Written by Jay Knoblock, this is the sixth in a series of stories about ways in which prayer has touched people’s lives. The stories will run between now and the CRC Prayer Summit 2015 set for April 13-15 at All Nations CRC in Los Angeles, Calif.
If you have a story about prayer that you would like to share, please send it to Chris Meehan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any questions, call 1-616-224-0849.
Last summer, our Youth Unlimited Serve street evangelism group was walking along in downtown Grand Rapids.
Every day this week we would walk the streets seeking people with whom to pray and witness about our faith. We would then return to the LaGrave Christian Reformed Church to debrief and discuss our experiences. Each evening, there would be a message and small group time, as well as fun activities.
We were there as part of Serve, a five to seven-day mission trip in which Youth Unlimited sends middle or high school age students out to care for and restore their world in various ways.
On the first first morning, the trees were wet from the Michigan rain.
One young boy (I’ll call him Jimmy) proceeded to find it amusing to douse us with the branches so we got wet as we walked. Kind of annoying, but we put up with it because he was young.
One of the clues on the sheet on which I had written possible prayer topics was the name “Jimmy” and another was divorce. These topics came to me, and others, during times of prayer before we went out to pray.
When I learned the young boy’s name was “Jimmy,” I also learned that his parents were divorced, and I prayed for him, asking God to bring healing to him and his family.
Later in the week, “Jimmy” kept asking me when I would “get him back” for dousing us with water on the street. I said that I forgave him.
Yet at Wednesday night supper, he dumped a glass of water on my head. I started to get up and chase him down.
But I stopped, and sat back down. What was this kid after?
As I prayed, God revealed his deep need for love. Later that evening, I asked Jimmy to come over to me. Reluctantly, he did. I gave him a big hug, and said, “If you wanted a hug, you could just ask. You don’t have to splash me with water!”
He was shocked, and from that point on, he hung out with me the rest of the week and caused no more problems. He was also the same boy who Friday night exclaimed, “You know, I didn’t think God still spoke to people at the start of this week. Now I know that he does.”
On Tuesday morning, our group set out with a few more clues. One of them was “smoking,” another was cane, another was hospital.
We walked around a bit until we noticed the former hospital between La Grave and Sheldon avenues.
We cut through the alley, walked around the corner and saw three young men smoking in front of the apartment building on Sheldon. One of them had a cane.
A few of our group split off and went across the street to pray for us from a distance. The rest of us waited patiently, praying for God to prepare the hearts of those we would talk to. After five minutes of leaning against the apartment building, we sensed it was go time.
We walked over and shared who we were and what we were doing. I had the students introduce themselves and after several minutes of conversation, we offered to pray. I shared about the “smoking” and “cane” clues, and that seemed to impress the gentlemen.
I asked one of our students to pray first, and this prompted a response from the guy with the cane. “Let’s all join hands together,” he said.
By this time, the rest of our group from across the street was there....so the eight of us, plus the three guys all joined hands together and prayed
On Tuesday afternoon, we walked down Ionia Avenue to Heartside park.
I had a Youth Unlimited intern with me. She was writing articles on what she witnessed during our servant evangelism project.
When we got to the park, several from our group split up into smaller groups to pray for people.
The intern and one other young man came with me as I spied a blonde woman sitting on a bench about 50 yards out. I looked at my list and said, “There’s the blonde woman. She has broken relationships with her kids, I just know it.”
Broken relationships was another clue on my list. The intern asked me how I “knew” and I said, “I just do. Wait and see if God confirms or not.”
We walked up to woman and told her what we were doing and that “blonde hair” was one of our clues. She was delighted, and began to share prayer needs. She needed a new job, and she needed restoration of relationship with her son. There it was. The intern looked at me kind of surprised.
We prayed for the woman, and then the man sitting next to her on the bench asked for prayer. Then, another man walked up and sat in between them. The blonde woman told him what we were doing, and he asked us to pray for healing for his epilepsy. He said he was sick of taking meds and believed God was bigger. We prayed, and the intern joined me laying hands on his back.
We headed out on Wednesday morning towards the downtown area. We prayed with several people and God gave us more amazing experiences.
It was the same on Thursday morning and then it was the last group of the week: Thursday afternoon.
We walked out of La Grave, and ended up going to a place where many homeless people gather on Division Avenue.
We walked into the commons area and sat down on the chairs. An older man came up to me and said, “Hey, what are you guys doing here?” I told him about our treasure hunt.
He asked me what we had on the list, and I told him “man with a limp/bad leg.” He said, “That’s me!” I was guided by the Holy Spirit to have him sit down on the chair where I had been sitting.
I checked the length of his legs. Sure enough, one was longer than the other.
I asked if I could pray and he gladly let me. I found myself focusing on Jesus, saying his name over and over again. After I prayed, his leg was the same as the other and he said he had no pain.
The rest of our time that day involved more prayer for broken people, including another man with a limp.
We ended that trip with a long conversation with a homeless woman on the corner of Wealthy and Division by the gas station. She gave us all a hug as we left, thanking us so much for praying for her.
I believe every person in our group contributed in some way that week: between words, prayers, and approaching people. It was truly a group effort with God as our guide.
Jay Knoblock is a spiritual trainer who was the leader of street evangelism at the 2014 Serve in Grand Rapids.