I Almost Killed a Man

Clarion Alley, very much cleaned and renovated
Clarion Alley, Mission District

In 1987 I was working full-time with S.O.S. Ministries in San Francisco, California.

I was living in a  community with other team members in the Mission District on Sycamore St. Everything was rather gritty. (Some would say it was ‘loathsome or gross,’ but that seems unkind.)

Wine bottles were mixed with the decor of fresh graffiti and were then blended with the acrid smell of urine, puke, and feces. When it got hot, it got really bad. It could make your eyes water.

“Amelia’s”, the biggest lesbian “rock-n-roll” bar west of the Mississippi was just a few doors down.

A gay thrift store was next to it. Living next to us were heroin addicts; when they overdosed they would start retching in the common “light-well” that we shared with them. The “puking” could get pretty violent, and you had to turn up the radio just to block it out. And we prayed for them.

I had the misfortune (?) of having the front room on the first floor overlooking the street. Nights would bring out all the crazies, the junkies, the girls fighting and throwing bottles at each other. I heard everything. Cursing and yelling and screaming.

God had given me a front-row seat to all the nastiness and pain.

The house we lived in was smack in the middle of what the San Francisco Chronicle called “San Francisco’s Meanest Street.” I think there were some close runners-up to us though. But living on Sycamore had its share of memorable moments.

I was driving the ministry truck back from outreach at Powell and Market (the “cable car turn around.”) We had had a great outreach, almost four hours. It’s a perfect locale, with the subway and the tourists and the street performers. The truck was loaded with sound equipment, and I was taking it back to the S.O.S. house, where we stored it (under lock and key, of course.)

There was that alley directly behind our house. Our garage was located there.

Clarion Alley was the classic inner-city alley. It was very rough and nasty, and if you did venture out you needed to be “prayed up.” It is also the city’s largest bathroom. It seemed the urine smell tried very hard to cancel out the stench of the feces. It was very ripe. (I had also gotten stabbed with a used heroin needle while I was cleaning– but that is another story.)

I was driving along, very happy to be headed home.

It had been a very long day, and I was tired. I turned from Mission St. into Clarion Alley. It was cold and dark. I was thinking about a cup of hot tea. Now Clarion is only a block long. The street was filled with garbage, and as I tooled along there was a big roll of carpeting laying pretty much crossways on the pavement.

I was tired. My first thought was just to drive over it.

I think I might even accelerated the truck. All of a sudden I had the strong urge to stop. I slammed on the brakes and jumped out of the cab. Cautiously, I knelt down for a closer look. Rolled up inside was a wino trying to sleep. I’m sure in his mind, the carpeting was a cozy “godsend,” a safe place that was a warm and dry place hidden from “bad people.”

And I came just inches from killing him.

God intervenes to protect our lives probably much more than we realize. Each person has been created in His image. He loves everyone– as if we were the only one.

“We put our hope in the Lord.
    He is our help and our shield.”

Psalm 33:20, NLT

SOS Ministries has reorganized but still is true to the vision it had when I served with them. Website: SOS Ministries. It is the premier place to develop a gift of evangelism and worship. 
SOS Ministries is an inter-denominational, evangelical, street ministry in San Francisco.  Its special mission is to reach the people of the San Francisco Bay Area and to train Christians and churches in evangelism helping them reach their own communities for Jesus. Come help share the love of Jesus Christ with the people of San Francisco.
SOS organizes three “Church on the Street” outreaches each month in San Francisco or Berkeley on Saturday afternoon. Local churches bring their worship group and conduct a church service in a downtown park. They also witness three times a month in San Francisco on Friday night.

Outreaches are subject to change. Call (510) 282-5629 to confirm outreaches or for more information. E-Mail: mail@sosmin.com.

Mailing Address:
SOS Ministries
P.O. Box 27358
Oakland, CA, 94602

 

A Holy Troublemaker

Christians were never meant to be normal. We’ve always been holy troublemakers, we’ve always been creators of uncertainty, agents of dimension that’s incompatible with the status quo; we do not accept the world as it is, but we insist on the world becoming the way that God wants it to be. And the Kingdom of God is different from the patterns of this world.”

Jacques Ellul

I was living in the gritty Mission district in San Francisco, I remember sitting in my favorite coffee shop at the corner of Clarion Alley and Mission reading Ellul’s “Meaning of the City.” I have to admit, I was profoundly undone.  Here I sat with my ‘latte,’ in the presence of a “genius,” reading a man who was describing the city that I was living in.  It was a bit much. It devastated me, but in a very good way.

Jacques Ellul describes the condition of city-darkness.  His contention was that there are people who are actively, (but often passively,) in a rebellious opposition to whatever God is doing.  There is an “organization of unbelief” that always resists the Holy Spirit, and it has become especially embedded into places we call the City.

Ellul recognized that there is an opposition force.  There are now those who have been drastically connected to the radical presence of God. There can’t ever be real normalcy here.  We are saints, (whether we like it or not.)  We are solidly “light.”  And then we start reflecting that into a profound darkness, which cares for nothing at all– even hating the grace of God– things can get vicious.

We stand in an awesome place (whether we understand or not.)  We are in the truest sense revolutionaries.  We stand by grace in this place.  The light is always breaking holy-troublemakersinto the lives of those who are living against Him.  This is most uncomfortable– like falling into a raspberry patch naked, with all its stickers and scratches. Hardly pleasant.

We are “the troublemakers.”  What we believe turns the world upside down (really, upside right.)  We have become obstacles to those in darkness. We are altered, and as believers the change is dramatically authentic.  There is simply nothing outside of His power that can do this.

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot be in God’s kingdom.”   John 3:3, NCV

This critical thought describes the essential work that must happen before we can enter into it.  God’s kingdom is now our dream and our destiny.  It fuels us, and energizes us far beyond any work we can do.  We are now living people, residing in the “land of the dead.”  We must expect problems, but exult in a real existence.

U

ybic, Bryan

 

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