Guest Post – In Praise of Parking Lot Prayers
Today’s post is provided by guest-blogger Henry Miersma, who recently joined Patty and I on our Tuesday-night ministry with Jesus on Colfax.
Before leaving my southern California home for a recent business trip to Denver, I read an article in The Banner magazine about Shawn and Diane Sikkema’s ministry called Jesus on Colfax. Although the purpose of my trip was to work with Tim Spykstra on his new book project, I had recently learned that Tim and Patty joined-up with the Sikkemas on Tuesday nights to minister to the residents on Colfax. Knowing I would be staying over at the Spykstras on a Tuesday night, and knowing the Spykstras, I had a funny feeling they would be moving me out of my comfort-zone and down to Colfax Avenue on the coming Tuesday. I was not wrong.
For those of you expecting to hear from Tim today, my apologies, but he asked me to share my thoughts about that evening. Please know that, although these are my thoughts, this is not about me.
The hotels on Colfax were built decades ago, when the street was one of the major thoroughfares in Denver. Today, interstate highways carry the bulk of the city’s traffic away from the street and the subsequent lack of travelers have left the hotels there in a bad way. As a result, most of the hotel’s tenants are people who are similarly in tough positions in life.
One of the first things I notice when we pull into the parking lot of a motor-court style hotel is the lack of adequate lighting. Its really dark in the parking lot. The room doors are visible, as they open directly to the outside, but they are dimly lit. After my eyes adjust, I can see that the hotel itself is old and run-down. The hotel’s sign seems to be an original dating from the 1950s.
After the Sikkemas and other volunteers all arrived at the hotel, the food was divided-up and organized into baskets. We then formed several small groups to deliver it door-to-door. Before we set-off separately, we formed a circle together and Tim offered a prayer to ask God to protect us and go before us. That would be the first of many prayers offered in a hotel parking lot that night.
I was probably the most-uncomfortable when Tim, Patty, and I approached our first hotel door. That discomfort soon melted away, though, as I saw Patty casually knock on the door and heard her call-out in her sing-song, soprano voice, “Jesus on Colfax Ministries – Burritos, Bananas, and Girl Scout Cookies.” I had to smile. I was actually surprised that the someone opened the door for that! But that happened over and over again during the evening. The knock, the offer and provision of food, and then an offer of prayer. All received.
One of the highlights of the evening for me was engaging in conversation with a young man who longed for a career in the music recording industry. I love music, too, and related to him that I’d been a disk jockey back in college. His interest was stoked when I mentioned a few of the groups I used to play. We talked easily for 10 to 15 minutes.
Another highlight came while visiting inside one of the rooms with a resident. The room was not large, but the man who lived there said “I live like a king… I have heat, running water, a bed to sleep on, and a refrigerator with food in it”. As we visited, he sang snippets of songs that he’d written as praise songs to God. His singing was beautiful and I enjoyed our visit. I wondered to myself if I could be as positive if I were in his position. It was humbling.
As the evening came to a close, our group came together once again and a prayer was raised-up in a parking lot. This time, the prayer was offered by the hotel resident who “lived like a king” and sang praises to God. He prayed for us and it was a beautiful prayer. It was humbling. As our prayer circle broke-up and the volunteers started heading to their cars, I moved towards the resident and offered my hand, thanking him for his hospitality and singing. Instead of a hand-shake, he embraced me and offered me more words of encouragement.
It was only later, as we drove home, that Tim and Patty related to me that they were witness to “mini-miracles” that evening. I did not quite comprehend. They said that the young man who I talked to about music careers had never opened-up to them before. They were surprised by the length of our conversation. They also said the resident who “lived like a king” and embraced me as the night ended had never allowed someone to embrace him before. I was surprised, because both incidents seemed uneventful to me.
So, one of my takeaways from that evening is this – when we reach-out to people, we may not be able to recognize the significance, or impact, of our actions while we’re in the process of doing them. To us, they are just a simple conversation or a brief embrace. But a greater perspective, like one found in Heaven, provides the complete picture. How mind-boggling to consider how that works throughout the world with an omnipotent God!
Another takeaway is that God can use our special interests or unique experiences to help us relate to those in need. Even when we’re far, far out of our comfort zones, we can be used.
I can honestly say that I did not expect what happened that night. I expected a large number of closed doors and angry looks. Instead, the doors opened to reveal people who looked forward to the visit. Men, women, even families with small children. They accepted food gratefully, smiled warmly and talked openly with the volunteers. When asked if they’d like prayer, most all of them said “yes” and additional parking-lot prayers were lifted-up.
I have attended church services my entire life, but never before have I experienced church as I did that Tuesday night.
If you’d like more information about Jesus on Colfax Ministry, you can find it on their website or Facebook page. Click here to read the article in The Banner magazine.
Also, a quick shout-out to the Parker Task Force. Thank you Steve B., and all the volunteers at that service, for providing much of the food distributed that evening.
And please keep Tim in your prayers as he works towards completing his next book, tentatively titled Climbing Prayer Mountain. Using principles gleaned from the lives of Moses, Elijah, Jesus, Peter and John; Climbing Prayer Mountain will be a 40 Day guide for transforming your life through prayer.
Thank you Henry for sharing your experience on Colfax! Love the picture too! I couldn’t help but smile as I read it and know that God is working there, everywhere, and in your life as well! Also, enjoyed having you in Colorado! You and your family are a blessing to us! Shalom