This is my friend Big Al. He has been living on the streets of Lakeland, FL for almost 20 years. He has been an alcoholic most of that time. Not your run-of-the-mill alcoholic, but drinking 30-40 “High Gravity” beers a day for over a decade. He had a troubled childhood, spent time in jail and his family has not heard from him in 15 years – they thought he was dead. Big Al has lived on the property of Impact! Church since we moved in last February. He sleeps under a tarp, drinks until he passes out and used to cuss people out when they walked by him. Until a week ago Big Al had never been inside the church – said he didn’t want to go into God’s house with a beer in his hand. Every night we invited him in…every night he turned us down.
Over the past 9 months the people of Impact! Church have become Al’s family. We bring him food each day, clean him up after a rough night, make sure he receives medical care as needed, spend time talking with him and – in general – just loved on him. This past Sunday, Big Al finally came to the worship service at Impact! Church. During the message he gave his life to Christ. That afternoon he voluntarily checked himself into the hospital to dry out and will enter rehab later this week. We were able to track down some of his family. He called his sister for the first time in decades and we all cried as he told her he was alive. We’ve sit with him in the hospital the past two days and prayed over him as he fought off the effects of the DTs.
For the first time in his adult life Big Al is sober and has plan for his life. He’s at peace with God and himself. I asked him why – after all of this time – he made the decision to follow Jesus and get his life straight? He replied, “I have never felt love before…felt like anybody cared about me. Then you guys started loving me, caring for me and helped me see that God loved me also.”
Loving God and loving people makes a huge impact! Love wins!