Jim Johnson

What does a bluegrass band and a homeless person have in common?  The answer?  Neither are welcome at the Ritz.  True – but both were welcome at the Highway 80 Rescue Mission. 

Dinner had just been served and the men knew they had to attend chapel if they wanted a comfortable cot for the night.  So, they begrudgingly trickled into the chapel building– men of every color, shape and size.  Each one different, but each one the same – bullied by circumstances that were beyond their ability to cope.   Bonded by a common sense of helpless hopelessness.

The East Mountain Bluegrass Gospel Band was in charge that night.  Every third Monday of the month, they sing the Gospel there. They say bluegrass is sung from the nose and not the diaphragm.  Maybe, but I know these folks and they sing from the heart.

The band looked out on a sea of about 70 faces – some enthusiastic, while others were painted with a vacant stare. 

The band finished one song and was moving to the next when 3 uniformed police officers entered the back of the room.  They paused and scanned the chapel with their hands on their weapons. 

They whispered to a staffer who led the somber trio to the front.  A younger man was tapped on the shoulder.  He saw the officers and slowly came to his feet.  They spun him around, slapped the cuffs on his wrists and led him out.

The band lost the crowd.  Every eye was fixed on the man in cuffs.   Living on the streets is a tough life and the law is often a casualty.  Most of those men had done jail time before.  It was his turn now!

Julie, who plays with the band said, “It hurt to watch.”  It was a moment when you just wanted to stop the show and cry, but there was still more Gospel to sing.  Still a chance that someone in the crowd might choose Jesus and a changed life. 

The set list called for, ‘Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus.  It seemed to be an awkward song for the moment.   Julie says she whined about singing it as they were planning the set.   But they kicked it off, and she sang as the tears fell from her chin to the bass guitar she played. 

After the service, the staffer approached the band and filled in the blanks. He said that the young man had recently decided to follow Christ thanks to the ministry of the mission.

Fantastic – except that the Scripture says that the person who comes to Christ should be made new.  “So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away – look, what is new has come!” 2 Cor. 5:17- NET Bible®   A true Christian is a new person – a person who thinks and speaks and acts like the Savior who indwells him.   If that young man had truly come to Jesus, then he wouldn’t be headed to jail.

And yet – – that was exactly why he was headed to jail.   The guy in cuffs was the snitch.  He had called the police that day to report himself and to tell them where they could find him. He had broken the law and he knew it.  As a new man in Christ, it was important to him to take responsibility for what he had done.  He wanted to be clean before God and man.

He knew they were coming for him that very night and He chose to be apprehended in the place where Christ had first apprehended him.  Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus! 

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An awesome story of grace and redemption!  I sure appreciate excellent redemptive ministries like the Highway 80 Rescue Mission. (http://www.hiway80rm.org/)  I am also glad for volunteer teachers and singers and such that put on the chapel services in these missions; like the East Mountain Bluegrass Gospel Band (http://eastmountainbluegrass.com/).  Above all I am awed by the Lord, who uses these folks in the lives of the hopeless to bring about new life – changed lives – on a regular basis.   

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PS: I loved the opportunity to tell Julie’s story.  If you have a story you might like me to tell – funny or sublime.  Go to the contact page of this blog, send me a note and let’s talk.