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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