I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father. John 15: 11-15 (The Message)
The above scripture carries one phrase that jumps out where friends are concerned: Put your life on the line for your friends. What a blessing it is to have real friends who actually put actions to those words. I pray that I can be that kind of friend as well.
Several years ago, through a series of miraculous circumstances, I became involved with an incredible group of people in Atlanta. We had just lost my husband of 18 years and were far from home, unable to receive comfort from family and friends of old. God used this new group, and especially its leader, to change my life in ways that I know will be impacting me until I reach my real home in Heaven.
The first time that I ever spoke to Drew Sewell was on the telephone. My husband, Victor, had mistakenly ended up at his plastics company, looking for another company where he had an interview. When Victor left in order to be on time for his appointment, Drew called our home phone number immediately to see if he was coming back because he wanted to offer him a better job. He said, “I don’t know where you are in your faith, ma’am, but I don’t think he was here by accident.” We both know now that it was no accident. Drew held up his end and had the Maintenance Supervisor interview Victor. He was hired that week. Victor worked there for 2 days, became ill, and died 3 months later. We were all in shock, and at that time, could not understand why our meeting had taken place at all. Through Victor’s illness, there were phone calls and hospitals visits, and one time even a check, from this man whom we had only known a few weeks. He attended the funeral and brought with him another person who became very important to me as well. She even drove to Florida for Victor’s second memorial service. The stories of God’s love through them are countless during this time. That was the first embodiment of John 15:12.
Over the next year, Drew and several people from his company, continued to stay in contact with me as they had done during his illness. The care, concern, emails, calls, and actions that he and others shared during Victor’s illness and afterwards shone like a bright light, one that I knew was coming from the heart of God. It drew me like a magnet to them and to something called Impact that they began talking about almost a year later.
Impact is an all-day event that happens in one of the darkest places in Atlanta, GA. People are offered a meal, music, prayer, and all kinds of resources that they may need while they are living in less than desirable conditions. Through one person’s obedience to a God-given call, the love of God for a hurting people draws together businesses, churches, government agencies, and countless individuals to bring about change wherever these events are set up. The main offerings at these events are just the love of God and a hand-up in a time of need. They come at first for the “stuff” that we give away, but they end up staying with us all day because we want them to stay. We show them that desire by loving on them, accepting them just as they are, and offering them the Hope that is inside of us. It’s a Light that they are drawn to and are letting get brighter in their own lives as they see more of Jesus in those around them.
Working at these events since 2007, we have seen so many miracles. There is no other word, truly. But the thing that has changed me the most is watching Drew. It is hard to think of a person who serves so many so selflessly. He gives of his time by going out to the streets and talking with and loving on the most unlovable people. They actually stink, and yet there he is, hugging them and hanging out with them–a big business man who could easily just take another route home. Seeing his actions, feeling compassion for them in my own heart but not knowing what to do, I just began to follow his lead. After awhile, the stink didn’t bother me either! It became clear that the act of loving them was changing them, from the inside out, and I was hooked, too. Driving out there on that street, we wave at people and stop and talk to them by name–they are a part of our lives now. There is no separation between us because it is love that is there now and love that has leveled the playing field.
He selflessly gives of his money in the most creative ways. Before they closed down the two most popular restaurants, I used to watch him drive up and buy “feasts” as I called them–enough food for 5-10 people. He would just hand them over to one of the leaders on the street and a small group would come running up. They were respectful, appreciative, and generous with what they had been given. They, too, were following Drew’s example in the way that they could, even if it was only in passing out a meal that they had been given. Again, following his lead, even though I don’t have his money, I began sharing a meal at Wendy’s or buying someone a soda or even toilet paper. Doing so has created a new heart within me. Honestly, I can’t even go into the store anymore without thinking “Do I really need this? What if I were on the street, would this even really matter?”
Seeing a person like Drew with so much money but who lives like a regular person and gives away what I know he gives away–well, let’s just say that that’s where my prayer to be blessed with money came from. It won’t be for me, Lord, because giving it away is so much fun!! This past May, the Lord gifted me with a rather large windfall that I was able to use in this way. I say this, not to say anything about me, but to pass on what a blessing it was to just give away what He gave me. All my needs had been met, and seriously, what “stuff” did I really need? It was the best “spending spree” I ever went on, the most fun I had ever had paying my tithe because I actually saw where it went and results, with a lesson that I will never forget, thanks to Drew’s selfless example. That windfall hasn’t repeated itself, but there have been other times when a lesser windfall found its way onto the streets or into the home of a resident or two. See, it’s not the amount that matters—it’s the heart and the desire to give what you may not want to give for fear you won’t have what you “need.” Whether it’s $70 or your last 53 cents—God watches the heart of the giver. That’s what watching Drew serve others has taught me.
Many times, I hear Drew say “there but for the grace of God, go I” and know in my own heart that without God’s grace and mercy, I, too, would be on that street–that’s a fact for another story. People all around us are walking the streets—even in their own hearts, if not in the natural. Watching Drew love and serve every person the same has changed my life forever. I see the difference that he makes in people’s lives, whether they walk the streets, the halls of his company, or meet him the way that I did. His example has influenced me in ways that I am still only learning–ministry, business, and life–God has used this man in a mighty way, and I am privileged to call him friend and brother.
Last year, when I moved back to Atlanta, a door opened for me to become more involved with Impact on a full-time basis. One of the most important tasks that I believe God has given me through this opportunity to work with Drew is to help share the message of John 15:12, which is Drew’s vision for Impact. Drew’s example might be what we share, but he is only following the example of Jesus–and that is the real message. We may not be preachers, but we are called to deliver a message that we pray is now, and will forever, change the hearts of the Body of Christ. As we talk to others in all walks of life about assisting us with Impact, it is within us to move them to do only what Jesus asks us to do every day of our lives—put your life on the line for your friends. Whether it’s at an event or just driving down the street today, hurting people need to see Him in their lives through His example in our lives. And after all, isn’t that where the rubber meets the road?