By Lt. Mony Oregel
Stockton, CA Corps – Del Oro Division
One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. Acts 16:14 (NIV)
Ten years ago, my life was a hot mess.
I attempted to numb my childhood hurt, pain, and rejection with anything and everything —alcohol, drugs, food, men. You name it, I tried it. But nothing worked.
My wounds screamed you are nothing: I wasn’t good enough or pretty enough. Life was dark. Soon the police were involved, threatening to take my kids away. My life was a disaster, and chaotic and I didn’t know what to do.
During my mess and crazy life, I called a friend (I call her my angel), a friend who walked the same road I did. I didn’t know her well, but there was something different about her. She wore this polyester blue uniform every day and, on her name, tag it said, “Welcoming Sargent.” She would invite me to church every week. I said to myself. What kind of church is that? I don’t want any part of it. I laughed and brushed it off over and over. I would tell her “next time!” Something in her eyes and her smile said: I see you. God sees you. You matter. You are not alone.
That evening, my angel listened to my story and then spoke four simple words: “Mony, you need Jesus.”
Since I’d tried everything the world had to offer and still felt empty inside, I figured I didn’t have anything to lose. In 2013 I walked in to the Oakland Garden street Salvation Army. Those officers and soldiers welcomed me with open arms. I felt safe and at home. I invited Jesus Christ into my heart and to take control of my life.
Everything changed for me at that moment, starting with my angel. She noticed this lost girl and introduced me to the One who opens His arms wide — no matter the size of the mess I was in.
Today, my life gives hope to others and a testament to the fact that no one is too far gone from God’s amazing grace.
This former drug addict now leads a beautiful Corps in Stockton and an amazing community is focused on telling men, women, boys, and girls about God’s amazing love.
But what if my angel had been too busy or distracted? What if she’d looked away?
The Apostle Paul also knew the power of seeing others — not just as who they were, but who they could be. Paul understood the transforming power of Jesus, which made him the perfect ambassador to share God’s love and light everywhere he went.
In Acts 16, as Paul passed through Macedonia, he took time to see Lydia and her friends sitting by the river. Lydia was a successful business owner. But selling purple cloth didn’t fill the void as she searched for spiritual purpose and potential. All the money and connections couldn’t satisfy her deepest need for love and belonging. That day on the riverbank, though, everything changed.
Three ambassadors of God sought His lost children. I bet that day Paul, Luke and Silas were gentle in their demeanor. I bet they smiled and made eye contact that said: I see you. God sees you. You matter. You are not alone.
The Bible tells us the three men did not ignore the women sharing the riverbank with them. (Acts 16:13) Paul stopped. Sat. Shared. Unintimidated by the fact that not one single person for miles around believed in Jesus Christ. Not one. Then there was a miracle on the fishy-smelling, shore. One of God’s lost girls was found! “…The Lord opened (Lydia’s) heart to respond to Paul’s message” (Acts 16:14). She listened, and her heart was opened to God’s love his promises and the Good News of Jesus. Because Paul and his friends looked up from their lives and really saw Lydia, she was saved.
What about you, friend? How often do you look up and really notice people God places in your life? How might you break out of your comfort zone and engage with someone?
Let’s remember: We might be the difference between someone being lost and being found. We might be the light in someone’s dark chaotic world. Let’s be that light – the light God calls us to be.
Dear God, I acknowledge You as the God who sees me. You know me and understand me when no one else does. Forgive me for the times I’ve missed the Men, women, boys and girls here, near and far who need Jesus. Give me Your eyes and heart to seek the lost and be that light and show them Jesus and His love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.