How A True Jesus Follower Can Make A Difference
I used to look at the homeless person holding a sign and think, “Why don’t you just get a job and you wouldn’t have to fly that sign on the busy street corner?” But when you get to hear their stories, it changes our perspective. Most homeless people have experienced major trauma in the form of deep emotional wounds, they’ve tragically lost family members, they have PTSD, many are disabled and suffer from depression, anxiety, and many have severe mental illness. This leads to homelessness and alcohol and drug abuse, and many never recover.
Larry Williams was one of those homeless people, and if you work in downtown Denver, he may have asked you for money. Here’s his story.
Just a few years ago, Larry was living on the street, sleeping in stairwells and hallways to stay warm at night. He made money by panhandling in downtown Denver. He did this at the risk of going to jail. Larry needed money to survive, so he did what he needed, to stay alive on the cold, dark streets of Denver. Larry grew up in this city and got into trouble as a young man and ran with the wrong crowd. He began using crack at an early age and began selling the illegal drug to make money. He was also addicted to the dangerous street drug. His life spiraled out of control and he ended up living on the street. This went on for decades.
Larry got caught selling crack to an undercover cop and was sent to prison for 3 years. After he got out, he went back to the only thing he knew, the street and drugs. 5 years ago, Larry was panhandling on 17th and Broadway at noon, and asked a man for a couple of dollars. The man gave Larry a some money and asked, "Do you know Jesus?" Larry said no, took the money and went on his way.
Larry saw this well-dressed man two days later and asked him for money again. The man said, "Can I pray for you?" Larry said sure and let the man pray for him. Larry saw this man as an easy mark because he kept giving him money. Larry would keep going back to 17th and Broadway because hundreds of people would leave the tall downtown building on their way to lunch. But Larry kept seeing this same gentlemen for two years. One day, Larry told him he needed extra and the man went to the ATM and gave him $60.00 cash.
As time went on, he would buy Larry lunch, eat with him, and talk about Jesus and Larry’s life. The man gave Larry a pocket bible and continued to talk about how Jesus could change his life and how the God was his only answer for getting off the street.
Larry got sick and went into the emergency room in April 2016, and stayed three days at Denver Health. Larry was admitted to Christ’s Body Ministries Respite and stayed for 2 weeks to help him recover. Larry picked up the Bible in the community room and began reading. One day, Larry got on his knees and cried out, asking Jesus to help him. Then everything began to change. He went to Salvation Army’s Harbor Light rehab for 7 months, got off drugs, and Jesus changed his heart.
Larry saw this same man again near 17th and Broadway a few months after he got out of rehab while taking a walk downtown. The man saw Larry and said, “Larry, you look different. What happened to you?!” Larry answered, “I gave my life to Jesus!”
This man’s name is Olu. He is a Vice President and Investment Manager at a large bank near 17th and Broadway. For the last three years, Olu and Larry meet every Friday doing Bible studies and more importantly, he’s a friend and mentor. They have lunch and talk about things going on in Larry’s life. When I asked Olu about this special relationship with Larry, all he could say, as tears welled up in his eyes, “It’s Jesus who can turn around someone like Larry and change his life.”
Larry is now Respite Manager at Christ’s Body Ministries helping men just like himself who need physical healing, and more importantly, spiritual healing. Larry tells them his story, shows them the bed he slept in, and tells them how Jesus changed his life.
This man named Olu, was an important link in the chain in helping Larry realize his need for God. We need more men like Olu who care enough and are willing to invest their money, and more importantly take the time to get to know one of these lost, broken and wounded men. One man, who is a true Jesus follower, can make a big difference.