The holy spirit intervened on our behalf.
She does that alot.
We weren’t sure about a location, so we did a couple things. We put the word out to congregations that we could use a site on a few Thursdays.
On May 22nd, we parked on Payne Ave near the Family Dollar, just south of the intersection with Maryland Ave. We had just over 80 calzones to serve. We ran out in an hour. It turns out, this is a part of the city that is hungry, not just for food, but for a word of grace.
One of our members walked down the street and invited folks at the Salvation Army to come eat with us. Soon, we had people eager to learn why we were giving a free meal away and wondering if we would return. We had prayer requests and people thanking us for our witness on the streets of St Paul.
We were right where we needed to be.
The following week, we went to North Immanuel Lutheran Church. It is a small, neighborhood church tucked away off of Rice and Front Streets. This was a beautiful experience. We parked in their lot and served their community. We read the gospel of St John together and enjoyed the sun. It turns out that we facilitated Pastor Kisten scheduling not 1, but 5 baptisms! The community was gathered and there was time to visit. The space for visiting allowed for Pastor Kisten to get her calendar out and schedule the baptisms. These were families who were already feeling called to be a part of the Church, but the flexibility of a lunch outside gave them a chance to talk at length with Pastor Kisten. A beautiful result of us needing to find a space to serve. We will have 5 new brothers and sisters in Christ.
We returned to the Payne Ave location last week.
A group gathered almost immediately. People remembered us from the time before. A few brought friends. As had been the time before, people were eager not just for food, but for prayer. Several groups of young men came.
Here is a story about one of them:
I stood outside the truck and greeted each person who came. I let them know what we were up to. I explained that we offered food and prayers. All for free and no obligation to take both. I let people know we were going to do a more formal prayer time around the noon hour.
One young man stood with his friends. He had a difficult time making eye contact. He heard me say to a new comer that we offered prayers. He turned to me and said he needed some prayers. I asked for his name and what I should be praying for. He told me that he needed prayers so that he would stay out of jail. I asked what he might go to jail for. His response was that he would get into “trouble.” “What kind of trouble,” I asked. “Shootout.”
This was not a response in jest. This was a realistic possibility.
I told this young man that I expect to see him each Thursday eating lunch with us. I asked him to return and keep me updated on how things are going. I asked him to shake on this. And then, we prayed together.
A heavy, spirit filled moment.
This is gut wrenching stuff. A young man is genuinely concerned with the prospect of jail. And most likely, not jail, but prison. He is talking about gun violence that would potentially lead to a felony charge. And that, is if he lives.
But, something else was happening in this.
He was telling me that he didn’t want this to happen. While he may have no idea how to stay away from violence, he did have a desire to avoid it. He did recognize the need for assistance in staying out of “trouble.” He recognized that he needed something more than himself.
St Paul writes: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God who searches the heart, knows what is in the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
I sighed as I heard his prayer request.
I trust that the Spirit hears my sighs and also sighs deeply at the hurt and destruction that occurs and might occur.
I also trust that the Spirit brought this young man to a community that will pray for him. A community that will walk with him. This is the glimmer of hope. Some place in this man’s heart there is a desire for something different. His heart sighs for a new way.
We are called to be in the midst of immense pain and immense hope.
And so I admonish you:
Keep hope alive!