Category Archives: Travis
I haven’t seen Travis since. I don’t know where he ended up, but I hope that he’s out of the cold. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t said too many prayers for Travis since that day, but I’ve often thought of him. I know that’s not really good enough, and again, like that day, I feel that I’ve let him down somehow. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know.
Writing about Travis has made me relive that moment and reminded me of what a gift God gave me. He gave me the opportunity to serve. I realize that five bucks doesn’t go far and a little prayer hardly seems like a drop in the bucket, but it was something. I too often talk myself out of doing things because they just seem too small and insignificant. Surely this can’t mean anything, it’s not enough, I think. So then I end up offering nothing. And that’s worse.
Do the small things. They add up. We all know this, but we think we need a grand gesture to serve God. Sometimes that happens, but most days, we just have our lives. That alone is an infinite level of complexity. Joel Osteen once said “there are no ordinary days”. He’s right. We’re alive and that’s in no way ordinary. I mean, Moses didn’t part the Red Sea everyday.
So pray for Travis. He has a dog, a goatee, a silver thermos, a camouflage jacket and he might be in his late thirties. I don’t know where he is, but God does. When you pray, He’ll know who you’re talking about.
I’ll pray for him, too.
When I crossed that stretch of parking lot in front of Albertson’s, it was all a bit of a blur. But, over the past few months, a few details have begun to emerge from the recesses.
Travis looked to be in his late 30’s. He had a goatee and was recently shaven. A pretty clean cut guy, which surprised me a little. From afar, I just didn’t know what to expect. Before I got out of the car, I took the five dollar bill out of my wallet and then walked with it being displayed. I didn’t want to seem threatening to him; I wanted to make sure that he knew I was coming with an offering and not to do him any harm.
Once I was within a few feet of this man, he noticed me and then something miraculous happened: I wasn’t really nervous anymore. To me this was astounding. I couldn’t help noticing this as I held out my hand with the money. He thanked me and smiled, and then I held out my hand again and introduced myself.
“My name’s Chuck,” I said.
“I’m Travis,” he responded, and firmly shook my hand.
I’ve certainly introduced myself before, so that was easy. What I was about to do, however, was virgin territory to me. I was about to ask a total stranger permission to let me pray for them. Good Lord…what am I doing here? Thoughts sped by in those split seconds, and I thought that my nervousness would come flooding back. The moment seemed suspended even though I knew it wasn’t. Then I just blurted out:
“Travis…do you mind if I pray for you?”
Into the breach, I thought.
“Not at all,” he said, “I’m a Christian, too.”
I reached out my right hand and touched the sleeve of his camouflage jacket. It looked like it was from one of those army surplus stores and not some sporting goods chain. I think I had something similar when I was a kid. I loved those surplus stores. I bowed my head and closed my eyes, lightly gripping Travis’s upper arm. As I bowed, I noticed Travis did the same.
I prayed. It wasn’t a particularly fervent prayer, in fact it was pretty generic, I recall. The words seemed canned and contrived, for the most part. I felt I was stringing together platitudes, and not really praying. But I do remember being led to say one thing that seemed different: let Travis know You love him, Lord. Let him know he’s not alone. I have tried to include this in all the prayers that I have prayed for street people since that day. The prayer that these people know they are not alone. This is important. Everyone needs to feel like someone cares for them. It doesn’t matter where they are in life.
When I finished, I felt that I had done Travis a disservice. I felt, in that second after I stopped praying, that Travis deserved to have someone who was a genuine prayer warrior standing in the gap for him. As this ran through my head, Travis spoke up, derailing that train of self-loathing.
“Thank you,” he said, “man, I’ve been standing out here for eight hours, and that’s the best thing that’s happened to me all day.”
He was beaming, and I was humbled.
Walking back to my car, it began to dawn on me that God hadn’t asked me to pray the prayer of my life. He had only asked if I would stand in a certain place at a certain time. That was all. He had asked me to show up. And for once, in my obstinate, bull-headed life, I did.
In the latter part of 2010, God began to quietly speak to me about an idea for ministering to the homeless. Off and on for quite a few years, I had been giving spare change to people on the streets, like so many of us do. On a few occasions, I had even been moved to buy some kind of fast food and bring it back to the place where someone was holding a sign. This was not often. In fact, the whole thing was very sporadic. But I knew that something was urging me to do these very small things. Then I started to get a word from God about doing a little more. Of course, I didn’t think God was talking to me. Why would He? Especially since so many of my days are spent being angry about one thing or another and, given the fact that I had barely been talking to God at all. (More about that later.)
Anyway, this urging didn’t stop. Weeks went by and I seemed to get a little more of an idea of what God wanted me to do. He wanted me to give a little more than I had been giving, and He wanted me to pray for these people. Okay, I’ll dig a little deeper in my wallet as I stop and roll down my window; I’ll say a little prayer in my head as I drive away, I thought, that’s not so bad. Well, that’s not exactly what God had in mind. He wanted me to pray for them where they were. Okay, I thought, I’ll ask their names and pray quickly. That wasn’t it either. Logistically, I couldn’t figure out what to do, and then, God, being the ultimate pragmatist said, you have to get out of your car. Oh…crap.
I barely even speak to You, I kept thinking over and over, a prayer isn’t going to mean anything, You probably won’t even hear it. This argument with myself went on for days, weeks. Was God really telling me to do this? Why me? This doesn’t make any sense. It scared me to put my faith out there. What if some of them were hostile? None of these questions got answered, by the way, before I agreed to just try it. What could possibly happen? So I resolved in my mind that I would step out in faith: a faith that most days I felt I barely had. It seemed like a joke to even think things like step out in faith. Then, on a Saturday morning, I got my opportunity.
I was leaving the Albertson’s on the south end of town, and he was standing in front of the stop sign that leads out onto Zafarano. He looked to be about my age and he had a dog. I don’t remember the breed of dog. I don’t remember what his sign said. I barely remember getting out of the car. But I do remember one thing:
His name was Travis.
My name is Chuck Russell and this is my first blog post. Like most blogs, this one will be a work in progress. The main point of this endeavor is to share my personal experiences of giving five bucks (or whatever I can afford) to the homeless and then praying for them on the spot. I would like this site to be a place where others can share their stories of giving and ministering. Ultimately, I would like it to become a prayer network for the people on the street corners who have so much less than most of us do. Sharing photos, videos and talking about those we meet will be invaluable to them as well as to ourselves. I would also like this blog to be an open forum for the raw discussion of what Christ means in our daily lives. This site is not sponsored by any church and donations will never be asked for. Save your money for those less fortunate or some other worthy cause; we’re just talking here. That’s all. Hopefully, we’ll be able to minister to each other. I believe we will. One final note to this post: I am not a social butterfly. Getting out of my car and praying for someone in public couldn’t be further from who I am. Only God has made this possible. He uses who He wants, and for some reason He has chosen to use a foul-mouthed, ill-tempered, deeply flawed man to start a prayer network for the homeless. God has quite a sense of humor. Go figure.