City LightsLynchburg
The Power of Hospitality

Jesse had no idea that the rhythmic knocking on his door would lead to one of the most powerful spiritual moments of his life.

For the last seven years, Jesse has been serving with YWAM Richmond, living in the neighborhood, investing in local outreaches, and now serving on the Leadership Team. He knows that his primary call is to “love God and love others,” and has tried to keep his home and life open to this call. He and others would gather weekly to pray around this idea, and in 2015 God answered that prayer with a knock at the door.

His friend, Sam, opened the door to find Lawrence. Lawrence was an older man and longtime resident of the neighborhood, who had developed a friendship with Sam. He’s the type of guy who happily jumps into friendship with those he meets, going out of his way to say hi and spend time together. Lawrence liked that group of guys, and it became common to hear his unique knocking on the door.

He was also humble and transparent. One day, he opened up with the guys: “I’m really having some trouble, some family issues, and I’m really struggling with a crack addiction.” For twenty years Lawrence had been wrestling with the crack addiction, and every attempt to break it was interrupted by one of the many dealers that lived in the neighborhood.

Crack for him was a relief and a release, as four strokes had left him disabled, with limited use of the right side of his body; the drugs freed him, albeit briefly, from the pain and frustration. Still, Lawrence knew no good feeling was worth what the drugs could do to his body and relationships.

Jesse cared about Lawrence, though he wasn’t sure how he could help. Then, a simple thought hit him: “Hey Lawrence, when you feel like you want to go over there, why don’t you come to my house instead? I’ll give you some food, we’ll have coffee together, we’ll talk, I’ll pray for you, and maybe in that way we can help give you strength to fight this addiction.”

Lawrence took him up on this offer with excitement.

It was mid-afternoon when Jesse heard the rhythmic knocking on his door.

Jesse stopped what he was doing, fixed some coffee, and sat down with his friend. Hours passed as they shared about their lives.

“Why do you guys do what you do at YWAM?” Lawrence asked. He couldn’t understand why they had committed to lifestyles that didn’t include income and could often be difficult. Jesse shared how he wanted to use his life to serve the Lord, because he has seen God at work in and around his life. “I wasn’t trying to evangelize to him or anything,” Jesse later reflected. “I was literally just telling him who we are and why we love the lord.”

Dinner time came, and Jesse treated his guest well; he prepared a steak dinner, and he and Lawrence continued their conversation.

“How’s my friend Sam doing? He’s a great guy.”

“Yeah, he really is, I love that guy.” Suddenly, it became clear to Jesse that God was leading the conversation deeper. “But you know what? Sam wasn’t always a great guy.”

Lawrence was caught off-guard. In his mind, there good people like Jesse and Sam, and bad, broken people like himself and the drug dealers. Yet his heart softened as Jesse shared the story of his good friend Sam, a story of family issues and of addiction. A story reminiscent of Lawrence’s

After sharing some of his own story, Jesse paused. “Lawrence, where are you at with the Lord?”

“I want to believe… but I can’t stop smoking crack.”

“You know Lawrence, none of us by ourselves has the ability to stop doing the wrong things that we’re doing.” Jesse pointed to the parts of his and others’ testimonies where they didn’t have ability to stop. “But when I surrendered to God, he gave me the power to be transformed, and He did the work.”

Jesse was not trying to evangelize, or check off a box; he loved Lawrence, and was genuinely sharing from his heart to his friend. “You know, all you do is you literally tell God, ‘God, I can’t do this myself, and I need you to transform me. I put my faith in you to save me.” While Jesse talked, Lawrence began repeating every word.

“Lawrence do you want to do this right now?” Lawrence nodded, and they prayed together.

What started as an unexpected knock on the door led to the unexpected salvation of a neighbor.

Jesse knew, though, that it was not unexpected to God. He could look back and see how the Holy Spirit had been setting up this moment for months, through friendship, through coffee and conversations, through late-night knocks on the door.

That night was such a powerful moment, and the Holy Spirit was so present and powerful, that something changed in Jesse as well. “This is not me, but when Lawrence left, I literally turned on worship music and sang and danced for two hours. I have never done that in my life, but there was something about that moment that was such a celebration; and the power of God was so evident in Lawrence’s testimony.”

Lawrence had wanted to know God, but believed his sin made that impossible. That night, Lawrence lost his desire for crack, and was a different man from that day forward. Lawrence got on the phone and joyfully shared the news with Sam; later, they baptized Lawrence in the James River, and he became a regular participant on the YWAM base. A year later, when he slipped and tried crack again, it made him sick; he has remained sober and joyful ever since.

It became one of the most powerful moments in Jesse’s life as well. “Honestly, that was the most informal, and yet the most powerful conversion experience that I’ve seen with someone. It wasn’t our effort, it wasn’t going out and trying to convert somebody; it was literally God drawing somebody’s heart, and being a willing vessel to allow God to transform someone. In that moment it was completely real, it wasn’t forced, it wasn’t pressured. We’ve seen the fruit of it, and the fruit began immediately.”

“It was such a revelation in my heart, at that moment, of God’s love for people, and a revelation of Jesus as the Savior. When Lawrence gave his life to the Lord, I had a renewed sense of the joy of salvation.”

Today, Lawrence and Jesse can be seen worshiping together each week, and the rhythmic knock can be heard often on Jesse’s door.

Jesse appreciates the simplicity of how God chose to work. “The key was living life for God, being willing and open to love the people that come into your path as you go, and don’t underestimate the power of hospitality to impact a life.”

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