In the first week of Devon’s new position, he heard a knock on his door.
The door opened and there was Jessica.
“I hope I’m not interrupting anything?”
“No you’re not. Please, sit down. So to what do I owe this surprise?” Devon asked.
“Oh no reason, I just wanted to come and say congratulations and thank you.”
“Do you go to the college down the street?”
“No I’m working part-time at the hospital not far from here.”
“Oh, what is your job there?”
“All kinds of things. I do whatever they need me to do, from reading to patients to helping the nurses and sometimes office work.”
Just then Devon’s phone rang. Jessica politely excused herself and closed the door behind her.
The role of youth leader was an extremely demanding and stressful position. Although Devon loved the challenge of it and he loved the people that he worked with, he was increasingly tired as the job went on. One day, Devon was just leaving for lunch when he had an idea. He didn’t know if Jessica would be at the hospital and he also did not know if she would be free for lunch, but he thought he would go and see. He had been so busy that he needed a lunchbreak. He walked into the hospital, went up to the reception desk and asked for Jessica. About ten minutes later Jessica appeared.
“Hi,” she said smiling.
“Hi! I was wondering if you’d like to go for lunch with me? There’s no pressure, it’s just that it’s been so busy and I could use a break and some company.”
“Sure, I’d like that. It’s time for my break as well. Just let me get my coat.” Jessica came back five minutes later with her coat, and she and Devon stepped outside.
“So where would you like to eat?” Devon asked. “There’s a diner around the corner and they have some pretty good food.”
“That’s fine with me.”
“Okay then, the diner it is. So how’s your work at the hospital going?”
“It’s fine – busy but with God’s help I’m getting through it. How are you enjoying being youth leader?”
“It is such a blessing you know; I love my job because I get to reach so many young people that are lost and broken just like I was.”
By this time they had reached their destination. Devon opened the door for Jessica. When they had been shown to a table and were seated, Devon called for the waiter. Their orders were taken and they were left alone. Devon said, “You know, I was thinking the other day about how blessed we are.”
“I know what you mean,” said Jessica.
“I was watching a TV program about how the church is persecuted in other countries, how people are literally forced from their homes for breathing the name of Jesus Christ and sometimes even killed,” Devon said. “And here we are, fighting because the worship service is too long, or getting upset because of something the pastor said that we did not agree with.”
“Devon, have you ever wondered why Christians seem to be most the unhappy people on the planet? Especially when the Bible says that the joy of the Lord is our strength?”
At that moment the waiter came back with their food. When he left Devon said, “It seems to me that the North American church is lacking love. We’re too busy fighting each other instead of loving each other. If we would just open our eyes and see what was really going on in the world, we wouldn’t care so much about finding a wife or a husband.”
Jessica said, “I think the big problems stem from not knowing who we are in Christ and not reading the Word.”
“That is so true,” Devon nodded his head. “I don’t know about you,” he continued, “but if I get up and don’t read my Bible, I’m lost for the rest of the day.”
“Same here. I don’t know how people can stand not reading the Bible until the pastor’s sermon on Sunday. I couldn’t do it.”
There was a moment of silence before Jessica asked, “What made you so promiscuous?”
“Well, I guess I had such low self-esteem, that was the only way I thought I could prove myself as a man.”
“I’m so glad that you’re sharing your testimony with others in the youth ministry. It gives them hope. You know, there’s such an attack on men today.”
“I know,” Devon agreed.
Jessica continued : “But the problem is, men don’t talk as much as women do. For instance, a man could break up with a woman and she’d be on the phone immediately with friends crying. But the woman breaks up with the man and he won’t say anything to anyone about how he’s hurting. Do you think that it’s because men don’t hurt as much as women do?”
Devon replied: “I’ve heard some people say that but I personally believe that it’s not because we don’t hurt as much as women do. I think it’s because in society it is more acceptable for women to show emotions. I believe that is what is killing men in church and society.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” Jessica said, taking the last bite of her sandwich. She looked at her watch just then and discovered that her lunch break was almost over.
“I’ve got to get back to work,” she said.
“I do too,” agreed Devon; he paid the bill and then followed Jessica through the door. They continued to talk all the way to the hospital.
“Thank you for lunch.”
“No problem. When can we do this again? I really enjoyed talking to you.”
“I don’t know. I’ll have to see.”
“Why don’t we exchange phone numbers and email addresses?” Devon suggested. “Then we can keep in contact that way.” After the exchange, Devon stood by the door until he saw that Jessica was safely inside and then he walked back to the church.
The following week Jessica’s phone rang.
“Hi Jessica, it’s Devon.”
“Hi Devon, how are things?”
“Fine, just fine.”
“Oh the usual, busy but blessed.”
After a short pause Devon asked, “Did you hear about that shooting just a few blocks from the church?”
“No. What happened?”
“Apparently some gang rivalry shootout. A little boy about seven years old was walking down the street with his mother and by accident got in the way of one of the bullets. He was killed instantly.”
Jessica was stunned to think that this had happened right next to the church. “The mother must be devastated,” said Jessica in horror.
“The whole family is devastated. You should have seen the father’s face; he looked like he was going to die himself.”
“I can’t even imagine. What this world needs is a good reality check.”
“I agree,” said Devon. “And you know what I was thinking the other day? That our focus is on the wrong things, as the church and as society. There are so many issues that the church is not even addressing.”
“I know,” Jessica agreed. “I think for some people church has become a game as to who is the best dressed, who can get a husband, and situations like that, while the world has such a desperate need for God and for love.”
“I know what you mean,” Devon said. “The people that need the most love, they’re the ones that we cast off. Take for instance the homosexual population. I understand that as the church we have to stand up for what is right and Godly, and we can’t afford to overlook what is wrong in the eyes of God. However, at the same time, I think that the church needs to stop having these rallies against what the devil has planted. We, as the body of Christ, need to counteract the devil by showing the homosexual population more love than they have ever seen in their lives. So, instead of running away from the church, they will wonder and want what we have, and by our example they will come out from under that demonic stonghold and be set free.”
Jessica was speechless at the end of the phone; she couldn’t believe the amount of knowledge and understanding that Devon was expressing. He saw the world as very few people did and he possessed understanding about life that few people his age possessed.
“Hello? Hello Jessica, are you there?”
“Oh sorry Devon.”
“No, I’m sorry. I tend to go on a little long as I’m passionate about this subject.”
“I can tell. Don’t worry, I’m the same way when I get started on something.”
“Oh really? What are you passionate about?”
“Well, we’ll have to save that subject for another time. It’s getting late and I’ve got to get up for work tomorrow.”
“That makes two of us, but before we go, can we pray together about all the issues we talked about?” They prayed for twenty minutes before they hung up the phone.
The next day, when Jessica was walking to her car on her way back from lunch, she saw that a young man of about eighteen was following her. When she got to the car she turned around. “Can I help you?”
Jessica turned back to her car; she sensed that the person was still behind her.
“Excuse me, is there something that you wanted?”
“How ’bout your number?”
Jessica turned around and looked at the young man carefully. He was wearing baggie pants that were far too low on him for her taste. He wore a do-rag on top of his head and a shirt that said words that weren’t even in the English dictionary; Jessica didn’t even want to guess what they meant. She laughed: “Well then you’re right, I can’t help you.”
“Oh come on, you know you want this drink of water.” Jessica laughed even harder at this remark.
“Fine, it’s your loss: I don’t need you anyway.” With those last words the young man walked away. On the phone with Devon that night Jessica told him about the incident.
“Remember yesterday when you asked me what I was passionate about?”
“Yeah, I sure do.”
“Well, what drives me crazy is when people make judgments about me because I’m well…” Jessica stopped for a moment searching for the right words. Devon helped her out: “Beautiful,” he suggested.
“I even hate the sound of the word,” she confessed. “You know, people that are a little overweight or have some physical deformity say they wish they looked like me but looking like me has its own setbacks. For 25 years I’ve been known as the ‘pretty’ girl in school and at work but the funny thing is I hate it, I actually hate it. People didn’t understand me in school because, along with my looks, I had brains. When other people would go to the dances I would be in class catching up on homework or helping the teachers.”
Devon asked, “How did you learn to use your brains instead of your looks? Because it sounds to me like if you were to use your looks you would have an easier time. How did you get the courage to stand out?”
“Well, I come from a family of four girls, a mother and father. We’re what the world calls ‘good-looking people’.
“Although I love my family, from an early age I saw the way my sisters were treated by society when they used their looks; the way they were treated by men, being used and abused and then dumped, and the way they were treated by other women. When I was in my early childhood, I’d say at around age ten or eleven, I would constantly see women come to the house and threaten my sisters. Sometimes they would even do things to their property like write awful messages on their car or shred their clothes. When my sister died of leukemia I decided that I did not want to live that way. I was determined to use my brains to prove to myself and the world that I was an intelligent person. Even when I had made that decision, people were still jealous of me from an early age. However I learned to stand up for myself and when somebody gave to me, I’d give it to them right back. Although it made for a lot of time in the principal’s office, I was still generally liked by teachers and most of the students. What about you?” Jessica asked. “I mean, how did you grow up?”
Devon had been dreading this moment of sharing his testimony with Jessica. He had shared it in part with the young people he worked with but he had never shared the whole story with anybody.
“It’s okay if you don’t want to share it, I understand.”
“No, it’s okay, I’m ready to tell someone the whole truth.” There was a brief pause before Devon began.
“You know, when I was a kid, I remember my father scooping me up on his knee and telling me stories about what he used to do when he was my age. Even now I still remember the sound of his voice. He would say, “I’m proud of you son” and then I would say “how much?” He would open his arms as wide as they would go and say “This much!” I would run into them immediately and he would give me a noggie and we would wrestle to the ground. My favorite times were when my mom, dad and I went camping. We would roast marshmallows and sing by the fire.”
“Those were the best times. I wish they never had to end the way they did.”
“How did they end?”
Devon took a deep breath before he continued. “My mom got a new nursing job where she had to work nights so she hired a babysitter to stay with me. She was nice, I guess, but even at the age of seven I could tell that something wasn’t right. One night I woke up and I wanted a drink of water. I called the babysitter but there was no answer. I called again but there was still no answer. So I got out of bed and walked down to her room. As I approached the door I heard laughing coming from inside. I got so excited, I thought my babysitter was playing a game and I wanted to play too so I opened the door. My dad had his pants off and the babysitter was on her knees in front of him. As soon as they saw me my dad tried to cover himself with a bedsheet but it was too late: I had seen more than I wanted to. I ran back to my room and pulled the covers over my face. I felt like I was going to be sick from the bottom of my stomach.
“When Mom came home the next morning I heard arguing in the kitchen. When I came downstairs my dad was walking out of the door. I called to him, “Daddy, where are you going?” But he never turned around, not even for a second.
“You know Jessica, that was the most painful part of my dad leaving. He never said goodbye, not even a hug, or a look back, nothing but silence. After my dad left, my mom started bringing all kinds of men into the house. One of mom’s boyfriends liked to play basketball and she would let me go with him and his friends to the court. One day after the game he and his friends parked at a place with a big sign. I couldn’t read very well at the time so I didn’t know what the sign said but they were taking so long to come out I thought I would go inside. When I went inside I saw girls much older than me with their clothes off and some were half-dressed. I saw my mother’s boyfriend with a group of other men sitting around watching this girl take her clothes off. I was horrified: when I got home I told my mother but she didn’t believe me. She said that I was a liar and that I should not talk about people like that. From that day onwards, after each basketball game, we went to this same place. And when I was about twelve, one of the girls asked me to touch her chest. I was a little bit nervous at first but she assured me that it was alright.”
“Your mother didn’t know what was going on?”
“I don’t think so, in fact I know she didn’t. My mother broke up with this boyfriend but still I was allowed to go anyway because by that time they knew me and they liked me. Eventually my mother found out and then I wasn’t allowed to go back.”
Jessica was so astounded by what she was hearing, she could not speak. When she got over the shock she asked, “Were you molested at this time, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Would you believe, I hadn’t even kissed a girl at this time? It wasn’t long until my mother found a new boyfriend and this one had a daughter around my age. On Monday nights my mom and her boyfriend would go out on dates, his daughter and I would stay home and play games. One Monday, when I was thirteen, we were home alone. I asked her if she had ever been kissed. She said no and then she asked me if I had. I said no. That night I had my first real kiss. From then on, every Monday night after my mom went out, me and her boyfriend’s daughter would make out until they came home. Our activities escalated from making out, to me touching her chest and oral sex, until finally, by my sixteenth birthday, we were having sex once a week.
“Time passed; the girl left, my mom got saved and stopped bringing men to the house but I was trapped. It was like a monster that would not let me go.”
“How did you start playing around in church?”
“Well, after mom was saved, she wouldn’t stop hounding me until I went to church with her. So finally I gave in and went. After church I decided to try a little experiment. I saw a woman of about my age standing in the hall. I started a conversation with her and later that week we went out on a date. After the date, when I dropped her off at her door, she invited me up to her apartment. Now at this time I thought church girls were stuffy and stiff, and I honestly thought she was inviting me upstairs to preach to me. When we went upstairs she told me to take a seat because she had to go to the bathroom. I was still waiting to see her come out with a Bible and tell me that Jesus is Lord or something like that, but when she came out of the bathroom she was wearing a see-through nightgown. After leaving her apartment I thought to myself, “If I can make my mother happy and still do what I want, that’s alright with me.” That’s how I was until I met Pastor Benson and became a Christian myself.” Devon stopped his testimony. He thought he could hear Jessica crying.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
“Devon, I had no idea you went through so much.”
“Don’t cry, Jessica. God had to wake me up and I’m so glad he did before it was too late and I can’t say enough thanks to him. I could have caught some STD but it was because of God’s mercy and his grace that he pulled me out of my mess before it got that far. I feel so free and delivered I can’t even describe it in words. It’s absolutely amazing: all the pain of my past is gone, all the hurt towards my father is gone. I pray for him because I know that only God can save him. I haven’t seen him since he left and I do pray that God will restore our relationship. I truly have forgiven him, which is something I couldn’t do without Jesus Christ in my life.”
After Devon’s testimony they prayed together and then hung up. Jessica had a new respect for Devon, knowing all that he had been through. He was a true fighter and she was so glad that God had found it fitting to bring him into her life.