“He could use a cup of coffee.”

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27

Some time ago, I was rooming at a conference with a pastor friend from Oxford, England. He had two degrees from Oxford. One, believe it or not, was Shepherding. The last day we were together, I asked, “Could you tell me something about shepherd and sheep? I want to have something to remember about our time together.” He paused and then said, “It’s true that sheep do listen to the shepherd’s voice.” He went on to tell me that when other family members would approach the sheep, they would not respond like they would to him. He said if the sheep would even see his silhouette against an early morning sunrise they would come running. Hearing and obeying our Shepherd’s voice is so important in loving our neighbor, as you will learn from Debi’s story.


I was upstairs in my two-story townhouse doing some ironing. I thought to myself, “I need to get a lamp for this corner of the room. It’s too dark.”

A couple of days later I was getting ready to go for a run. It was winter time and it had been raining a lot lately, so I peeked outside to the parking lot area to see if the ground was wet so I could dress appropriately. Instead, what I observed was a man going through our community dumpster. I was immediately upset that this was going on just outside my back patio. I marched myself downstairs to get the phone number for the local police block watch. There was a substation right on my property where the police used to do their paperwork.

After finding the phone number and reaching for my phone, I clearly heard God say “It looks to me like he could use a hot cup of coffee.” I said “WHAAATTTT?  You’ve got to be kidding!”  Then God said “And take him a couple of those homemade cookies you’ve got over there on the counter.”  Well, I didn’t like the idea one bit, but there was no denying the voice of God. As I pulled out my coffee maker, ground some fresh beans and began the brewing process I kept looking out my patio door hoping that he would be gone before the coffee was ready. No such luck! So here I go…out through my patio gate with a mug of coffee in one hand and a plate of cookies in the other.

He was kneeling down sorting through his pile of treasures as I approached. I briefly noticed that he had quite an accumulation of items both big and small and I had a fleeting thought of “how does he transport all that stuff?” As I got closer he looked up and saw me coming. His head dropped in shame as he knew that he was about to get kicked off the property. I walked up to him and said “Good Morning. God told me that you could use a cup of coffee…and some cookies.”  Again, his head dropped and slowly shook back and forth in disbelief. He slowly stood up and I found myself looking into the beautiful clear blue eyes of a young man. He thanked me, while slowly removing his gloves, and took the coffee and cookies. He told me about all the valuable things he finds that people throw away. He pointed to his pile of treasures and again I wondered how he transported them. We talked for a while and then I said “I’m going for a run. That’s my townhouse over there. When you’re done you can put the mug and the plate on my wall and I’ll get it when I return.” He thanked me again and said, “It was nice talking to you. You’d be surprised how often people don’t listen. God bless you.”  I said “Oh, he does, thank you.”

When I returned from my run, setting up on my wall was the mug, the plate and a beautiful, well-polished imitation Tiffany Lamp. That lamp now lights up my dark corner.

Looking back and thinking about his parting words “you’d be surprised how often people don’t listen,” I realize now that he wasn’t talking about listening to him. He was talking about listening to HIM: the voice of God.

Thank you, Father, that on that particular day I heard your voice and was obedient, because I got to have an encounter with one of your Angels.

A time for reflection:

The writer of Hebrew states, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews13:2) At the time, Debi didn’t realize who she was entertaining, but it became quite evident that this young man was sent by God to speak to her. God speaks in a variety of ways to us and when he does, it is best to obey His voice as Debi did. With a neighbor, has the Lord ever made some unusual request like this of you? How did you respond to Him? Did you follow through with His request? If you did, how did it impact you and your neighbor?

(After 30 years as a flight attendant Debi retired and moved from Phoenix, Arizona to Chico, California to become a full-time Volunteer with Youth With A Mission (YWAM). She found her love for mission’s work while vacationing in Mexico.  God had presented an opportunity for her to serve in the poorest communities, and while doing that she realized that she’d found her calling.  In her retirement years, her traveling continues, but as a YWAMer she is “serving” in a totally different way.)



Listen to Bruce Zachary's experience with Neighborhood Initiative.

Listen to Dallas Willard's word to pastors and leaders about Neighborhood Initiative.

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