Where are the poor in spirit obtaining the kingdom of heaven? Heidi Baker has found the poor in spirit in the hearts of the physically starving and orphaned people of Mozambique. Yet, where are the poor in spirit here in America? I have found one …next door.
On the outside, this one poor in spirit wouldn’t look exactly poor. She has a nice house, clothes on her back, a car. Food each meal. A hot shower. Dogs to keep her company. However, on the inside she was desperately needy. Hungering for something more than what her life had given her in 50 years of living. A starving beggar crying out for the Bread to give her life in the now and forever. Insecure in her future, finances, and failures.
Heidi Baker mentions in her book, Compelled by Love, how in Mozambique the poor are so desperate for simple food to survive that God shows up to multiply a small portion of chickens or bread to feed the masses. People are miraculously healed, raised from the dead, and released from demonic torment. While the power of the Spirit is still evident in these ways here in the West, God sometimes uses different methods to open our eyes by bringing us to our breaking point of desperation.
My neighbor came to that breaking point in the form of banging on my door at 10 pm one night. Brett and I were watching a movie and I looked over at Brett thinking, “Who in the world?” I immediately thought of Tracey, our next door neighbor, but she usually texts me before coming over. I open the door to find her panicked with her phone to her ear barely able to get words out. The 911 dispatch was on the line. Tracey was afraid for her life. Two hours and four cops in and out of our house later, she stayed the night with us.
That night was a turning point in her life. Let me start from the beginning of our relationship. Brett and I moved into our house almost 8 years ago. We met Tracey, but we didn’t have much contact because she kept to herself and I was working and gone most of the time. At this point in my life I was apathetic to sharing my faith and the gospel of Jesus. Then I had Kherington and since I stayed home with her, I started seeing Tracey more, especially when we were out playing and she was walking her dogs, which Kherington always wanted to pet or hold a leash.
Over the next few years, little by little Tracey started opening up more about herself and her life. I tried to empathize with her even though there is an age gap and we have different life experiences. But I mostly listened. I discovered quickly that she was very alone and needed a friend. More importantly, she needed Jesus. Jesus to be her source of joy, security, and identity. Tracey has lived a really hard life mostly of rejection. She didn’t know her father and has a strained relationship with her mother, resulting in her grandmother raising her. She’s been divorced twice, had a traumatic experience with her son who is in prison, and tries to see her daughter and grandchildren as much as allowed. She’s been verbally, emotionally, and physically abused. Suicide attempts have been a part of her past. There’s been little hope. When I looked in her eyes, I saw a soul who was hurting, alone, hopeless, lifeless, and trying to survive each day.
I had the answer to her desperation, loneliness, rejection. I started sharing the gospel with her. Planting seeds of who Jesus is and what He has done in my own life. Telling her I was praying for her. Sending her encouraging Bible verses. Gave her a copy of our film The War Within. Then one day last summer of 2016, I was enjoying peace and quiet in the sun at my parents’ house while the kids napped when I received a text from Tracey. She was done living this life of pain and loneliness. She was hungering and thirsting for what I had in Jesus. She told me she wanted to pray and give her life to Jesus Christ. I asked her if she wanted me to call her but she said that she wanted to do it alone. I made the gospel clear to her again, told her she needed to confess and repent of her sin, acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God and Lord of all, and to surrender her life to Him. I stared at my phone waiting, praying, crying. She responded back and said she had finished praying. She was filled with joy. She immediately told me that her room had become brighter and could feel a heavy darkness lift. Praise God for another soul saved for all eternity!
However, her ex-husband who lived with her came home soon after and the darkness appeared again. The following few months were very rough for Tracey. Even though she was free in Jesus from her sin and past, she was trapped and controlled in her daily life. Then that day in November came when she banged on our door frantic for her life like I had never seen before. Something needed to change. The next few weeks, Brett and I encouraged her to make changes in the relationship with the ex-husband. It was not healthy. Brett became mediator and tried to reach out to him, but he resisted. God was telling me to love Tracey like Jesus loves her. So I got up a few times a week to sit with her early in the morning while she got ready to listen to her, encourage her and pray over her, especially against the dark spiritual warfare. She needed a reason to get out of bed and live that day. I told her over and over again that she’s worth something, she’s loved, she’s not abandoned. Jesus will never leave her or forsake her even when she feared she would lose everything: her house, her finances, her dogs, her sense of purpose.
Then finally it was over. He was gone. And then the pain of being torn apart from the soul tie she had with her ex-husband hit her like going through withdrawal from a drug. She knew she needed to do it because it was unhealthy, yet she was desperately crying out to Jesus to help her. I always tried to be a text or phone call away to help speak Truth into her against the lies of the enemy, Satan. Or I ran over to continue to sit with her, listen, hug her, and pray.
We encouraged her to come to church with us and since she was finally free to do as she pleased, she started coming. Week after week, Kherington and Damon anxiously waited for Tracey to come to our door Sunday morning so she could ride with us and then eat Mexican with us after church (Kherington and Daddy’s favorite, of course). Although Kherington was excited to have a friend come each week, Brett and I were overjoyed to notice changes in Tracey’s demeanor and spirit instantly. It was evident: the power of Jesus Christ changed her soul. He took her broken, desperate, poor spirit and gave life, hope, and wholeness. A once anxious and fearful spirit was renewed with joy and peace.
A few short weeks ago I was on a flight to Florida alone to care for my grandparents. When I landed, I turned off the airplane mode on my phone to see I had a missed call and voicemail from Brett. My first thought: “Oh no!!! Why would Brett be calling me in the middle of church?!” I listened to hear Brett excitedly tell me that Tracey was getting baptized right then and wanted to FaceTime me. I immediately called him as I was still sitting in my seat. There was Brett and Tracey on stage while someone held the phone. I literally was walking off the plane crying and trying not to bump the person in front of me to watch Brett baptize Tracey.
Our pastor had given an invitation that morning for anyone who needed to accept Jesus as Lord of their lives and/or for those who have already chosen to follow Jesus to then make a public declaration of their faith by being baptized. Brett felt a tug of the Spirit and he had no idea why. Right then Tracey grabbed his arm and said, “I need to do this. But I’m afraid.” Brett said, “That’s the Spirit. Let’s do this.”
Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” I didn’t have to go to Mozambique after all, even though I hope to someday. I found the poor in spirit next door. And because Tracey was broken enough to realize…
her need for something more than herself…
her need for Bread that is fulfilling and sustaining when everything else she was striving for left her empty and wanting…
her need for security and peace when her world was crashing down…
now… hers is the kingdom of heaven. Where she will experience Jesus for all earthly and eternal time.
The desperate, broken, poor, insecure are all around you. You don’t have to go far. In fact… a few steps is all it takes to show someone where to find the kingdom of heaven.
*Written with permission from Tracey.