I had two hours free in San Francisco before meeting friends for dinner, and I thought I should go to the Tenderloin.
The neighborhood is known for its open air drug deals, prostitutes, government subsidized SRO's (single resident occupancy units) where many of the residence are sick or dying.
I would have been easier to check-in to my hotel early and freshen up before dinner, but this "random" Facebook moment popped up on my phone:
Okay God, I hear ya, and I took the 5th Street exit, made my way to 6th and Howard, and pulled into the first spot I could find.
Thank God I saw a woman passed out on the curb with half her body laying in my spot before I ran her over; I found another place to park.
I walked the block, through the pot smoke, past hooting and hollering clusters of men and women. People leaned against buildings to avoid falling over, heaps of dirty flesh lay on the ground in various states of undress. I rubbed my shoulder to discover that I had been crapped on by a bird perched on the building above me.
For most people The Tenderloin can be overwhelming. It feels dangerous because, frankly, it is. People high on drugs, desperate and dying, in a fragile mental state are all around.
The environment itself bears witness to the darkness that rules the day. Look around and see used condoms, beat up hookers loitering outside sex shops, human feces in the corner, bodies gaunt from years of drug abuse.
I decided to pray with people and give whatever money I had. But when I tried to enter a "hotel" I had been to several times I learned that the residents were all evicted as it was being converted into an SRO. Okay, God, why do you have me here, I asked?
A group of Christians came out of another hotel and we exchanged stories of the darkness in the area and ways we've fought it and have ministered to people.
I walked the block and saw a woman who was being held upright by her friend. Every time he tried to leave her, she would collapse to the ground. He kept saying, "I don't know you." She was totally out of it, he kept holding her up. They propped up against one of many demonic murals in the area, which looked as if it wanted to devour the young life.
You can see the two off to the left in this photo.
Here's another awful mural. It shocks me that this is a city, a society, so calloused to the reality of spiritual darkness and oppression that they would allow this as their public art. There are literally scores more packed with skulls, demons, death--satan has clearly marked his domain here.
Up ahead I saw a pair of legs jutting across the sidewalk.
I didn't plan to stop and talk to this guy. But as I stepped around him, I looked into his eyes, and he in mine.
There was a sparkle of life.
He asked for a cigarette, I don't smoke I said. We bantered back and forth, I asked for his name, he said it was Lance. I shook his hand, crouched next to him, and asked him to tell me his story.
As he began, I drew out more details with questions. Deeper we went into his life, he'd served in the Gulf war, was a track star, then I learned about the source of his pain, the blow from which he has never recovered.
He was in a car accident and his wife and daughter were killed. The only survivor, Lance blamed himself; he could have told them to go slower to avoid hitting black ice. He blubbered with tears and snot as I held him close.
Lance went through the windshield, and has had seizures ever since. He lost his family home, their car, his job, pain killers don't work anymore, only a constant supply of alcohol to numb the pain. He wants to die, I fought back and told him he's awesome, I spoke life to him. Then I asked him if he wanted to say anything to the world, he said yes, this is what he said.
Lance said he never learned in school how to deal with death like this.
At one point, as he looked at my phone, he said he hadn't seen his own reflection in a long time. He called me an angel that came from out of nowhere. I repeated my advice to him, talk to God, read his Bible, go to Cityteam. Then I left.
I ran into a guy I know from Cityteam, an addiction recovery program, but had relapsed. He commented about living in the Tenderloin, he said it was the darkest area he's ever been in. He said the spirit of death and Satan is everywhere, like Legion demons from Luke Chapter 8 waiting to sweep into the next person. Without God, he remarked, nobody out here has a chance.
We talked about how with God, there is no fear in the Tenderloin. It didn't even occur to me to be afraid. I gave him a hug and blessed him in the fight for his life.
I made my way to ritzy Nob Hill for dinner, parked my car, and wasn't shocked to see skulls and cross bones all over the place. San Francisco has invited Satan and his beasts with open arms, socioeconomic status makes no difference.
This is a dark city in need of God, I'm certain of it now more than ever. The darkness is not confined to the Tenderloin--not even close--here's what greets you entering a swanky apartment building.
Lord help San Francisco.
In the spirit of victory of Jesus, who overcame the world and death, the same victory that enables me and anyone who knows Jesus to walk into the darkness with no fear, I leave you with this.