.
*He works full time and is completely financially independent.
*He serves regularly at the Gathering, Day Mission Trips, and Homeless Block Parties.
*He gives money to the church every week.
*In his own words… “I have a family now.”
*He has made significant progress in his struggle with alcohol.
*He smiles and laughs a whole lot more.
*He is a missionary at his job and among the homeless.
*He meets new people at the Gathering and welcomes them to our family.
*Every week he says or does something that absolutely amazes me.
I told you he was a walking miracle! What an incredible picture of how Jesus heals and changes people. More stories from Luis to come later…