One of HPC’s
edgier life groups is ICU (Inner City Unit). Headed up by Alliece Cole, we endeavor to take the doors of the church to those who might not otherwise be exposed to the love of Jesus Christ. Last Friday night a bunch of us loaded into an HPC van and headed for the streets. For those of you who couldn’t make it, here’s a play-by-play: jump in, strap on your seatbelt and pray…
We left the Annex about 10pm and headed towards the Baton Rouge Dream Center. We made a quick stop at Hooters (yes, Hooters…risqué family dining at it’s finest) and dropped off roses and chocolate for the ladies working the floor. The girl at the cash immediately placed the eleven roses in a vase on the counter so everyone could enjoy them. How cool is it that HPC brought roses to the Hooter girls? God is good.
We continued to the Dream Center where we spent time in prayer, crying out to God for the city, salvation and the breaking of strongholds. We also prayed for God’s favor, His direction and protection as we prepared to meet the wandering souls of the city. With roses and a cooler of ‘purple drink’ we hit the streets.
Our first stop was at The Alamo, a no-star motel that caters to those with short-term lodging needs (by the hour). Before we were parked I saw a woman hurrying across the lot. We jumped out, rose in hand, and offered her a cold drink. The conversation went something like this:
Us: “Hey, can I give you a rose? It’s free.”
Her: “Okay. Why you doing this?”
Us: “We’re with Healing Place Church. We’re just out reminding people that God loves them and knows where they’re at. You want a cold drink?”
Her: “Yeah, I was just going to buy one.”
Us: “Here you go…we have some chocolate too. You want that?”
Her: “Yeah.” (pause) “I been smoking weed.”
Us: “God knows and He loves you anyway.”
Her: (pause again) “I got no business being here, smoking weed and drinking and stuff.” She spilled her drink trying to read the card on the rose. She’s trying not to cry.
Us: “You know what? When I was smoking weed and drinking and hanging out in places like this, God loved me, just like He loves you right now. And even though He loves us right where we are, He loves us too much to leave us here.” She threw her arms around a volunteer and started weeping.
We got to pray for that woman and speak life over her situation. More than a drink and a rose, we were able to offer hope to that woman. We told her about our new outreach center and gave her a number to call if she needed anything. She hugged us all, twice, and thanked us for coming to see her. She walked off smiling, wiping her eyes and smelling her rose.
We saw several others at The Alamo, but it was soon time to head towards the next spot. We stopped at a bar on Florida Blvd. but the bouncer was less than excited to see us. We gave out a couple of roses and purple drinks and then we headed out. You certainly don’t want to overstay your welcome at a place like this.
The last time we did Midnight Outreach we worked the North Baton Rouge area. This time we headed across town to meet some of the people who are closer to our Highland campus. One of the reasons for this was because the person designated to pick up the roses (me) inadvertently purchased 48 instead of 24. That meant we needed to find four-dozen working girls, and what better place to find them than at the strip clubs.
Our first intended stop was at Southern Cumforts, but that turned into a drive-by. We decided that we didn’t have peace about that one yet and, without peace, nobody gets out of the van. We continued east until we got to Kitten’s. Maybe I’m just closed-minded, but I really didn’t expect a place named Kitten’s to be a hip-hop peeler joint. But, sure enough. While two of our volunteers went inside to see if they could give roses to the ladies, I stayed outside and talked to one of the security guards.
Ethan was working the lot and was more than a little surprised to learn we were from a church. He had heard of Healing Place and told us we were doing a good thing. He started telling me about his life and his struggles. It seems that he’s a good Baptist boy that’s just slightly off course. When we offered prayer he immediately accepted. Before long our team was back out and ready to go. We gave Ethan a cold drink and thanked him for his help. With a big gold-tooth grin he told us to come back anytime. I love God’s favor!
We continued east and stopped at Escapades. This club had more pick-up trucks than 20-inch rims so I felt a little more at home. We pulled the van right up to the doors so our volunteers had a straight path in. The rest of us were in the van praying when some guy came and knocked on Alliece’s window.
Him: “Y’all from the church?”
Alliece: “Yep, Healing Place, just down the road.”
Him: “I know, I been there. Whach y’all doing out here?”
Alliece: “We’re here giving roses to the ladies to remind them God loves them.
You want a cold drink?”
Him: “Naw…I was drinking me a little beer in my truck when I saw y’alls van. I just had to come see whach y’all was doing here. Do you do this very often?”
Alliece: “We come out some Friday nights. We were at Kitten’s earlier and now we’re here.”
Him: “Y’all were not at kittens.” (Alliece grins) “Oh my God, y’all must be prayed up!”
Alliece: “Well, we were at the Alamo before that.” (still grinning). The guy physically moves away from the van and shakes his head. “You know the Alamo?”
Him: “Yeah I do…off of Florida. Okay, y’all are some prayed up soldiers. Prayed up! I’m telling ya. I’m in the world and I don’t go to the Alamo. Y’all are prayed up soldiers…that’s all I’m saying. Y’all are doing a great thing. Most people ain’t out here worrying about us. Y’all are good people. I’m gonna go back to Healing Place sometime. Sometime…I will for sure. God bless y’all.”
Alliece: “God bless you too. Can we pray for you tonight?”
Him: “Naw…y’all just stay safe and keep doing what you’re doing. Prayed up! I’m telling ya.”
Our team from inside the bar came back empty-handed. The guy thanked us again and headed back to his truck. The volunteers who had gone in said the bouncer not only let them hand out the roses, he gave them an escort so the customers wouldn’t mess with them. How cool is our God?
In a little over two hours we handed out four-dozen roses to ladies who sell themselves to pay their bills. These ladies are not wicked or evil, they’re simply trapped in a lifestyle that offers no hope. They are surrounded by addiction, perversion and lack. They need love and forgiveness, just like the rest of us.
I am so grateful that I belong to a church that doesn’t put God in a box. I’m grateful that Pastors Dino
and DeLynn don’t make decisions based on how something will look to others; they make decisions based on souls. Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.’ (Luke 14:23 NKJV)
All glory to God!