Standing at the door I noticed the physical distance between them. The atmosphere felt tense as she stood at the motel door and he stood at the back of the room, looking the other way.They were there for a brief reprieve from homeless. Her name was Ricki* and the man was her husband, Andrew.* They had moved off the streets and into the room, just for one night.  That was all they could afford.  She talked about the pressure that their life put on them and admitted that they had been fighting when I knocked on the door.

While Ricki and I talked, Andrew stayed on the far side of the room, as far away from us as he could be. He was trying to put his belt into his jeans and was struggling with that simple act, spinning in a circle while sliding the belt into the loops.I tried to pull him into the conversation, but Ricki looked at me and said Andrew wasn’t going to respond to me. She said it was ok if I just  connected with her. She was bright, articulate and attractive, even under the obvious wear and grime of the streets. When I asked about work, knowing that for many, even a low-paying job is the difference between being on the street or in a motel room. An accident had led to having a metal plate in Andrew’s head, leaving him just handicapped enough that employers couldn’t rely on him. Leaving his trade of painting unmarketable.I encouraged her as best I could, gave her some food and told her about a few resources. There was no quick fix. I had talked about Jesus and asked, as we most always do, if I could pray with them. She was eager to receive prayer.Andrew remained on the other side of the room, belt now on, facing away. Tension still hung in the air. But when she asked, he walked across the room to join us in prayer. I took her hand and his and encouraged them to hold hands with each other. They did, standing as far apart as they could, arms stretched out. Not surprising given the fight they had been having; a tense little prayer circle.Then I prayed. I prayed that they would know Jesus was with them. That he would lift their discouragement; that he would open the right doors for work; that they would be able to resist temptation; that they could find permanent lodging.

But I prayed specifically and passionately that they would face their challenges together, that they would love and forgive the other and be united. I prayed that Jesus would draw them together. My eyes were half-open and I noticed that the longer I prayed, the more they leaned together. As I prayed that Jesus would unite them, I could see both of them visibly relax and lean even closer together.When I ended the prayer I had disappeared, at least as far as Ricki and Andrew were concerned. Their leaning together became a lunge as they both asked for and gave forgiveness. Their lunge became a full embrace and a passionate kiss.I decided that before it got too embarrassing, “I should leave…” Quietly saying good-bye, I walked outside. Standing there, I knew I had witnessed something powerful and important.

There are many lessons here, but this is the most important: Jesus’ presence changes people and relationships in a way no-one and nothing else can. The simple act of inviting Jesus’ presence into our circle turned animosity into intimacy.  Jesus caused them to lean together; while their challenges didn’t disappear, they could face them together, strengthened by the presence of Jesus.The first lesson leads to a second: Central to our work on East Colfax is simply inviting the presence of Jesus into troubled situations. We do many other things to help, aid and encourage people, but Jesus’ presence is the heart of it all. So we pray for that as often and fully as we can.

Sometimes we see the fruit of that clearly, like watching Ricki and Andrew lean together.Pray for…Ricki and Andrew that they have stayed close to each other and that they are inviting Jesus into their situation as well. And pray that we will run into them again. Pray for…the presence of Jesus to be real and powerful here on Colfax, and also where you live your life.