There is a weird group of Christ followers that meet and pray with people on the streets of Wilmington every Friday. Of course, meeting with others to pray on the street is not by itself surprising. Christians in Wilmington greet, pray with, and are friendly with lots of people they meet. What is a little surprising about this group is when they meet and pray for others — Fridays at midnight until 3 a.m. Saturday morning.
Back in May, there was a 24-hour prayer event called “Breaking the Chains of Addiction.” During this 24 hours of prayer some of the followers of Jesus Christ noticed that there were quite a few addicts and intoxicated people out walking the streets after midnight. Some were homeless, and some were just going home, but almost all of them seemed interested in having a chat.
So a few of those praying Christians said, “We’ll come back every Friday night and strike up conversations and see what needs we can meet with the early morning walkers.” Nine weeks later Operation Rescue is still in progress.
Now, the “prayer walkers” are meeting with those coming out of the bar as it closes, and praying with the addicts who are searching, and giving food to the homeless who are hungry, and offering coffee to the run down. Some of our local addicts are even expressing a desire for something better in life.
One particular remorseful exchange occurred when an intoxicated person came out of the bar and saw one of the teenage prayer walkers. The intoxicated person teared up and cried when they realized they were setting a bad example for the young person by being drunk. But the prayer walkers are not there to condemn, they are there to build a bridge into the part of our community that is literally crying for help. When the addicts find out that the prayer walkers were there to help, pray, show mercy, and give food and water, they said, “This is weird that church people are out here helping us.”
One of the prayer walkers continues a conversation over breakfast, another continues the chat via Facebook and texts, and still another has had the opportunity to invite the addicted into a community of love, healing, and forgiveness. Jesus says its people like the prayer walkers who will inherit a kingdom prepared for them — because they fed the hungry, gave the thirsty something to drink, welcomed strangers, clothed the naked, visited the sick and imprisoned, because when they do these things to those in need it’s as if they were doing them for Jesus himself (Matthew 25:34-46).
I love how the prophet Isaiah predicted what will happen if we help those in need: “If you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday!” Isaiah 58:10. Our local prayer walkers are praying after midnight, but they are lighting up the darkness with real help.
There is one other thing Operation Rescue is handing out on Friday nights besides prayer and water. These Christians are delivering hope to the addicted. Hope for their lives to matter. Hope for their relationship to work out. Hope for deliverance from addiction into a lasting joy that cannot be taken away. They are offering the love and mercy and change that Jesus Christ offers and all it took was just being a little weird.
Operation Rescue plans to continue praying on Friday nights until at least Hope Over Heroin comes to town. That’s another event that offers real hope. I’ll write about that next week. Any questions or comments email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dale McCamish is Pastor of the Wilmington Church of Christ.