The Forgotten City

For the past several years, the Saturday before Christmas I have taken girls from my Bible Studies downtown to minister with Pastor 7’s ministry, 7 bridges. I wrote about his ministry last year at this same time.  Today, three of my girls and one boyfriend of an older girl went down with me.  There were more people there than I have ever seen. They cover two routes every Saturday. One is the seven bridges, and the other is going to a place called “the Bluffs” which is one of the most dangerous areas in Atlanta.  There were more than enough people going under the bridges, so my group went with the Bluff group. We all had on our flashers and caravanned down to ” the forgotten city” which is the title the police and city of Atlanta have labelled this area.

Our first stop was uneventful. We passed out lunches and prayed with the people who were there. Our next stop was truly “the forgotten city”.  I remember it well from last time.  The buildings and houses are mostly all boarded up. There is one small store on a corner that is covered in bars and graffiti.  We parked and all got out and “circled up” as we always do and pray with those who show up.  There were several men and women and children who were there. We sang Amazing Grace and Jesus loves me. There was one precious little boy who is six years old and his name is J.R. He came right up to me and was very affectionate.  I knelt down to look him in the eye and asked him if he knew where Jesus lives. He answered “in our hearts.”  I asked him if he had ever asked Jesus to come into his heart. He replied that he had not. I then asked him if he would like to. He said “yes.”

I told him to repeat after me and that adorable little six year old boy asked Jesus to come into his heart and forgive him of his sins and asked Him to take over his life. It was such a wonderful moment that in the middle of that hellhole, God looked down and saw this child and called him to Himself. I prayed over J.R. that he would be delivered from that lifestyle and would be protected. I have no idea how God is going to do it, but I know he is faithful.  It was such a paradox, on one corner were a group of guys between 18 and 20 selling and dealing drugs, one being his “uncle” and this precious young boy with his whole life in front of him.  I thought about those men who once were precious and young like J.R. and I prayed God would not allow him to fall into that cycle because it is all he sees.

Maggie, one of my sweet young girls, gave his mother a scarf which she had lovingly knitted herself and a Bible verse to go with it. Maggie, so gently and kindly, shared the gospel with her, but her heart seemed so hardened. But I know seeds were planted, and I pray someone will come along to water those seeds and that she, too will surrender her life to Jesus and bring J.R. up in the fear and love of our Savior.

We were gone about four and a half hours. Each stop became more depressing. I met a woman who was only 21 and already has five children under the age of five. She has one set of twins. Now I know how difficult it is just taking care of my precious angel twins who are two years old with two parents and lots of loving grandparents and aunts and uncles. But this woman is not married and lives with her mother and does not receive support from the father of the children. I asked her if it was hard and she said that it was. She was only 16 when she had her first child. I got so discouraged thinking about the vicious cycle, and thinking how can it ever change?  I prayed with her and for her, but that was all I could do.

Our very last stop was like a scene in a movie. I honestly did not think people could live like this. But I saw with my very own eyes that they can and they do. Two-thirds of the apartments were boarded up, and there was vulgar graffiti written all over the buildings.  To say that the other apartments were run down would be an understatement.  But the thing that was the most devastating was that there were so many children living in those horrific conditions.  They all ran outside and jumped up into anyone’s arms that did not already have a child in them. One little boy had on shorts and no shoes and it was very cold outside.  We sang songs with them and they were delighted.  There faces were like little cherubs, and I shudder to think what their life is like.

One of our leaders from the ministry asked who would like to pray for these children, and I immediately volunteered. I don’t remember everything I prayed because the Holy Spirit was praying through me.  But the first verse, that came to my mind was from Matthew 19:14 when Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  I heard later that one of the children was repeating everything I prayed.

In the natural realm, none of these children stands a chance to break out of the cycle of poverty, but with God all things are possible! And I am praying that these little children will come to know Jesus as their best friend and protector. Many people in our affluent area may have forgotten these precious children or do not even realize they exist, but praise be to our God who has not forgotten them. I am just so humbled that today, I got to be His hands and feet and heart to the people in “the forgotten city.”  And that there is rejoicing in heaven over little J.R. who has come into the kingdom. May God who called him keep, watch and guide him into all truth.