This is a first, that I would write two blogs in two days. I promise it is not a trend. But I must tell you about my friend, Elijah.
I first met Elijah almost 20 years ago. My husband Brad had told me of this tattooed man who had joined his men’s group at church. Soon afterward, we had all the men and their wives over to our house. I remember welcoming this slender man covered in tattoos (back then, Elijah had a lot more tattoos) into our home. This was a first for me, to hang out with a gangsta.
I had never known anyone like Elijah.
He openly shared his troubled history of gangs and drugs, and how he met Jesus in his cell at LCDC. We met him during that window of time on bail, while he awaited sentencing for prison. During that time, I saw a man radically on fire for Jesus. Our families worshipped God together at Praise in the Park. We saw him share his testimony to hundreds of people at a church in Fort Collins. Jesus had saved Elijah from the pit of hell. Elijah was a new man, and he wanted everyone to know Jesus like he did. This redeemed gangsta was touching lives.
We cried and prayed as he went to prison in southern Colorado. We kept in touch during that season through cards, letters, phone calls, prayers and visits. His mom was in poor health and we weren’t sure if Elijah would be paroled in time to see her again.
We knew his mom, his sisters, his niece and nephew, and some of his children. Each one had found a place in our hearts. We celebrated when Elijah became a free man. His mom was thrilled beyond words. He was reunited with his family. Soon, we met Jacie and fell in love with her too.
Some of my fondest memories of Elijah were during the season when we ministered with him, just a few years ago. He and Jacie opened up a ministry for the homeless and those who needed a hand. Street Lights of Grace was in the basement of an apartment building in downtown Greeley.
Every Saturday morning, Brad and I went there to help. We served food, provided clean showers and clothing, and Elijah gave the best haircuts. He was a skilled barber (Elijah was skilled at many things!). He treated each person with care and dignity. His passion and grace and love flowed from his gratitude how Jesus had saved him from a life on the streets. Elijah’s smile lit up a room.
During that time, I became so grateful for what God has done in my life.
It was a blessing to get to know the people who came for a shower and some clean clothes. It made me realize that each of us, our life is but a vapor, and the circumstances in our lives can defeat us or they can give us strength. Not everyone who came for help was able to climb out of their own destitution and addictions. Some did. But each and every one was loved and respected. I had the privilege of capturing a few of them as portraits. I would bring my art supplies and share them. It was a place where they could forget about the struggles of the day and enter into a place of creativity.
Oh how I wish we had another 40-50 years with Elijah, that he would be walking in victory and freedom in Northern Colorado, touching hearts and lives with the love of Jesus. I will always remember Elijah for his love and kindness, his welcoming grin to everyone.
I don’t understand depression and addiction. Thankfully I do not know their grasp. But I know they are real, and their intent is to destroy. If you know these thieves, do not partner with them. Get help. Talk to someone. Find a counselor, find a program. I know it is difficult. I have friends and family who have walked through it, and they will tell you that each and every day they must make a choice. Today choose life. I know that life is worth living.
“A thief has only one thing in mind - he wants to steal, slaughter, and destroy. But I have come to give you everything in abundance, more than you expect - life in its fullness until you overflow! I am the Good Shepherd who lays down my life as a sacrifice for the sheep.” - Jesus, as written in John 10:10 TPT