Grandmothers' Journey

Walt Bennett

July, 2018

I had just settled into my seat on a flight from Chicago to Los Angeles, on my way back from an Organic Outreach training event, when my seatmates came down the aisle. They looked tired and worntwo women who appeared to be in their late 60’s or early 70’s. I stepped out into the aisle to let them into their seats, and before we all had a chance to finish buckling in I asked my usual air-travel question, “Are you going home or running away?” The woman next to me looked at me a bit quizzically and then commented that it was interesting that I had posed the question in this way. They then began to share with me that they had just driven down from Wisconsin to catch this plane to LAX so they could then drive to Thousand Palms (in the Palm Springs area in California) and proceed to look for their 26-year-old grandson. This flight was scheduled to take off at 7:00 a.m., so to make it, they must have been up since 2:00 a.m. or earlier. Adding to their early rising, neither had flown in a very long time and they were more than a little nervous about the flight itself. 

They went on to explain that their grandson had gone to Thousand Palms six months earlier to check in to a recovery program for heroin addiction. He had been released from the program a few months earlier and ended up going right back to his old habits. He had lost his cell phone and ID and was now homeless on the streets. My first visual impression now made perfect sense. These two grandmothers, full of love for their wayward grandson, had gotten up at a ridiculous hour in the morning to drive for hours, make a very uncomfortable plane journey, and then drive to a place where they would hit the streets to search for their prodigal. To only look tired and worn at this point of their journey was a testament to their fortitude and determination.

I praised their selfless love and asked if I could pray for them and their grandson. They anxiously accepted the offer and we went to the Lord. As I finished my prayer, there was a visible transformation in both of them. It was as if they had been energized and renewed. They agreed with each other that it was no mistake that I was sitting next to them on this leg of their travels. One of them told me that she had grown up going with her family to a Lutheran church but religion had never taken hold. She admitted that she didn’t go to church but appreciated the prayer nonetheless.

When we were preparing to disembark, they asked if they could have my email address or phone number so they could keep me updated. I handed them one of my business cards and they nearly broke into tears when they realized I was a pastor. They reiterated that this was certainly not a chance encounter.

That was the last I saw of these two remarkable women. In my experience of praying for and with people in this kind of circumstance, I have never heard from any of them again and I have no idea how the various situations I have prayed for turned out. I have always just accepted the joy in the moment of being able to engage in prayer with people who are far from God and to leave the rest in God’s hands—with faith that He would somehow move in the situation.

 

"They anxiously accepted the offer and we went to the Lord. As I finished my prayer, there was a visible transformation in both of them. It was as if they had been energized and renewed."

 

Three weeks later, I received an email. It was from the grandmother who had been seated right next to me, the one who was raised in a Lutheran home but never pursued it further. She asked first if I remembered them from the flight. She then reminded me that I had specifically prayed for them in their journey—that they would have safe travel from Los Angeles to Thousand Palms—and that they would be able to quickly find their grandson—that he would be willing to accept their help and that they would be able to safely return to Wisconsin with him (they would have to drive since he had no ID). She then proceeded with an update. They arrived in Thousand Palms in a rental car 2 ½ hours after hitting the ground in Los Angeles. After arriving in Thousand Palms, with no foreknowledge of the geography and absolutely no idea where their grandson might be, they hit the streets searching and showing pictures to anyone who would listen to them. Within 30 minutes they found their grandson. His feet were incredibly infected and he had only the clothes on his back, but he was filled with joy at their arrival and willingly joined them on their trip back to Wisconsin. After a few stops to get some new clothes and doing some immediate first-aid for his feet, they made the three-day journey home. So far, their grandson was doing well—still wrestling with heroin cravings, but under control for the time being.

They also shared that they are searching for a good church to begin attending.

What impacted me most about this whole experience was the absolute wonder and amazement at the power of God. As I mentioned, up to this point when I would pray for or with people I experienced just the joy of seeing how they respond in the moment and not giving much thought to what would come after. I now fully understand that every time I pray with someone who does not have a relationship with Christ, it gives God a chance to show them who He is through how He answers those prayers. In this case, it solidified for these two grandmothers that God is not only real but that He is actively listening to us and working in our lives. 

My encouragement to you is to pray for others with reckless abandon, knowing full well that you are just teeing it up for God to hit a hole-in-one.

Walt Bennett is the Executive Director for Organic Outreach International.  Walt shares teaching and coaching responsibilities with Kevin and Sherry as well as overseeing all of our day to day operations including content and systems development, and church and  international partnerships. Walt is located in the Houston, Texas area and leads that hub of our operations in addition to his overall organizational responsibilities.

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