(Written by Kirsti Dishman, the legend)
"It was a dark and stormy night..."
Don't so many good stories start this way? This one does. It was a Thursday night on the seaside Grecian city of Thessaloniki. In this place rich with Biblical history, we were prayer walking down the waterfront asking the Lord to break off the chains of religious bondage over the city and make himself known to the Greek people. Just as our group went out to do street evangelism for the night, it started pouring rain. The lightning show over the water was breathtaking and we couldn't help but revel in the beauty we were beholding. But as we ran from awning to overhang ducking the downpour, it looked like the night would not go quite as planned. We had some great conversations with some locals and were able to connect with people here and there, but the streets were mostly dead. So we made our way down to the port where four of us decided to find some dinner for the night.
We defaulted to a quaint restaurant we had enjoyed a few nights earlier. We were promptly greeted by our cheery, fast-talking Greek waiter. He loved joking around with us and had us rolling with laughter in just a few seconds of our arrival. Do you ever get a feeling about a person, like they are about to become something special to you? I don't often, but there was something about this man that just lit me up. I asked his name and he replied "Leutharus.. in Greek my name means Freedom." Then he ran away to tend to another table.
Every time this guy came back around throughout the night, my friends and I caught each others' eyes in a way that said, 'We are about to share the love of Jesus with this guy.' He was practically setting himself up for it. He admired Ryan's map tattoo on his arm and told us about the tattoo he wanted to get on his chest: an image of him trying to get out of the world, but his feet being fused to the ground under him. The more we asked him to explain, we got a picture of struggle to be free from his own sin and past experience but not knowing how. He began to talk of freedom in a way that it was something he had desired his whole life but felt he was too shameful to ever attain. He asked us if we were free, and told us to think about it. This goofy man had some beautifully unexpected depth to him. Soon enough the conversation was just getting so good that we urged him to come sit and talk with us when he was off work. So we sat, the only people left in the restaurant (well after closing time), and loved this man.
He poured himself some beer and we asked him about his life. He told us about his ex-wife and the two kids he never sees. He told us about how pure and innocent he felt as a child and how he wishes he could see himself in that way again. He told us how he knows there is a God and how he has seen Him work in His life. His wife was unable to have children and he said, "God if you are real, give me a child." Ten months later she was pregnant and Leu recognized God for it. He told us he once met a woman who told him all about the details of his life and he believed she was not a human, but an angel. This man's heart was coming alive talking about spiritual things.
It was somewhere in the middle of this conversation that Kat started prophesying over him, telling him that it's no coincidence that his name means Freedom, and that he has been called to set people free in the nation of Greece. This was astounding to him. We asked how he thinks God looks at him. He crossed his arms and shook his finger with a disapproving look on his face. We began to speak over this declaration of himself and shared the truth of God's acceptance. God looks at this man, straight past his sin and directly at his heart, the one that He created in innocence and purity. Kat asked him if he ever wondered about God when he was a child. He said yes but struggled to remember the exact details. Kat says, "Well I remember because the Holy Spirit speaks to me and showed me a picture of you as a child." She described it to him and he was so overwhelmed he had to leave and grab another beer. That was usually how we could tell that he was being floored by the Holy Spirit words he was hearing, haha.
As we continued to talk about shame, freedom, purity, etc., I was realizing how beautifully God was connecting the dots in this man's mind and how, despite a slight language barrier, this conversation was coming full circle. I shared with him the story behind my shoulder tattoo, which reads 'forgiven much, loved much'. The woman who washed Jesus' feet was covered in the shame of her past but realized that her worth was found at the feet of Jesus, so that's where she poured herself out in worship. This is my life story, one of redemption and restoration found in Jesus. There is no shame at the feet of Jesus and he has restored me from all the sins I have ever and will ever commit. I have found FREEDOM. He looked at me with such a longing as I spoke about this love with no strings attached. This was obviously the first time Leu had heard about this kind of freedom. Kat spoke up and said, "We want to pray for you if that's ok, but Kirsti is going to pray for you because she carries redemption and I want her to speak that into you." Awesome. I laid my hands on this grown man's shoulders and spoke the love and acceptance of my Father over him. I couldn't see at the moment, but my teammates later told me that there were several tears shed as the love of Daddy God flooded this man's heart.
We exchanged information with Leu as he exclaimed several times that he wanted to see us again before we leave. We invited him to the church we are staying at and he seemed genuinely excited to come. He told us that he is usually available at nights becuase he works mornings- he just happened to be working that night because he took his buddy's shift. Freedom was meant to be found! My heart is so full seeing the joy in Leu's eyes after that night. Pray for complete freedom for Leu. God has been pursuing him for a long time and He won't stop. Jesus died so this man who is searching for himself can truly be called free!