My new found friend Neal wanted to hear my story. He was interested in a particular story from my past about a hitchhiking adventure to New Orleans during Mardi Gras to share Jesus with people on the street. Neal and I had just met one week before at church and became instant friends. We were out for lunch with some other friends one Sunday and my journey to New Orleans had come up in conversation. A few details of the story intrigued Neal. First, that I had worked at Gospel for Asia, and the other was that one of the places I had stopped along my journey just so happened to be the same place where Neal had found the Lord, found freedom from drugs, and found his wife.
Before meeting Neal for coffee, I was nervous about talking about this particular story. It had been awhile since I had even thought about it and I feared that this particular story would give this much younger brother in the Lord a false impression of how faith is fundamentally expressed. (God’s Word tells us that faith expresses itself through love.) And so, after a bit of soul-searching and thoughtful prayer, we met for coffee and I shared the following story:
It was 1998 and I was 21 years old. I had been serving full time on staff at Gospel for Asia’s home office in Carrollton Texas for the past nine months. I ran errands, worked in the mail room, and answered phones. Gospel for Asia is an organization that connects sponsors to native missionaries in India and the surrounding countries.
I was involved with a few other ministries as well. I played bass on the worship team at my church (Calvary Chapel of Dallas), and I had also just started playing bass with a band that played at nursing homes and prisons.
It all started on February 15th, 1998. I was at the end of my rope and feeling the burn around my neck. I felt like there was no one who I could talk to or relate to. I was an outsider, disconnected. It seemed like everyone else knew how to be a Christian but me, and honestly, being a Christian seemed pretty lame.
I was growing desperate, and struggling with my identity as a Christian. I had no one to confide in – and certainly no one to help me through the issues every young man faces. What was the worst, however, was that I felt so disconnected from this God I was trying so hard to serve and to please.
Well, that February night I was heading home after playing a concert at a nursing home and feeling so desperate that I knew I couldn’t go home. So I drove to my church and parked in the empty lot. As I sat there all the anguish and frustration boiled to the surface and I screamed and hit and shook the steering wheel in frustration, “God, please help me!”
Though the lot was empty I decided to walk to the church anyway. I needed to talk to someone. I knocked loudly and waited – not expecting anyone to come, but then someone did come. A man I had met before was staying at the church. I had remembered him from a Bible study and I felt I could trust him.
He invited me in and we talked. I told him about all the stuff I was feeling and struggling with and about how desperate and depressed I felt. He encouraged me with a Scripture in John 3 about how those who come to the light love the truth, while those who hate the truth avoid the light. He said, “Daniel, you are coming to the light. This is good.” And then, he prayed for me.
Honestly, I didn’t feel any better at the time. I left still feeling depressed.
Later that night I was in bed and began praying. I prayed for a neighbor girl and a few others and then something amazing and miraculous started happening. The Lord’s presence come into the room. I can’t express to you how tangibly real this was. God was in my room! All my burdens lifted in a moment and I started praying in a different language. The praying grew more and more intense and it got so loud that I thought for sure I would wake my mom and brothers.
I then felt what I believe now to be the Lord’s presence (Holy Spirit) course through my body starting at the top of my head and moving to my toes and back again. It was in that moment that Jesus then commissioned me and gave me my calling, namely, “to proclaim his name.” With the commission came the understanding of what he meant. This was Jesus calling from Psalm 22:22 “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters – I will praise you among your assembled people.”
This is all about glory – representing God in all his glory. Carrying His aura if you will. Living it. Moving in it. Breathing it in and out to the world. His glory.
It’s hard to explain if you haven’t experienced it. I just knew that His name was His presence and that is what my calling is. To share His name – His presence with others.
As I lay there he also told me that the next day I would be going to a certain building to make a delivery. He gave me a vision, a picture in my head, of a man standing outside the building smoking a cigarette. I was to give this man a simple message: “Tell him that I love him”.
Then the sad normal state of my self-conscious crashed back upon me like the Red sea on Pharaohs army and I went to sleep. I wished I could have stayed in His presence, it was so amazing.
The next day I didn’t remember what He had told me about the man and the message I was to deliver until I arrived at the building. I had never been there before but I recognized it from my vision. My heart began to race as it all came back to me. ‘Will he be there?’ I thought. “If he is here, I will do it”, I told myself. I parked the truck and approached the building excited and nervous.
Sure enough, there he stood smoking a cigarette just as the Lord showed me he would be. His name was Jacob and I said to him, “You will probably think I’m crazy, but I am a Christian and last night the Lord told me to tell you that He loves you.” Jacob seemed to take it seriously and I truly do hope it made a difference in his life. I then walked inside feeling a bit silly but also knowing that something quite amazing was happening here.
Later that same day my good friends Rob and Katie McCall invited me to join them for a road trip to New Orleans to share Jesus with people at Mardi Gras. “Wow!” I thought. “Of course I will go!” I was really excited and at worship practice that night I shared the news of my upcoming adventure with an older brother Rich that I served with on the worship team.
(How I started on the worship team: My brother was a talented keyboard player and since he didn’t have his driver’s license yet, I would drive him to worship practices. After a few times of just sitting out in the audience while they practiced, the worship leader finally says to me, “Why don’t you come up here and play bass for us?” So I came up, they hooked up the bass and handed it to me. I just stood there wondering what to do with the thing. I had just started playing guitar a few months before and didn’t know the first thing about bass.)
The next day Rob approached me and informed me that the plans had fallen through for the trip to New Orleans. Just after he told me this I heard the Lord whisper to me, “But I have called you to go.”
I was so excited! I didn’t know how I was getting there but I knew that in a week or so I would be in New Orleans. So help me God.
During that week I had some really wonderful times with the Lord. The day before I was to leave I was back at worship practice again. By this time I had decided that I was going to be hitchhiking. Without explanation I told Sandy, the worship leader, that I wouldn’t be playing that Sunday. Rich, still assuming I would be traveling with my friends to share Jesus took me aside and prayed for me and for God’s anointing on my journey.
And so, instead of participating in the worship practice, I got alone with God. I read the book of Acts and talked with God. It was then that the Lord told me to leave the next morning at 4:00. I told him, “Lord, if you get me up at four in the morning I will go.” I didn’t set an alarm that night.
My mom woke me up the next morning – sun shining through the window. She told me she was going to a bible study at church. Church was across town and would be a much better place to start hitchhiking from so I told her of my plan and that I still felt the Lord wanted me to go and asked for a ride to church. She told me, “No, God has closed that door. You can just pray from here if you feel that strongly about it.”
That took the wind out of my sails. I sat there in my room not knowing what to do next. I looked over at my alarm clock and it was blinking 3:45. Apparently sometime in the night the power had gone out and the clock started over. Oh my goodness, 15 minutes to go.
I looked in the mirror after brushing my teeth and knew I just couldn’t face myself in the mirror again if I did not join the Lord in this adventure. So I picked up my New King James New Testament and flipped through it looking for some encouragement. I finally stumbled on a verse that simply said, “You are Christ’s.” – 1 Corinthians 3:23
That was all I needed. If I belong to Christ – then he has the right to do whatever he pleases with what is his. Even if it means to send them on dangerous missions to dangerous places… all alone. But I wouldn’t be alone would I? Christ was with me! The clock was now blinking 3:55.
I wrote a hurried note to my mom that read, “Where God closes a door, he opens a window.” I then took my bible, a map, an apple, and all my money (all 11 dollars) and to avoid questions from my brothers who were in the living room, I left out the window.
(to be continued…)
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