How Far Would You Drive?

How Far Would You Drive?

They made a 12-hour drive to meet with us. A man named, Dimitri, and his friend came all that way for prayer. Dimitri seemed particularly tired and weak, but not just from the trip. He was dying of AIDS.

Back in the mid-1990s, my friend Jenny and I had a prayer ministry. We didn’t exactly set up shop. It started like spontaneous combustion. Evidently, it was God’s idea.

We met with a different person each week, praying for discernment and wisdom. Broken, hopeless, and weary people found us through word of mouth alone. We took no money for our time. It was a lay ministry under the covering of two pastors. Neither of us had seminary training or counseling degrees. I served mainly as the note taker. But Jenny was versed in spiritual gifts (as described in 1 Corinthians 12). She especially functioned in the gift of prophecy.

That day, we pulled our chairs close, held hands, and prayed. A period of waiting and listening followed. Dimitri had not yet told us his story. God revealed to Jenny, through individual words or phrases, strong themes that dominated Dimitri’s life. Some of the words were obvious like “abandonment” and “wound,” but other terms were mysterious like “sepulcher” or “malinger.”

A sepulcher is a place where the dead are laid. Dimitri’s grandfather was the only one who loved him. When his grandfather passed away, Dimitri said, “I also died that day.”

Malinger means to feign illness in order to shirk one’s work. Dimitri admitted he often pretended to be sick to garner sympathy and avoid responsibility. Jenny also heard the phrase, “utter destruction of the soul.”  I remember feeling alarmed and exchanged glances with her. Dimitri was a deeply wounded man.

As we discussed the list of “words” with Dimitri, his story unfolded. His childhood had been racked by intense physical and emotional abuse. Alcoholism and witchcraft were root causes. He wasn’t allowed to have a mind of his own and felt inferior to his siblings. Many dysfunctional families have a scapegoat. The devastating loss of his grandfather was more than he could bear. So at age fourteen, he ran away from home.

After several hours of praying, listening and sharing, Jenny sensed that God had something to say to Dimitri—a prophetic word. In its elementary form, prophecy is a message of encouragement from the heart of God. Often it’s spoken in first person. The distinguishing mark of a prophetic word is that something rings true in a way that only the receiving person would know. God can touch and heal like no other.

Jenny spoke slowly, so I could write it down:

“My Son, My heart is moved with compassion for you. You have been imprisoned most of your life. The angels have wept at the things that have been done to you. How many times I have longed to intercede, to sweep you up off the earth and bring you home. But your life has been for a purpose and it is not yet time.

There has been much evil arrayed against you. But you can be set free. I have brought you to this day for that purpose, but you must choose Me. You must choose Me, for I have chosen you.”

At this point, Dimitri said out loud, “I choose You, Lord Jesus. I choose You.” The presence of God encircled us. We were all weeping. Crumpled tissues began piling up everywhere. I was captivated by God’s tenderness and compassion. His word to Dimitri continued…

“Only I can fulfill the desire in you that is so deep, that is lonely, that is so sad, and filled with sorrow. No person can fill that space, My Son, for it was created for Me. You are surrounded by hardness and bitterness and pain and hurt. How I want to tear down those walls. I long to hear you say that I am yours and you are Mine. Let Me move in your life. Let Me heal the wounds. Let Me heal the sorrow.

My Son, you have been running from pain all your life. You have had a piece taken out of your soul by all the pain. Trust in me, and I will restore that. My love is for you, my Son. It is for you. Raoul, do not be afraid…”

Startled, Jenny stopped and looked up. She asked Dimitri if he went by a different name. He was completely speechless. We waited, breathless. Finally, through tearful eyes and choked words, he told us Raoul was his real name. When he left home, he changed his name as a way of breaking ties with his family.

Humanly, Jenny did not know this.

But God knew the secrets of his heart and called him by name. That very afternoon, Dimitri opened his life to God. It wasn’t because we had persuasive arguments about Christianity. It wasn’t because we were expert psychologists. He crossed the threshold of faith because God demonstrated his power and love through everyday people.

Still, many Christians are undeveloped in their capacity to hear God’s voice. This not only limits the way we minister to others, but also stifles our own sense of intimacy with God. If that’s you, you’re in the right place. Join me each week—to keep exploring, growing and learning. The same God Who reached down from heaven to love a very broken man named Raoul, also wants to connect with you!

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Share your God experience here as a comment. Did you read Jen Murray’s comment from last week? What a story!


  1. That story helped me today. We are going into a time of trial as we bury a family member. There are people who need to hear God’s love who do not know He loves them. Thank you for helping me understand more of how prophecy and encouragement work.

    • Yes, Angie, it is a wondrous thing to hear the tenor of God’s love for us in words. I think Jesus Calling is a popular devotional because Sarah Young took Scriptures and wrote them in first person as God speaking to us! We need to have that connection. Over the years I observed my friend Jenny function in the gift of prophecy, I witnessed time after time the “Raoul” phenomena. In other words, God will speak something that only that person would know. It demonstrates 1 Corinthians 14:25 where it says, “The secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.” The apostle Paul said we are to earnestly seek this gift because it edifies others. People are persuaded by a demonstration of God’s love and power. It unravels all the walls and defenses. And of course God can heal the deep places, the places of trauma and hopelessness—far more than our best efforts. It is a beautiful thing to behold. I weep every time I think of that afternoon with Dimitri.

  2. Thank you for this wonderful reminder: God knows us and loves us and longs to meet us now, in this minute, in our day to day lives. What a beautiful message in the Advent season, God with us, He is coming in the flesh. Raoul…wow. love, janet

  3. This story about Raoul still amazes me, even after reading “Closer” 3 times over the past few years. I still feel God speaking to me in numbers regularly, and this past year with black-capped chickadees. It seems so silly to be visited briefly by a little bird, or just hear its call from a distance, and know God is expressing His love to me. But my spirit recognizes His presence. And the numbers… I almost can’t believe how many 34’s I get on the clock some days. But I think it’s time I also ask and listen for a word… like Jen’s ENDURE. What a beautiful and inspiring story, Jen, thank you for taking the time to describe that whole encounter. I can’t wait to hear more about what God brings in this season of your life!!! Please share again!
    I love following this blog, it is a highlight of my week and a great encouragement. Thank you, Susan, for your amazing stories and insight.

    • Nikole! The chickadees, the 34’s—so exciting to experience God’s intimacy for just you! I love hearing about other people’s encounters because it gives me insight about what to look for myself. The Spirit of God is so creative and knows how to say things to us with such poignant timing and deep knowing. Thank you for taking time to share here…. love, Susan

  4. “heart”. god is using the word, the concept, the essence of that word in my life. all over the place, all around me. for me. how do i know? how can one NOT know! when god is actively at work in your life, you cannot miss it and i am certain what he has for me is big and needful. “see with the eyes of your heart” says paul in the bible. i could go on and on, but i’ll wait till the results come in to tell you what this is all about. if it’s god, and i believe it is, it will be for all of us.
    suzee B