This story illustrates the hardest thing about life on East Colfax…

We were standing in a circle at the 7-Star, waiting for the rest of our team to wrap up. It had been a crazy night in every motel we had been to, seething with anger, drugs and chaos. Facing Colfax from the parking lot, I noticed a man lying on the sidewalk, clearly under the influence of something potent. He staggered to his feet and urinated on the pavement. Not an unusual sight on that stretch of Colfax. He was very unsteady as he stood there, swaying for a few seconds.He then straightened up and fell over backwards, headfirst onto East Colfax.

By headfirst, I mean headfirst! His head was approximately 6 feet into the street where traffic was rushing by just a few feet from his head.I didn’t think, I just reacted. Quickly running the 50 yards to where he was lying on that infamous avenue. I put one hand under his head, another under his knees and picked him up. I could feel that he was thinner than the baggy clothing suggested. He was lean and wiry, 150 pounds at most. I’m not sure if it was the adrenaline of the moment or the fact that I am a weight lifter, but it was easy to pick him up, almost as if he was a feather. Even though I quickly moved towards the sidewalk, that moment is forever etched in my memory.I tried to set him down on the sidewalk and he resisted, likely because I was inadvertently setting him down in his own puddle of urine. I got him a ways off the road, stood him up and tried to have a conversation while he was swaying there.I don’t know what substance he was on, but he was clearly wasted. I got his name, Jesse,** coupled with an acknowledgement (in colorful language) that he was messed up and it was all because of a woman. I found that part a bit humorous.

He wasn’t homeless. He had an apartment to go to but couldn’t remember where it was. It seemed like he was waiting for someone to come pick him up. About all I could do was encourage him, say a prayer and leave him there, swaying and mumbling; but at least a safe distance from the tires racing down Colfax. Then, I walked away. The story captures life along East Colfax–sad sights, substance abuse, bad choices, broken relationships, and a thin margin between life and death. But it also captures the endless opportunities we have to love people in really concrete ways. Granted, picking someone up off Colfax is more dramatic than much of what we do. Many of our acts of love are pretty mundane.

However, there is another thing it illustrates, something that in my mind is the hardest part of life here: I don’t know what happened to Jesse, whether I will ever see him again or have another chance to point him to Jesus; the only one who could heal him. Given how fast things happened, I doubt I would recognize Jesse if I saw him again. I am sure he wouldn’t recognize me and given how wasted he was, may have no recollection of what happened.  I don’t know if he made it to his apartment or if he walked back out on Colfax and was killed. I don’t have any way of following up.  That is the hardest part, the sense of helplessness…But Jesus is teaching us this lesson: Our job is to love the person that’s in front of us and then let go. Often we can follow up but sometimes we can’t.

So we let go, entrusting that person to Jesus, knowing that his plan is always bigger than the small part we are playing in that moment. Our job then is to pray and trust that if we have some role to play in that person’s life, God will steer them back towards us.Please pray for Jesse that Jesus’ hand will be on him. Pray too for others who we have gotten to know well who just disappear. People we have regularly ministered to and then check out of a motel with no information as to where they went. We know that Jesus is large enough to take care of them all. Our following prayers for them are critical.Love–Let Go–Pray. A key formula on East Colfax. And, come to think of it, just about anywhere Jesus might direct any of us to head out to do His work.

**Name has been changed to protect identity.