BY MATEO ALZATE
It was a Friday night. I remember exactly how that corner was lit up when my friends and I ran into this group of guys. We still had half a jug of hot chocolate left and everyone was excited to grab a cup, especially on this chilly January night. Everyone started chatting, but I noticed that one of the guys was still sitting on the sidewalk on a large cardboard box.
I got on my knees to chat with him. I moved close enough so he could hear me introduce myself and I noticed that he was crying. I asked him what was wrong, and he very slowly looked up at me and asked, “Do you think God will forgive me?” He put his hands on his face and continued to cry.
At this point, I didn't care that this man hadn’t showered in several days, or that his clothes were filthy, or that he smelled of alcohol and weed. I sat close to him and let him cry on my shoulder. For a few minutes, we chatted about God’s grace and His forgiveness. I told him that God was always good, He is full of loving-kindness and slow to anger. Then we prayed together. On that chilly night in January, sitting on a cardboard box on a street of the Tenderloin, this man gave his life to Jesus.
At the end of the night, I remember God speaking to me saying “He is not the only one. He represents the reality of every child that grows up in the Tenderloin.” As I walked around the streets of the neighborhood, I saw all the children, especially the boys that grow up here. Their reality is that no one expects them to leave the neighborhood, no one expects them to graduate high school, no one expects them to have a good job. Their choices are to join a gang or become an addict and end up in the streets, but the truth is that this is never God’s desire for anyone. Scripture tells us that with Him we can experience abundant life.
My life was never the same after I met that man 9 years ago. God gave me a vision for a Tenderloin where the children that grow up here will sing and rejoice as they follow Jesus and bring change to the systems of injustice that keep them isolated in the dark. I choose to help the children that grow up in the Tenderloin see that this can be their reality.
As believers we must always remember the gospel is not only about saving our soul but creating a path for everyone to live an abundant life, and this includes the systems that keep people in isolation and darkness through injustice. This is the wonderful truth about the Gospel: the promise of holistic redemption for every human being. We are all invited to be a part of allowing the earth to look more like the kingdom of God, all we have to do is take the time to sit, listen and meet our brothers and sister wherever they are, even on a cardboard box on some random corner of the street.