Blood everywhere. I’ll never forget the first time I saw my dad get beat up.
We were having Church in the Park—our bi-weekly, sometimes tri-weekly outreach to the homeless. The band was playing. My dad was worshipping God with his arms raised high. A man began to loudly and angrily curse at him and the musicians on stage. This was not new. No man who is living for himself likes the sounds of surrender.
But this time was different. My dad asked him to step away. The man pushed him. My dad touched his shoulder and said, “You’re being disruptive, would you stand on the side?”
My dad crashed onto the brick cement street. A man we would later identify as Donald Peoples continued in his rage and his continuously swung at my father.
I could go on and on about what it was like standing with my little brother and older sister as she tried to cover our eyes—unsuccessfully, and what it was like to watch a hero fall. I could go on even longer about the beauty of the Church—as my dad hit the floor, dozens of homeless men who were addicts, alcoholics, some of who at one point also cursed at my dad came rushing in defending him, fighting off Mr. Peoples. Truth be told, there was a lot I learned about the world that day.
But perhaps the best part was after the riot. My dad had bandages all over his face and arm. The music had stopped. The park was overrun by sounds of whispers and questions. Should we all go home? The pastor was hurt.
The image I’ll never forget is my dad walking onto the stage and grabbing the microphone. We were outdoors, and this is what could be heard for blocks throughout downtown San Francisco: “The truth is, I used to be just like that man. But then I found Jesus. I’m going to talk right now about a Savior who can change your whole life.”
I watched as my dad tore off his bandages, and preached the Gospel to hundreds of homeless men and women. I watched as he prayed over them and led dozens to the Lord. I watched from the backseat as he drove my family home. And I decided, for the rest of my life, no matter how hard the punches came, I would not wallow in my bandages or wounds. I would use every opportunity—every bruise and scar, to tell people the story that could change their whole life. I would tear off my bandages, get over myself, and get the job done.
I used to ask my dad if he was scared. Was he scared that one day another Donald would come around? By the way, many did. Was he scared that people would hate him, and violently stand in the way of him telling people about Jesus? By the way, many, many did. My dad never said much about that. But he did always say, “I will see souls saved until the day I die.”
He preached in that park for over 20 years before he died.
5 days before his death he was preaching to the homeless in that very spot he got beat up at many years before. 2 days before his death he was sharing the story of Jesus to a plumber that came to his house to fix his sink. And when he died, March 12, 2008, I know there was nothing left in him—he put it all out on the line for the Kingdom—everyday, and never missed an opportunity to tell people the truth about Jesus.
May no wounds stand in our way. May no discouraging men stand in our way. May we use every opportunity to show people how they can have a radically new life.
Bring on the punches.
Bring on the curses.
Bring on the riots.
There is a Savior who can change lives.
May we see souls saved until the day we die.