Heather Pepin || San Diego Photographer bio picture
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I’m broken. Tonight I met a man that taught me more about Gods love for us then he will ever realize. Tonight I met a man named Donald. He hasn’t even reached 50 but you can see what those 50 years have held for him by taking one look in his eyes. When we got there we were talking to his friend Bryan. We had offered pizza and they took it gratefully. Bryan immediately started telling us that not getting a full 8 hours of sleep will make you start to go crazy. He said that that’s why everyone on the streets is talking to themselves. After chatting for a while we asked if they had anything we could pray for. Bryan was very hesitant about us praying for him. He said that they had already talked to plenty of church groups that day and just to put our prayer on the back burner for now. Sensing that he didn’t want to talk about praying or God we ended the conversation with telling him how much God loves him. Little did I know that I was about to get that lesson. There was a short silence until Donald, who had been silently staring off and eating his pizza the whole time, spoke his first words to us. He looked up at us, straight in the eyes, and all he said was that he wished God could take his alcohol addiction away. That was it, he broke me. The look in this mans eyes, the desperation in his voice when he said he wanted God to take away the addiction so badly. I couldn’t help but want to be next to him. It took all of me not to run to him and just hug him and hug him and hug him. I walked straight over to his blanket and got down on my knees. I looked into his tired beautiful eyes and asked his name. He said Donald. I shook his hand and without letting go or looking away I told him that I promised I would be praying for him everyday. I promise. His eyes immediately filled with tears and you could see the brokenness and years of pain in them. He held my gaze as if no one had ever looked him in the eyes before. It was right then and there that my heart shattered. Shattered. I did everything I could to keep from bursting into tears and throwing myself on the ground, at the feet of my Father. Pleading for His mercy on this man. This beautifully broken man. I truly experienced what it means when we ask to God to break our hearts for what breaks His. This has been my prayer recently and boy did He lay it on me. Later Brett told me that Bryan, who was on the other side of the group watching silently, stared and simply said “wow”. Later that night Brett told me Bryans reaction and it broke my heart even more. These men were approached by so many Christian groups every day and this was the first time they had ever had someone get right down next to them and love them.
He told us that he used to have a family and a wife. He told us that years ago he had graduated from the mission. He told us that after he graduated his mom was so proud that she put his plaque on the wall in her house and would show everyone that came over. He said that one day he came home and his wife thought he had cheated on him. She told him to “ get the hell out”. He left and has been on the streets since. I think he used to live in Oceanside. He said he doesn’t know his way around San Diego very well and wouldn’t even know how to get back there. He said he started using cocaine by the age of 10. It was when he sobered up that he attended and graduated the mission. Sometime after that alcohol came into his life and took over. Lucas asked him about going back to the mission and graduating again but Donald said that he would be too embarrassed after what he’s been through. We encouraged him and let him know that that didn’t matter. God doesn’t care what he’s done; he just wants him, scars and all. He told us that he wants to break his alcohol addiction so bad but he just cant. He pulled his Gatorade bottle out of his pack and showed us the alcohol he had been hiding in there. He told us how much he hates being on the streets. He told us how violent and scary it is and that he had been to jail this month for the first time in his life. He was sent to jail for drinking in public. He had to stay there for 10 hours and was shaking the whole time. But he’s partially grateful because he didn’t have to pay a ticket. While we were talking we heard yelling coming from down the street. It was a man and a woman in a very heated and intoxicated argument. Brian informed us that man was the pimp and the woman was his ho and that this happened every night. He said that if we weren’t there the fight would have been brought over to them and they would’ve been forced to be involved. He told us that it gets scary because people are always trying to start fights. He also told us that they steal all of your stuff while you’re sleeping. He said that everybody’s so intoxicated that they don’t even know what they’re doing and that they will just come over and hurt you. The argument was getting more heated across the street and was beginning to move closer. I started to feel really uncomfortable. I think Donald sensed our fear and thought we were going to leave. He sat up and looked at all of us and pleaded with us not to go yet. He asked us to stay with him until they were gone because he was scared. He said if we left they would come over and hassle him. Once again the desperation in this mans eyes and voice was so much more raw and real then I’ve ever seen. For the millionth time that night I prayed for Gods protection. I felt so vulnerable on a downtown street corner in the middle of the night with my back to everything, but I had to trust my precious savior to protect me. Here were two men that face this every single night and they still held the same fear I had. There was no growing numb or accustomed to it. They were scared, fearing for their life, night after night. He continued to tell us more about Bible College and life on the streets. At some point in his story someone else started talking and he just got quiet. He was staring at me straight in the eyes. We held that gaze for a while. I don’t know what he was thinking but he just stared until his eyes got misty again. Then he continued his story. He told us that a lady had come and bought him new jeans and shoes a couple days ago. He also said that a man had given him his jacket and a new cart because his had been stolen. The more he told me about all of these encounters and provisions I saw His hand. These were BLESSINGS. I realized that in the midst of this mans addiction and brokenness God was fighting for him. Coming through for him. Donald wasn’t alone. The creator of the whole universe, heavens and earth, was curled up next to him on that street night after night. Day after day. Donald’s savior was reaching for him, loving him, feeding, him, clothing him. Then it hit me like a brick wall. It wasn’t me holding his hand, it wasn’t me with the broken heart, it wasn’t me that had just filled his belly, and it wasn’t me that had just given him hope of something more. It was The Father. Without Him I am nothing.
Lucas asked Donald if we could pray for him and he quickly accepted. Lucas asked if he minded if we lay our hands on him and he said yes. We all laid our hands on him while Lucas led us in prayer. His prayer was spoken with such authority and confidence that God could indeed restore Donald. As he was praying I focused for a moment on the forearm that was below my hand. Pushing up on me with its aged, bruised, and calloused warmth. The arm in my hand was the same arm he used to push against his mothers womb while he was being created, the same one that was once covered in soft baby skin and caressed by his loved ones, this was the same arm that held his wife during their first dance, the same arm that was used to embrace the people he loved. Just when I thought my heart could not be more shattered… every little piece shattered again.
I have such love for this man. I want him to know Jesus. I want him to know joy. I want him to know fulfillment, peace, tenderness, and self-control. I want him to be known. I was so overfilled with sorrow at that point. A weight had been placed on my heart. I needed this man to know his savior Jesus Christ. I had to make it happen. Then I realized that the immense pain I was experiencing was not even a fraction of a fraction of what God feels for him. The love I had quickly grown for him wasn’t even comparable to God’s unfailing love. I was reminded that I am but one of a larger body that God is using to capture Donald’s heart. I am so amazed at Gods love. He knitted us together in our mother’s wombs and perfectly planned every day of our lives before we ever saw the world. That feeling I felt for Donald, Jesus felt for him too; and to think that he loves me like that. His heart breaks when he sees His beloved children steer away from Him. He loves me, wants me, adores me, and is utterly captivated by me. My savior knows me, and he’s absolutely in love with me. Just like He is for Donald. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Donald has been so taken care of. Within a week after getting out of jail and having his things stolen, he was provided for. God held him in his hands. Sometime being in His hands doesn’t mean it’s under the best circumstances but it’s a comfort to know that He will never let us fall out. I really think that God is knocking on the doors of Donald’s heart. I so badly want to be there to help him throw those doors open and accept Gods amazing grace but I know that it may not be me. I want him to know his savior in whatever way possible.
When it came time to leave I just stared as long and as hard as I could into this mans face. Absorbing every detail, every tattoo, every expression, the way his hands moved, the way his smile looked under his mustache. Everything. I wanted to remember this man. I have to see him again one day. I have to tell him how much he’s touched me. But until then I have to keep my promise and pray. Donald from Downtown, San Diego has broken me tonight and I am so thankful for it. View full post »


If anybody that happens to be reading this is the prayin’ type. Please pray for Andres as he leaves for his mission in Africa. He is one of the most amazing people I’ve met and I can’t wait to see all the exciting things God is going to do through him.