Sneak Peek: How Hal’s Journey Begins

Author’s Note: This post, and likely many posts that follow, are drafts of A Street Preacher’s Christmas. They’re sections of the story that may (or may not) be included in the final edition. In any sense, it should give you an idea of what the characters are like and what to expect of them. So here’s the first installment of my “Sneak Peek” series on the Scribbling Hope blog.

The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?

psalm 27:1

These words distantly echoed through the mind of Hal Lightsman, a thirty-something riding the bus in the late afternoon. His reserved yet soft brown eyes wandered the length of the crowded transport. Faces-none of whom he knew- stared at their phones, out an adjacent window, or into nothingness.

The bus slowed down to a stop at a curb. Doors opened to some loud, boisterous teens, clamoring and cursing as they shuffled to the rear of the transit. Hal tried to ignore their words as they brushed past. He refocused on other people on the bus and his surroundings. The dingy, aging bus interior. The weariness on the face of a single mother, trying to calm her rowdy young children. An older woman, sitting behind a walker, wincing from pain as she attempted to rest. A nervous-looking young fellow, perhaps a decade younger than Hal, whose hollowed, tired eyes revealed both hunger and anxiety.

Hal glanced outside at the scenes whizzing by. Crude graffiti covered faded brick walls of businesses long abandoned. Homeless men and women dotted the sidewalks on every other street corner. Noticing flashing lights, Hal turned to see police officers handcuffing an individual, as unattended youth looked on from a distance.

He sighed sadly, glancing down at his worn work boots, rubbing his calloused fingers against the smudged pants of his work uniform. Glancing up, he saw traffic ahead of the bus pushing forward to reach the center of town, albeit at a snail’s pace.

Lord, so much has happened, he silently prayed. Eyes closed, he let his thoughts wander, far in distance and time from the industrial eastern Ohio town he now called home to a former life now almost foreign to him. Cruising from a successful job as a tech broker in the nation’s capital in his own vehicle, to a nearby leafy suburb in northern Virginia, awaiting a hug from the love of his life and adoring kids who would just have arrived home from one of the area’s top private schools. Enjoying a 10,000 square foot home while entertaining guests and hosting business meetings and parties. Future dreams then included two dogs, the best colleges for his two kids-and possibly another child- so he and his wife, Melody, wouldn’t be empty nesters so soon in life. Best yet, a job promotion shone on his horizon, complete with lavish bonuses and promises of entry into even more lucrative business deals and the prestige that would inevitably come with it.

Then it happened. It started with an urge, an angst, an unction of sorts that Hal couldn’t shake. Two years ago, Hal sat in his local church with his wife and heard a sermon from a Chicago inner-city ministry worker that would change his life forever. He couldn’t even recall the exact words this elderly man had shared. All he knew was that it shook him to his core and left him with a gut-wrenching feeling that would not leave.

After that, Hal would lie awake at night thinking of his neighbors, co-workers, relatives, and others he wouldn’t have given a second thought to. Inescapable questions hit him. Are they saved? Do they know Jesus? He began talking about sin and salvation with people, even random strangers. Co-workers would try to avoid engaging in conversation with him. His manager thought he had lost it and told him so. Even Mel, as he affectionately nicknamed his love, felt thrown for a loop because of her husband’s newfound zeal. But pretty soon, she started to admire it, and even started gospel discussions with others.

A year later, Hal’s pastor shared with the congregation that an Ohio church pastored by a seminary friend of his was requesting prayer that God would send a “street missionary” to support and work with their church to reach their community. Hal began to pray about it, but began to sense he was the one who would be the “street missionary” this distant church desired. After he and Mel prayed together and discussed this with their pastor, they all agreed that this was God’s will.

Following God’s will, though, would prove to not be as easy, fun, or dramatic as Hal thought it would be. Anything but.