DaRT: Sharing Styles, Songs, and Streams of Living Water

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Contributed by Julie Atwood.

“Let’s see, there are six of us tonight. That means we can split up in two teams.” As we hop off the train at Pearl Street on this rain-washed, unseasonably cool evening in mid-August, Natalie surveys the group with thoughtful eyes. Her co-leader Brandy’s absent, along with Abby . . . but two newcomers, Sharla and Fran, have joined the group. (Well, Fran did join long ago on the ministry’s “pioneer” foray into Dallas, but this is her first time since that original adventure.)

Natalie’s gaze shifts to the group’s quietest member. “Julie, would you mind this time going with Cheryl and Henry? I know you’re used to teaming up with me, but as the only co-leader here tonight I think it would be good for me to orient the two newcomers.”

After Julie agrees, heads off down Pearl’s cross-street with the other two regulars, Natalie ushers Fran and Sharla straight down the walkway that runs parallel to the train tracks.

A thoroughfare teeming with people.

The three prayer warriors first encounter Bobby, a sun-bronzed young man of nineteen whose mustard-colored hair shoots straight up like stalks of corn. “I’ll take the prayer.” He grins at Natalie’s offer, responds in a gentle voice with shy enthusiasm. “I came here from Colorado about a month ago. Left home, and I’m now living on the streets.”

After they pray, Fran studies him with concern. “I sense a sadness in you.”

Bobby nods, moisture welling in his eyes. “Yes, I do feel sad for the family I left behind.”

“God wants to heal that,” Fran reassures him.

Natalie jumps in. “Do you have any unforgiveness? Sometimes that stands in the way of our being able to receive healing for brokenness.”

“Well, I did,” Bobby admits. “But I gave that up to God a couple of days ago. I do have faith, you know. I believe in Jesus and all that. In fact, I left my family in order to follow Jesus.”

As Natalie listens for the Spirit’s prompting, the name “Rachel” drops into her mind. She freezes, her heart pounding with apprehension. This is a new experience. Why, God?

His Voice murmurs reassurance to her mind. I have her and We’re taking care of her.

Comforted, Natalie speaks aloud to Bobby. “Does the name ‘Rachel’ mean anything to you?”

Sunlight washes over his tanned face. “Yeah! She’s my aunt, and I’m very close to her.”

Sharla speaks up. “Do you know where she is?”

“No.” Bobby averts his eyes, stares down at one sneakered foot.

Sharla turns to Natalie and Fran. “I feel like God is saying Rachel is concerned for him.”

Bobby agrees with eagerness when the team encourages him to renew contact with his aunt. “Yeah, I’ll sure do that. Thanks for your prayers,” he adds with a broad smile as they exchange goodbyes. “It’s great to see other Christians do what you’re doing.”

As the team continues along the walkway, Fran finds herself drawn to Gustavo. But the copper-skinned old man shakes his head. “No, I don’t need no prayers.” When Natalie approaches him he tells her with a shrug, “Hablo espanol solamente.” I only speak Spanish.

Natalie smiles wide. “So do I!”

Gustavo’s eyes light up as he bursts into a volley of rapid-fire Spanish.

“Whoa, whoa, slow down. I’m not that good.”

But Gustavo rattles on, and as she listens Natalie picks up bits and pieces. I sure wish Dr. Stigler were here, she muses, thinking of the group’s co-leader Brandy. She speaks better Spanish than I do. But Natalie does pick up the words, “Soy catolica.” I am Catholic.

“I was raised Catholic!” Fran exclaims with enthusiasm after Natalie translates. But though she and the others all struggle to engage Gustavo in conversation, they find themselves floundering in his gushing waterfall of words.

Natalie eyes the old man closely. “Do you understand God thinks you’re special? Do you know He wants to bless you personally?”

Gustavo grins, bobs his grizzled head at her questions. Yet she can only guess how much he actually takes in. After listening to another spate of his sprinting Spanish she assures him with a smile, “We wish God’s blessings on you.”

He returns her smile, wishes the same on her and on the others. As they leave, Natalie shakes her head with rueful eyes. “Wow, I need to learn more Spanish!”

Next they meet sweet Ruby, whose eyes sparkle with joy at Fran’s offer to pray. “Yes, I’ll take prayer!” She tucks the hands of both Natalie and Sharla in her warm fingers. “I’m starting a new job in two weeks. . . .”

Fran plunges into intercession for Ruby, asking God to grant her favor in her job as well as for good health and a plethora of other blessings—

“Amen!” Ruby releases the hands on either side with lightning speed.

“No, no,” Natalie protests. “We’re not done here yet.”

But Ruby nods and points. “That’s my train coming!”

They all burst into giggles as Natalie prays a fast closing for her. Ruby enfolds them all in one huge hug, then lumbers off with gasping breaths to catch her train. Noticing her struggle, Natalie sprints ahead to grab and hold the door for her. Before boarding the train, Ruby wraps her up in another giant squeeze.

Moments later, Sharla finds herself drawn to Elmer. “Do you need any prayer?”

Elmer shakes his head. “Naw. I’m good.”

When Fran approaches him and rephrases the question, he continues to say no and shake his head.

“What kind of work do you do?” Natalie asks him.

“I work at the Convention Center.”

“Do you have several people you’re responsible for?”

“Naw, I’m not a supervisor.”

“But you must have several young people who look up to you at work.”

This time Elmer’s smile broadens.

“Surely we could pray for favor amongst all those young ones?” Natalie presses.

Elmer bursts out laughing. “Sure. You could pray for that, all right.”

After the group’s prayer, Elmer comes alive with his own stories. “Me an’ three other brothers sing in a Gospel quartet. We just recorded an album.”

After praying for success in their musical career Natalie asks, “Can you sing a little for us?”

“Sure. I can sing a little.” Elmer’s whole face becomes a shining sun as he launches into song. “That’s a number I wrote down when my mama passed away,” he shares with misted eyes.

The group showers him with applause and praise before wishing him goodbye. Elmer’s sunlit smile never fades from his face.

At last the team runs into Diego . . . alias Jaime . . . alias James.

But not before the other team encounters him first.

As Henry, Cheryl, and Julie first set out, they have no idea they’ll end up meeting anyone remotely like him. Their peaceful stroll down Pearl’s cross-street leads them to a stately spanking-new Baptist church, a towering monolith of stone and glass and steel. Fading sunlight sparkles across its expansive windows and, in the outside courtyard, also dances through the shimmers of a quiet fountain . . . to the accompaniment of a piped-in symphony. Near the fountain a sign reads, Fountain performance every fifteen minutes.

“How does a fountain perform?” Cheryl wonders. She’s spoken aloud the same question Julie asks in silence . . . though she seems calmly unfazed by Julie’s other silent question.

How will we perform, since there are no people here?

Moments later, Julie finds out the answer to both questions.

To the sudden swelling of the hymn “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” the fountain erupts. Like a whale with multiple blowholes, it shoots up myriad jets of sparkling spray. And, watching with wonder alongside the three would-be pray-ers, several people have indeed slipped into the courtyard.

Henry plops down on a bench to engage a man he soon finds out is Catholic . . . then later reports the man had no interest in receiving prayer. Meanwhile Cheryl chats in an easy way with Tina, a friendly young woman with two smiling shaggy dogs in tow. As Julie stoops to stroke the heads of both tail-wagging furballs—“He’s a Peke-a-poo,” their proud owner explains, pointing to the cream-colored one and, “He’s just a mix,” indicating his midnight-black but otherwise seemingly-identical companion—she waits for Cheryl to broach the central question.

Can we pray for you?

Natalie or Brandy would have asked it within seconds. The question would leap from their lips the instant a being with two legs hove into view. But while Julie listens, she feels puzzled to hear Cheryl’s conversation with Tina meander from the wonder of musical fountains to the upkeep of cuddly pups to the beauty of a rain-washed summer evening. Then close with a simple cheery, “Have a great day.”

After Tina strolls off with her doggies, Cheryl turns to Julie and seems to read the unspoken question in her eyes. “I didn’t receive a word from the Lord about Tina,” she explains. “The whole time I was listening, praying for some opening, but this time He gave me absolutely nothing.” No frustration tinges Cheryl’s voice as she shares, and—as the bold co-leader of another vibrant prayer ministry—she of course knows no fear or awkwardness. She simply, Julie realizes, has a very different style of reaching out.

Moments later, with Julie and Henry interceding, Cheryl does pray for Linda from Philadelphia—blessing her in her work as an assistant pastor. And then when Claude shows up—a cheerful security guard who asks, “How you folks doin’?”—she does receive a word from the Lord.

“Claude, do you have any trouble with your back? Any kind of sprain?”

Rather to the team’s surprise, he grins and shakes his head. “Naw. I’m doin’ fine.”

“Are you sure? You don’t feel even a twinge of anything?”

Claude’s grin broadens as, again shaking his head, he gyrates shoulders, arms, and torso in a series of fluid movements that would match the limber skills of a break dancer or gymnast. Cheryl chuckles with him before bidding him goodbye.

“You know,” she muses to her teammates as they cross the courtyard and push into the church building, “Kevin Dedmon’s said that you’re never a seasoned minister of healing or prophetic words until you’ve struck out three times.” Her tone sounds far more philosophical than rueful as she adds, “This was my first time to strike out.”

Later on that evening, she’ll discover she didn’t strike out after all . . . as the group realizes her word about an injured back was meant for Henry. Back at the Rowlett train station, he’ll receive her prayers with gratitude.

Now, as they enter the church, Henry strides up to the desk in the imposing lobby to converse with several on-duty guards. But Cheryl leads Julie on a tour of the otherwise-empty building . . . lending her the sense of calm and relaxation she might feel on a regular sightseeing trip.

Back outside in the now-purpling shadows of twilight, the team pauses to read an inscription carved across the stone barrier encircling the building: . . . the water I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life. (John 4:14).

As they pass the inscription at a leisurely pace, Julie feels the peace of Living Water welling through her—

“Hey, they just beat me up!”

He leaps out from the shadows, black eyes frenzied with rage, with fear, with pleading. Weaving before the group in an erratic zigzag pattern, the small disheveled man stabs both pointer fingers in a series of wild punctuations. “Look, they cut me here. And here. And here.” Raising his cap, he points by turn to his head, his lip, the place just above his left eye.

“Who hurt you?” Cheryl asks him with concern.

He ignores her question, keeps on speaking. “It’s ’cause they’re racist, man. Just like the rich folks in that fancy church over there.” One finger shoots toward the edifice from which the team has just emerged. “Jesus ain’t like that, man. He’s all about love, not riches.” He aims his finger at Cheryl. “Hey, you got any money?”

“No, but you can have this.” She thrusts into his hand her unopened bottle of Dasani water.

Now pointing here and there with the water bottle, the distressed little man pours out his story. “I used to be a strong believer, man. But it says in the Bible that once you’ve turned away from God, you can’t get back. . . .” Ignoring Cheryl’s and Henry’s assurances that God will take him back—as well as their offers to pray—he goes on to speak of his struggles with alcoholism and with the “racist” folks in the local homeless shelters. “They’re all either black or white, man. They don’t like Mexicans.”

Henry speaks up. “Have you checked out Teen Challenge? They have plenty of Mexicans there.”

For the first time, the small man’s face lights up. Calming a bit he admits, “I used to stay with the Teen Challenge folks back in L.A.” But soon, ignoring all questions about seeking out that ministry here in Dallas—as well as further offers to pray—he flies back into frenzied mode and melts into the shadows.

Only to dash across the street . . . and find the other team.

Spotting him with the others moments later Cheryl asks wryly, “Should we go rescue them?”

Henry quips back in his dry tone, “Who needs rescuing from whom?”

Meanwhile the man calls out as he barrels toward Sharla, Fran, and Natalie. “Do you know that if someone were to kill me in these streets, no one would care?”

“God would see and He would care,” Natalie assures him.

“I’ve just been beat up.” Again the man—who’s introduced himself to this team as Diego—raises his cap, points to his stitches. Again asks for money.

But when Natalie offers him prayer instead, Diego opens up. “I used to lead others to Christ as a young man in L.A. I knew God back in those days, but since then I’ve headed too far down there”—he jabs one shaking finger toward the sidewalk—“and I don’t know how to get back.”

“Just ask Him,” Natalie encourages. “He loves you, Diego, and if you ask He most definitely will take you back.”

By this time Cheryl, Henry, and Julie have crossed the street and joined up with the others. Spotting the whole group, a man wheeling his dog in a wagon pauses to call out with concern. “Hey, is that man bothering you folks? Do you need any help?”

“No thanks, though we appreciate your concern,” Cheryl assures him. “God is in control of this situation.”

Surrounded by all six members of the two DaRT teams, Diego finally agrees to receive prayer.

“What’s your name?” Natalie asks him, just to make sure she got it right.

“Jaime.”

“I thought you said it was Diego.”

“Jaime means Diego.” And he adds, “They’re both Spanish for James.”

Wrapping his arms around Natalie and Sharla, Jaime—or Diego?—draws us all together into a warm group hug. As we all call out to a God of mercy, we watch the miracle of a tormented prodigal relaxing into God’s love and forgiveness. Glowing with His sparkling Light. And finding peace within His well of Living Water.

Encircling him, six separate channels of that love are bound as one. Not all are called to sing the same song or to glimmer with the same color of light. Some may dance and sparkle, skipping over stones as they pitch the central question like a fireball: Can we pray for you? Others may ponder like a depthless pool, calmly waiting for God to pitch in His stone of insight before speaking. Still others remain silent, yet intercede all the same.

God may use a sparkling stream—or another time a peaceful pool—to touch someone with His Living Water. But as we stand locked together round one beaming little man, we can know we all draw from the same Source.



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