Some Sad News About My Friend Luis

If you’ve been around Midtown for a while, been around the blog for a while, or read my book, odds are you know or have heard about my friend Luis. He’s a 43 year-old hispanic man who, upon our first contact with him years ago, was passed out in Finlay Park, homeless and drinking rubbing alcohol.

Needless to say, he’s come a long way since then. He got on his feet, battled his addiction to alcohol, met Jesus, was baptized, and got smack in the middle of a church who loved him and legitimately became his family–the people that he shared life and even holidays with.

I’ll share more at some point later because there’s a lot of story here. But here’s the short version of the sad news:

Several weeks ago something really, really strange happened–Luis didn’t show up for a job he was supposed to do. His phone was also off, so I knew something was wrong. I went and checked both hospitals downtown but didn’t find him there. The next place I tried was the jail, and sure enough, that’s where I found him.

He had been picked up for trespassing, and the specifics make it unfortunately lame, but I won’t share them. Anyway–no big deal, I thought, and first thing the next morning I went to pay his bail to get him out.

I kept calling the bail company that day to see what was taking so long. They finally called me later that day and said that Immigration had put a hold on him. And then I found out that that meant he would very likely be deported to Mexico.

I went to visit him in jail and he didn’t know this yet. He thought he just needed to pay a fine to get out.

“No, buddy–I’ve already paid your fine. They won’t let me get you out.” I told him. “Immigration is involved and they say you’re an illegal alien. I think they are going to send you back to Mexico.”

I teared up telling him. He just said, “Oh. I hope not.”

“I hope not too, but it doesn’t look good, buddy.”

He was really sad, but still kept his spirits up. Moments later he said, “If they do, you guys gonna say, ‘Remember that crazy Mexican?'”

It’s been about three weeks since then. Last week I went to visit him in an Immigration facility in middle-of-nowhereville Georgia. Jeff and Jazz (two of his LifeGroup guys) and I drove down to give him some money, clothes, tell him goodbye and that we loved him so much. It was a very frustrating and emotional two days that ended with a really meaningful hour-long talk through some plexi-glass and a wired telephone.

Honestly, he probably looked the healthiest he ever has. He was sad, but extremely happy to see us and in very good spirits. He was his usual jokester self, but also asked me to tell everyone that he loved them and that he’ll miss them.

My heart is still reeling from this, and I’ve been pretty torn up about it. He has been a really good friend for a long time, and this is not at all the ending to his story that I wanted.

But as bad as it seems, God has given me a bedrock peace about it all. He’s reminded me that this is in fact not the end to Luis’s story. That Luis is His son, that He is still God in Mexico, that He is going to take care of him. That just as He worked tremendously in Luis’s life here, He can continue that work elsewhere.

Sitting there staring at him through the plexi-glass last week, I was overwhelmed by the sadness that comes from separation. I grieved for him because, as he said that day, we are “the closest thing to family he has.”

But I was also overwhelmed by the insane grace that Luis was even sitting there–clean, sober, healthy, smiling. Knowing the fullness of his story, it is an honest-to-God miracle that he is alive and healthy. He has escaped so many dangerous situations, and drank enough alcohol to kill him ten times over. But, he’s still there. A real-life miracle, breathing and laughing. Telling us that God is good, that he’s thankful for us, that he loves us.

I’m going to miss my friend dearly, and so are many others. The good news is, family is still family no matter what distance is between you.

There is much, much more to his story, even to the last month that he was here in Columbia. I hope I will have the honor to tell you more one day.

But thankfully, his story is not over. I’m waiting for a phone call from Mexico to see what’s next for him.

I’ll keep you in the loop. In the meantime, please be praying for him. More specifically:

  • For him to stay off of alcohol when he gets there.
  • For him to find work & a place to live.
  • For him to find a community of believers to support him.
  • For God’s continued work in his life.

Thanks in advance for your prayers. They are much appreciated.

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  • Ken Hagerman

    I’d say that could be called Midtown’s mission extension outlet. Brace yourself for the news of God’s blessing there.

    • Brandon Clements

      Very true. Thanks Ken.

  • Gary Price

    Man that was hard to read for sure. That is tough, i had not idea that this happened. Glad you got to see him before he left. I will be praying for him and thanking the LORD that He keeps His promises.

    • Brandon Clements

      Thanks Gary, much appreciated.

  • Tammy Helfrich

    I loved Luis’ attitude in your book (and loved the book, by the way). I know that God will continue to use him in Mexico and will be praying for him and all of you as his family.

    • Brandon Clements

      Thanks Tammy, I really appreciate that.

  • Linda Harless Belcher

    Another moment of being ‘Wrecked’ Brandon

    • Brandon Clements

      True. Thanks Linda.

  • kristiclements

    Oh, B, Luis is so loved by you…even all the way to Mexico. Thanking Jesus for his grace to allow us to know and continue to be family with Luis. Thanks for loving him so well.

  • Cindy

    I just commented on your website about your book … and named Luis as my favorite “character.” and then I came to your blog and read this update. So sad … BUT, God is God all around the world. Who knows what awesome plans he has in mind for Luis. He will be in my prayers.

    • Brandon Clements

      Thanks so much Cindy, that is much appreciated.

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  • Mary Lou Sodora

    God is good! An open heart opens the door to God! I will pray for Luis. I feel as though I know him and have come to love him.

    • Brandon Clements

      Thanks Mary Lou, I appreciate that.

  • frances

    I too found your book per chance – just browsing for something good to read.
    Your book both hooked me and surprised me. I loved it. As I was reading I kept saying that’s me. Very inspiring. I will recommend to my friends.

    • Brandon Clements

      Thanks so much Frances. That is so encouraging! I appreciate you recommending to friends, that is so important. If you’d like to leave a short Amazon review that would be much appreciated as well!

      Thanks so much for reading and responding.

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  • Judith Santo Koester

    Luis was my favorite character in the book. It makes me think of someone I know who doesn’t have an alcohol problem, but a physical disability and was sent to Mexico. He always had a smile and something good to say. I loved the book and am recommending it to my friends and relatives. I was taken completely by surprise by how much the book involved me. Wonderful. Thanks for this.

    • Brandon Clements

      Wow, thanks so much Judith. This is so encouraging. I really appreciate you reading and responding. And thanks for spreading the word about the book…that is very much so appreciated!

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  • leah

    breathtaking read! my career has revolved around the homeless and addicted population. ive seen all the good and more bad than id like to share, however i have been blessed to know a young man with a similiar story as luis’. he too was also deported, i was given the chance to say goodbye before he left. said our good byes, cried and sent encouraging prayers for each other. as he walked away he said to me, “thank you, i knew you were the one that could say nothing but mean alot. his last coment blew me away, he said “never look down on someone unless you are picking them up” wow! i have neverforgot that. thank you for your unwaivering faith and dedication

  • leah

    to me that is luis in a nutshell!

    • Brandon Clements

      Thanks Leah, I really appreciate that. Thanks for reading and responding. So cool to hear your background working with people like Luis. I do miss him dearly.

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  • Min April Michelle Casares

    Luis is a crazy Mexican who can hook up some deicious street tacos with lime… God Bless him & his family!!

  • Ruth Hofmann

    I really like what you said, Brandon, in this ‘… my friend Luis’ update, ” …fam­ily is still fam­ily no mat­ter what dis­tance is between you.” Wherever we are, we’re connected with family & friends through out love … just as Jesus is ‘connected’ with us through His Love for us. We are God children, and we were not placed here solely for our individual pleasures. In Jeremiah 29:11, God told him, and effectively told us, “For I know the plans I have for you,” … “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I will include Luis on my daily ‘prayer list’, but I believe in my heart that our Heavenly Father will continue the ‘good work He began in his life’. Please keep us posted, and if you visit him, tell him we’re keeping him lifted up, and praying the Lord’s will be done in his life. ~RH

    • Brandon Clements

      Thanks so much for this Ruth, it means a lot!