By Mark Ellis —
Ashley and three friends at Jesus School Orlando ventured out for an outreach at Lake Eola Park in Orlando.
One of the young women, Marina, prayed and felt like the Holy Spirit highlighted a certain man to her. “He was sitting on a park bench minding his own business,” Ashley recounts on a JesusSchool.tv video.
The three young women approached the man named Willie, 58, who appeared to be homeless. “God loves you and has a plan for you,” Ashley told him.
“You all say that, but you’re going home to sleep on a pillow and I’m sleeping on this bench,” Willie replied, with a hard edge to his voice. “You all drove here and I walked here. God may love you but don’t tell me he loves me.”
This man needs to encounter the Holy Spirit, Asheley thought, because that’s going to do the best thing, more than talking. “Can we pray for you? Do you have pain in your body?” she asked.
“Well, my back hurts really bad, but somebody prayed for me last week – probably a Jesus School student – and nothing happened, so don’t pray for me,” he said.
Later, Willie admitted he had been full of hate and despair due to his homeless condition. “I was sitting in the park thinking about suicide. I had given up all hope.”
“We want to pray for you,” one of the young women asserted.
“Get away from me,” Willie snapped. “I don’t want to hear that. I’ve heard it all week. Go talk to somebody else who cares, because I don’t care.”
“No, we’re going to talk to you,” Ashley insisted.
“You’re wasting your time. Go home. Go about your business.”
“God loves you,” Ashley said.
“No, he can’t love me. Who am I? I’m just a person nobody cares about. I’m thrown away like garbage.”
“I love you. We love you. God loves you. Can we pray for your back? Do you mind if we place our hands on your back?”
“I don’t want you to touch my back. I want you to get away from me and go off somewhere else.” Willie gave the young women the meanest look he could muster.
Finally, Willie relented to their stubbornness and the four began to pray.
After they prayed, Ashley asked, “How do you feel?”
“Terrible. My back still hurts.”
As they continued talking, Ashley decided to share the Word with him. “I decided to give him Scripture, because that’s what brings the hammer to the rock,” she said later.
Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? (Jeremiah 23:29)
As she began to share Scripture with Willie, he said, “I don’t even know if I have a heart.”
“You know why? Your heart is stony and stubborn, but Ezekiel says God will take your stony, stubborn heart from you and give you a heart of flesh.”
Ashley boldly shared the gospel with Willie and asked pointedly, “So, yes or no?”
“Do you want a new heart??? You have to make a decision!”
The Word and the Spirit broke through the hardness of Willie’s heart. Surprisingly, he relented and said, “OK, fine.”
“We prayed for him to be saved, for him to be filled with the Spirit and then asked, ‘Can we pray for your back a third time?’”
As they began to pray Willie started twisting and turning, swinging his upper body from side to side. “Wait, hold on,” he said excitedly.
Willie bent over and touched his toes. He started jumping up and down. “I haven’t felt this way since high school football. All the pain left my body!”
A week later the four young women went back and found Willie sitting on the same bench. “I feel like there’s colored glasses on my eyes,” he told them, as if he was seeing the world in a completely new light. “I could have died, and He saved me… I have hope now.”
They invited Willie to a Sunday service at Jesus Image Church in Orlando. After Ashley shared at the service about their remarkable encounter with Willie, he was invited to the front of the church.
Willie slowly walked up to the stage bawling like a baby, a black mask pulled down around his chin, with tears streaking down his cheeks. When he reached the stage, he bent over, sobbing.
“She’s wonderful,” he said, pointing at Ashley. “The pain is still gone. It still ain’t there. I gave my life to Jesus. God is so wonderful. Now I know that somebody cares about me.
“I feel like bricks have been lifted off of me. I had so much hatred in my heart and it’s gone, for me, and everyone around me. I call these girls my angels. This is my church and I’m going to get baptized. This is my home. This is going to be my home right here.”
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