PART ONE – THE BULLY, ALEX & MANUEL
The New Year, 1961 An Excerpt From: “CROSS + WISE – The Journal of a Walker” By: Henry Gruver
During the same evening I made a vow for 1961 that began one of the most important phases of my life. The Lord is still building on the principles of walking and praying that began to be planted in my life that night, as I vowed, “Lord, one night a week I will take 100 gospel tracts into downtown Phoenix, and not come home until I have personally handed them out.”
I enthusiastically started fulfilling that vow on January 1, 1961. By the end of February, I was walking the streets of Skid Row and passing out tracts as I promised the Lord that I would; but I was very discouraged. My tracts wound up blowing about, getting soaked by the rain, and tossed aside as common trash. I cried out to the Lord and asked for something different to happen. What I was doing was not producing fruit for the Lord – just jobs for the trash collectors.
The Holy Spirit challenged me with a very simple statement, “When you walk and give out tracts, only walk where and when you have full peace; and only give out tracts in the same peace.”
I understood that to mean that if a question of whether I should keep going one way, or another came to my mind, I should just stop and try the other way. If peace and a song returned to my heart, it meant I should keep going in the same way I had been going. If peace and the song in my heart left me, it meant I should stop, and try another direction. That elementary teaching was to be the beginning of the stories and principles that I am finally putting down in this book.
With that in mind, I began to walk the streets of Phoenix with the peace of God in my heart and a song on my lips. That first night as I began to cross a street, heading toward a group of people, both my song and my peace left me. So, I turned around and started back to where I had come from. Then people across the other side of the road, to my left, caught my eye. As I headed that way I lost peace again. It was time to turn back, straight over to Washington Street. I couldn’t see any people in that direction; but I had extreme peace, as well as humming a song again. I was thinking, “I’m not seeing any people to whom I can give tracts; but I will continue to follow this peace.”
At the next intersection I went through the same thing and wound up going in a leftward direction again, thus completing one half square block; but giving out no tracts or words of testimony. Basically, I went through the same actions at the next corner. I came in contact with no people, nor did I give out any tracts; and I had now completed three-quarters of a square block. Still, the peace ruled in my heart and directed my feet.
I turned to go to the right where people were walking, but I lost my song. By this time I thought, “Lord, is this really You? Or, is this just my mind?” I realized that was a question about the direction I was going, so , I turned around – and the peace returned. By this time I was heading for the same mid-block area where the Holy Spirit first challenged me to walk in peace. When I had returned to that very spot, I looked to the left and saw a tavern door. On the door was a sign, “Minors Under 21 Forbidden!!” Since I was only 18, I didn’t qualify to go in there. I made an about face and started across the street, where four people were just standing and talking outside a tavern. The Holy Spirit again spoke to my heart with these words, “You are about to walk outside of the crosswalk; that is jay-walking and against the law.” “Whoops!” I said, “Sorry, Lord,” and turned around, going back up on the sidewalk, turning right and losing peace. So I turned around and walked in great peace – until a few steps later when the peace again left me.
Here I was – just stopped. I couldn’t cross the street to where the people were – that would be “jay-walking”. I looked to the right and saw the same tavern door, with the sign prohibiting me from entering; but as I turned my body toward it, the peace returned. I said to myself, “Lord, I’m just going to stand here in this peace until You tell me to leave or something happens.”
At that moment, a big husky, bearded man came out the door, cursing at the top of his voice – right up in my face. He was swinging his fists past my ears and was very angry. I just stood there smiling while he kept spitting in my face and loudly cursing. He couldn’t seem to hit me; and this made him even angrier.
This went on for some time as I stood there praying for his precious soul to be saved. From the corner of my eye I noticed quite a crowd was being drawn. I didn’t want to turn completely around to look, because he would have put his fist in my nose, as he was already fanning my ears. He was about my height; and when I looked off to the side of his left ear, I saw a man next to the tavern door making his way toward me. Our eyes met and then he began wiping the tears from his face. The bully let out one final grunt, turned around and elbowed his way back into the tavern. This left me with a crowd of people, which made me think, “I can easily give out all my tracts now, in a few minutes;” all the while making my way to the man who was wiping his tears and sobbing.
When I reached him, I asked, “What is your name?”
“Alex”, he replied.
“Alex”, I acknowledged, “Alex, do you know Jesus loves you?”
Hearing that he went straight down on his knees, loudly repenting and saying, “Oh, Jesus, I know You love me. Thank You. Thank You for forgiving me and loving me.
Well, he was doing such a good job of talking to the Lord, that I figured he didn’t need me; so I stood up. Next to me was a tall Pima Indian man, vigorously slapping his face, saying, “Indian man don’t cry. Indian man don’t cry.”
I repeated the question I had just asked of Alex, “What is your name?”
“Manuel, Jesus loves you; and those are good tears. Don’t be ashamed to cry.”
Through his sobs he explained, “I have done much wrong; but when I see this man finding God like that, it makes me cry.”
“Manuel”, I said, “Why don’t you kneel down beside Alex and pray like he is praying?”
Manuel and Alex were in good hands; so I turned to start giving out my tracts to the crowd. About that time a police paddy wagon came up with lights flashing and an officer pressing his way through, gruffly asking, looking in my direction, “What’s going on here?” He continued, none too happily, “These people are blocking the road and cars can’t get through! You’ll have to go around the corner so we can get the road cleared.”
The crowd began moving down around the corner; and I cheerfully rejoiced while giving out the rest of my tracts. After witnessing the Bully, Alex, and Manuel, people were actually reading with interest what I had to offer. Others just stood by, exclaiming, “This is God! This is God!”
The crowd thinned out and people went about their business, giving me a chance to talk to Alex. He began to relate who he was and how he had gotten to this place at this time. He told me that he lived in Los Angeles and had gotten off work after payday. He and some buddies went out for a beer; and they talked him into coming over to Phoenix with them. When his money ran out, he woke up and found himself in an alley with no wallet and no buddies in sight. His shame kept him from heading straight back home to his waiting family. He became more and more depressed as he walked around asking about his friends; but no one knew anything about them.
When he got to the tavern with the sign on the door, “Minors Under 21 Forbidden!!” he found a man who seemed to have a heart to listen to his troubles. He bought Alex a drink; but left when the big burly fellow came in and sat down beside them. The big guy also offered Alex a drink, and then he began gulping down one after another and getting louder and more abusive by the minute.
Suddenly he just got up and headed out the door, yelling as he went. The people who were still inside the tavern could hear him outside and began, one by one, to go out and investigate what the commotion was all about. Soon there were only two people left inside – the bartender and Alex.
As Alex continued telling me his story, he explained that he had already determined he was not leaving that place. Upon waking in the alley and realizing the seriousness of his position, he had cried out to the Lord, “If there is any way that you can still love me, please send someone to tell me, ‘Jesus loves you.’” In his depression, he had decided that if no one came to him before the tavern closed that night, he would go over to the railroad tracks and run in front of a train to kill himself.
The bartender wanted to go out and investigate; but couldn’t leave his post with Alex still sitting there; so he said, “I’ve already lost my paying customers and you don’t have any money; let’s go and see what’s happening out there.” Alex made his way outside, walking along the wall, where he could see the bully beside me swinging his fists around. No one seemed to be fighting with him; so he moved over to try and see better. That was when he saw my smiling face, and the man trying, unsuccessfully, to hit me. When my smile was directed to him he couldn’t hold back his tears any longer; because he realized that God had indeed sent me to tell him, “Alex, Jesus loves you.”
Alex was helped financially to get back to Los Angeles; and I took Manuel back to the Indian reservation and prayed with his sister and mother. Praise God for His patience to teach us His ways of goodness to mankind!