Sometimes, when I close my eyes and pray for him, I catch a glimpse of who he might be if Jesus got ahold of him. He calls himself Vegas,** capturing the dark glamor of Sin City. I met him a couple of months ago—big smile, engaging, front teeth missing. He left an impression.Our first encounters were great. Standing in Room 106 chatting, girlfriend present, he would take food and let me pray. All the time in the world.Things changed. I would knock and knew he was in his room, but he ignored me or, if the door was open, he “wasn’t interested.”
Other traffic to his door got busy, sign of a booming drug business. We know some of his clients. Normally friendly, but evasive when by Vegas’ door.I asked people to pray that I could reconnect with him. The next Tuesday, his door traffic was heavy and the vibe dangerous. Diane and I knocked; Vegas opened the curtain, waved and said “no thanks.” We moved on. He also has a ‘satellite office’ in the back alley, dealing over the chain-link fence. That night I watched; when he came out, I intercepted him. I kidded him about not answering the door. He smiled his great toothless smile and said it interfered with his ‘business,’ I laughed and said I knew what his ‘business’ was; he laughed with me. Busted by the pastor! I told him that even in the middle of ‘business,’ he could say “hi.” We laughed and hugged; he promised to open the door next time. I told him I was just looking to be a friend.
Anything good that happens here flows out of friendship. But my friendship won’t change Vegas—only prayer will. So I pray for Jesus to get ahold of him.When we pray, the eyes of faith allow us to see Jesus doing what seems impossible to us. Prayerfully, I imagine Vegas under the influence of Jesus. What would it be like to hear him profess Jesus as Lord? To baptize him? To hear his testimony? To see him in the Scriptures? What a picture! What if he stopped dealing? I may kid about his “business,” but it brings destruction. That same night, over that same fence, I saw Annie,** a friend who had gotten cleaned up from drugs and stepped away from prostitution. She looked great and was even going to church. A good story.
Fast forward a couple days: I see Annie walking Colfax and stop to say hi and encourage her. She is with her aunt, also a friend, also a prostitute, also trying to clean up. Only 8:45 in the morning and they are both high, Annie’s progress gone. Both hang around Vegas; I expect the drugs came from him. Vegas damages people, some of them my friends. I pray that stops, and imagine him walking away, away from dealing and the destruction it inflicts on others. What a picture! But there is one more vision I have of Vegas as I pray. I see him using his gifts to serve Jesus and others. You see, Vegas’ issue is not that he lacks gifts. He is, in fact, remarkably gifted. A natural people magnet, others flock to him and imitate him. He’s good at business, understanding supply and demand, pricing and logistics. Gifted? Yes! Using his gifts? Yes! It is just that Vegas’ gifts now serve Satan and his own selfishness.
But imagine what he might accomplish if he used his gifts to serve Jesus. What might happen? If he came to Jesus, I expect that many of his “flock” would follow, wanting to be like him. If Vegas pointed people to Jesus rather than crack, a revival might happen. And what about his business gifting? Can you see it? Imagine him launching a business to employ people who are trying to get away from drugs, away from the streets, away from prostitution. Maybe Annie, cleaned up for good this time, could work for him. Maybe he could even buy the old motel he is living in right now, and use it as a place of hope and redemption. Can you see him handing food and clothing over the back fence rather than drugs? And what if he ran it all out of Room 106? What a picture!The word that comes to mind is redeemed. I see Vegas redeemed from his own sinful life, redeemed from the destruction he now sows. And, maybe most amazing of all, I see his gifts redeemed into service that will change his world in the name of Jesus. When I close my eyes, I see a picture of Vegas fully redeemed. And I pray passionately that will happen.
**Names changes to protect identity.