Drug dealer Jose Alvarez slams the crack head up against the alley’s brick wall. He has the man by the throat. The massive bulk of Jose picks the man up like a rag doll. The man’s feet are dangling inches above the ground. Jose leans in and is nose to nose with the addict. The man looks into the eyes of Jose and starts to shake all over. He has seen hatred his whole life. He has seen the worst of life through the needles and the hot spoons. But he has never seen this kind of hatred. He sees now in the eyes of Jose. He stammers and finally spits the words out.
“Please, don’t kill me!”
Jose has a sinister smile on his face and talks casually like he’s at Sunday brunch with the Smith’s.
“Say another word and I will snap your neck.”
The crack head knows he will do it. He has been hurt before by the violence of Jose. It’s 2:00 in the morning on the south side of Chicago. The rain is starting to fall on the two men in the alley. Jose tightens the grip and speaks his last words. “You will give me the rest of the money tomorrow.”
Jose tightens the grip even more as he looks into man’s eyes. The addict has no airflow to the brain. He starts to fight for his life now. With one arm Jose throws the man to the ground. The addict lies in the alley puddle and sucks the Chicago air back into his lungs. He will live another day to stick a needle in his arm. He lifts his head up and watches Jose walk down the alley into the darkness. The addict rolls over onto his back and lets the night rain soak his face. Then he weeps.

Daylight brings us hope and security. Should we ever feel unprotected in the light of day? Are we ever really safe at any time in our lives? Does God use other people at times to keep us safe? Stephanie Weadows will find this out today. She leaves the office complex she works at as a legal secretary. Stephanie looks up into the Chicago sky and smiles, what a beautiful day. On her daily routine she walks down Gladstone to 103rd street and then to the train station. Today she decides to cut through Stratton Park. Stephanie feels alive inside walking in the park and having the sun upon her face. It’s Wednesday and she has choir practice at church tonight. She loves singing to the Lord.
The three of them watch her. They talk to one another about her. They get up and cross the street and head into Stratton Park after her. The thugs stalk her like wolves in a dark forest. They have no respect for anyone. They have no respect for the law. They make their way and move in.

Jose walks into Stratton Park with his backpack on. He heads to the back of the park and meets with one of his many connections. They make their money and drug switch after Jose checks the quality of the cocaine. Then the two split their ways and Jose heads back up to the front of the park. Jose does all of his street dealings on foot.
He has made a name for himself on the street. He came from a broken family and the only person that he can remember that loved him was his Grandmother. His parents were both addicts and one day his father just left and never showed up again. His mother wanted nothing to do with her little boy. She just wanted to get high and be left alone. She died of a drug overdose when Jose was eleven, and he found her dead in the bathroom. Then he lived with his Grandmother until she passed away. Jose was fifteen when he watched them lower his beloved Grandmother into the cold earth. He dropped out of high school and made the back alley streets of Chicago his new home. He started dealing the drugs that destroyed his family. But he has never used the drugs that he sells, he just wants the money. Money brings power in the dirty streets. Violence comes with the drugs. He accepted the violence and made it his only companion. By the age of twenty-one Jose was feared and hated, and one of the biggest dealers on the Southside.

Jose walks quickly through the park. He needs to get the cocaine spread out through the streets as fast as possible. Jose cuts through some tall hedges and sees the three thugs coming up on a lady. He stops in the hedges and watches the thugs surround her now. A man on a bike rides by and the lady pleads for his help. She is terrified now. The man on the bike doesn’t even look back. They rip the purse from her grip now and look for her money. She has no money in the purse. They pull her Bible out and call her a Jesus freak, then throw God’s word to the ground like its garbage. They have no idea it’s the key to their eternal life. Jose walks through the hedges and heads toward the lady and the thugs. He has $45,000 dollars worth of cocaine in his backpack. He should be moving in the other direction because this is none of his concern. He cares for no one and no one cares for him. But something is pulling him to the lady. He speaks loud and it startles them all.
“Leave her alone and back off! If you leave now I will spare you extreme pain.”
The three thugs look at Jose. His bulk and his calmness worry the thugs. He looks street wise and mean. But together the three feel strong and unstoppable. They walk from the lady and head toward Jose. With a voice of authority Jose talks to the three men.
“My name is Jose Alvarez and you three are in my territory.” The three look at each other and slowly back away. They have heard of Alvarez and want no trouble with him. They turn and run without saying a word.

Stephanie is shaken really bad by what has just happened to her. What would have happened if this man was not here to help her? She turns from watching the three leaving and for the first time gets a good look at Jose. He steps up to her and they look into each other’s eyes. For some time they just keep looking at each other. She is beautiful to Jose. Stephanie feels safe now and slowly stops shaking. She can feel the power around Jose and knows God sent him to help her. He is stunning to look at. Then Jose breaks the silence between them.
“Are you ok?” There is earnest care in his voice. He is shocked at the care.
“Yes I’m fine, and thank you so much for helping me.”
He has never helped anybody in his life. Why is he helping this lady now in the park?
Stephanie reaches out her hand. “I know your name is Jose. My name is Stephanie.”
The two shake hands and Jose feels like a school kid on the playground talking to one of the girls. His stomach is in a knot and his mind is racing everywhere. She reaches down and picks up her purse. Jose walks over and picks up her Bible. He holds the Bible and looks at the cover. She has a sticker on it that reads, “Jesus loves you.”
Jose has never held a Bible that he can remember. It gives him a strange feeling. He hands it to Stephanie. She smiles and puts it in her purse. Jose asks her again.
“Look, are you going to be alright? I would like to walk you home if that’s ok with you.”
“I would like it if you walked me too the train station.” Two complete opposites and two complete strangers smile and talk in the Chicago sun. They get to the station and say their good-byes. Jose stops after a couple of steps and turns back to Stephanie. “I am not a man of many words. I am not book smart and have no schooling. My schooling is from the streets and the people on the streets. I have no right to ask you this, I would like to see you again.”
She is touched by his openness and agrees to see him again. But there is a term to the agreement. “I have choir practice tonight at 7:00 at the Church of Christ. The address is 1406 S. Taylor on the northside.” He smiles back at her and the whole church thing is running through his head. Church! What a major downer he thinks to himself. He’s losing interest fast in this situation. “Maybe I will see you there, but it was really nice meeting you.” He turns and this time he walks away with the $45,000 in cocaine.

Jose unlocks his apartment door and walks in. He has just unloaded all the cocaine. He turns on the TV and looks around at the mess he lives in. He lives like he’s poor but has a $115,000 dollars stashed away. He lives with the cockroaches in his apartment and deals with the ones out on the streets. He goes to his couch and lies down and looks at the cracks on the ceiling. After meeting Stephanie his thoughts have been anything but normal. He cannot get her off of his mind. And the whole Jesus and church thing is freaking him out. She has brought a light into his heart that hasn’t been there for a long time. This one woman has brought so much confusion to his simple way of thinking. He looks at his watch it is 7:38. He does not have time to meet Stephanie at choir. Does he really want to meet her anyway? He isn’t sure about anything anymore. Jose sits up and runs his fingers through his hair. He didn’t even get her number, just the church address. He knows it’s best to forget all about her. Jose gets up and leaves his apartment and heads three blocks down to Herb’s Bar. Tonight he will sit there and try to drink the memory of Stephanie away.

The Amtrak train speeds down the tracks heading to the northside. Stephanie looks out the window and watches the Chicago scenes go by, and she thinks of Jose as she looks out the train window. Daily at work she meets men in three-piece suits and they do nothing for her. But Jose has taken her breath away. She knows he’s from the streets just by the way the three men paid respect to him. Her prayers are that Jose comes to the church tonight. At choir practice she looks for Jose to come through the church doors to see her, but he never shows up. Her heart is heavy for she really wanted to see him again. Choir practice is over and Pastor Simons locks the front door of the church.
Stephanie, Mary and Lisa walk down to the bus stop. They stand and talk about church and other things in their lives. Stephanie tells the two ladies about what happened today in the park. Then she tells them she cannot get Jose out of her mind.

Jose slowly opens his blood shot eyes. The sun is beating through the window onto his face. He has one of his monster hangovers. He knows this is going to happen when he drinks the hard stuff, but he drinks it anyway. He drinks to numb the pain of the life he has chosen to live. But the pain never goes away and the reality of life is still there when we open our eyes. He pulls himself up and sits on the edge of the bed. He tried to forget about Stephanie at the bar last night. But the more he drank the more he thought about her. Jose doesn’t understand the feelings he has for her. He only met her yesterday in the park. Why didn’t he go to the church and see her? Does he even want to see a woman that goes to church? Why does the thought of going to the church give him this strange feeling inside? Plus he feels there’s no place for scum like him in the church, and he has no place with such a fine lady like Stephanie. Who is he trying to fool anyway? What would she say if she ever found out that he was a drug dealer? And what can he possibly offer her? Jose slams his fist on the bed, gets up and walks to the kitchen. He makes some coffee to wake up and get the nasty taste out of his mouth. He has to get down and hit the streets soon. No one has ever been allowed in his apartment for any kind of dealing. That is done out on the streets, and on the move. He knows he is on borrowed time and his luck can run out at any time. He feels they will come sooner or later and bust him. When they come, he will fight and the blood will run.
Jose pours some coffee and walks over to the living room window and looks out. He thinks about walking through the park again today, hoping he would run into Stephanie. Jose shakes his head and drops the whole idea from his thoughts. It’s weird what a woman can do to a man’s mind in one day. Because of her he realizes he has deep feelings. Hatred and pain have covered these feelings for most of his life. He knows men who are strong and powerful. But when they get around their girlfriend or wife they grow weak. He hated them for that weakness. She has touched his life like no one else ever has. For the first time in his life looking out the filthy window, Jose can feel the beat of his own heart.
Captain Jim Bowens sits in his Nissan Pathfinder waiting for undercover agent Greene to show up. Jim is in charge of the narcotics division for the Chicago police department. He’s parked down by the tracks on the southside. Train cars are on both sides of his car. For ten minutes Jim sits and waits. Out of the Chicago night Greene walks up opens the car door and gets in.
“You sure no one followed you here?”
“I’m positive.” Greene doesn’t even look around to make sure. He has been on the streets for months setting up drug dealer Jose Alvarez. Jim is worried about his number one undercover cop. “So the $20,000 cocaine deal went smooth?” Greene smiles at Captain Bowens. “Don’t worry Jim, Jose and I have become very close. I believe he’s starting to trust me.” For four months Greene has been setting Jose up for the big bust. And the break they have been waiting for has materialized. Greene tells Bowens that Jose is to get his biggest drug amount yet.
In ten to thirteen days he receives $100,000 in cocaine. And Jose has agreed to sell half to Greene. Bowens face lights up. This will be the last deal Jose Alvarez will ever make. “It’s time to make the bust and put this scum bag in prison!” Greene opens the door and gets out. “I’ll call you when I find out the drop place and the time.” Greene slams the door and walks down the tracks. Bowens watches Greene fade into the night.
Four days have passed since Stephanie met Jose in the park. She really wanted to see him again. But asking him to come to the church was probably way too much. But a part of her heart knew he would not show up. And what would a man from the streets like Jose want with a lady like her. She paces and looks out the living room window. Stephanie sips on the hot cocoa she just heated up. She watches as the rain slams against the window and runs down the glass. Her feelings have been nothing but normal. She has even thought of walking the streets looking for him. She wants to push him out of her mind but she cannot.
He was there for her in one of her darkest moments. Stephanie has never been so frightened and at peace as she was that day in the park. When she looked into the eyes of Jose she knew she was safe. Has she fallen in love? She pushes the question out of her mind as soon as she thinks it. Stephanie tells herself she is stronger than this. Her heart feels heavy. She asks God to mend her burdened heart. Her cocoa is set on the table and Stephanie watches the rain again. The tears swell in her eyes and she wipes them away. Stephanie prays about Jose.
A week has passed since the day they met. Jose stands on the corner of Taylor and Cermack. The wind is blowing and another storm is rolling in. Jose looks across the street at the church. He is amazed at the size and all the stain glass on the front and sides. Is it right for him to be here now? It feels like he’s stalking Stephanie. She might not want to even see him now. But Jose has to find out. He cannot go through another week without knowing and seeing her. His eyes fall on the church again. Jose feels the fear building inside himself. He must fight through it to see her. Jose realizes nothing else matters in his life but to see Stephanie. If she wants nothing to do with him he will walk away and always remember her. Jose forces himself across the street and climbs the cement steps to the church door. He reaches for the door and stops. Jose looks around because the fear he felt is gone. Now a strange peace has fallen over him. He doesn’t understand, his eyes look up at the stain glass and he sees a scene of Jesus on the cross. He sees the nails in his hands and feet, and he sees the blood. He wonders what the man did to deserve this. Jose looks down at his own hands, pulls the door open and walks in.

Jose stands in the barely lit foyer of the church. He can hardly see the painting of Jesus on the walls. There are bathrooms on both sides of the hallway. Jose walks to the door that leads to the sanctuary. He looks through the slates in the door. There are people on the stage and some in the front pews, but he does not see Stephanie anywhere. Dread sets in as he looks around the church. The ladies bathroom door opens behind Jose. He’s blocking the doors when she walks up. She speaks softly so not to startle the man.
“Excuse me.”
Jose knows that voice. He turns with a smile and looks at Stephanie.
“It’s you.”
She did not recognize it was Jose in the darkened foyer. Her heart feels like it’s going burst. God has answered her prayers, and brought Jose to this church. She smiles back at him. “It’s you.” Then Jose pushes the words out. “I need to talk with you Stephanie. I am not totally sure what has brought me here. I’m not a good man and my ways are not like yours. But for a week you have been constantly on my mind. And I am not worthy to be standing in a place like this. But I had to see you again. If your feelings are different I will leave and never bother you again.” Stephanie looks at Jose with a serious expression on her face and then jumps into his arms and wraps hers around his neck. She whispers in his ear. “I am so glad you’re here and you are worthy to be in God’s house.”
Jose sits with her and he feels the shyness in his voice. “Would you like to get something to eat after your church thing?” She laughs at him. “We’re done for tonight so let me grab my things and we’ll go.” Jose meets the people in the church and still feels the peace he felt when he first walked in. They say goodnight, walk out of the church together and descend down the steps to the sidewalk. Jose stops and looks back at the stained glass Jesus. “Stephanie what did this Jesus man do that was so bad that they did that to him?” She thinks for a second, “Nothing.”

The two walk down to a café that’s three blocks from the church. They sit and eat and talk for about an hour and a half. They talk about movies to music and everything in between. There is a comfort that surrounds them. They feel like they have known each other for years. Just being around her makes Jose feels like he has a purpose now. He knows she walks with God and loves her church. But she does not try to shove it on him.
For some reason Jose finds that he has questions he wants to share with her about this Jesus man.
“Stephanie what did you mean earlier when you said this Jesus man did nothing?”
“He was holy and pure and the blood that he shed was innocent. Some people hated Jesus because he said he was the Son of God. He went to the cross because he loves us Jose.”
There’s a short time of silence between them and then Stephanie speaks. “If you would like I can tell you about him.” The tough side of Jose tells him to drop it and move on to something different. But there is a small fire starting to build inside his soul and heart. He still doesn’t understand any of this. Why does he even care about this Jesus man? Then he looks across the table at Stephanie and knows why he feels alive inside. Then the words just spill out. “I would like to know about this Jesus man.”

Jose opens the door and throws his keys on the kitchen counter. Then walks into the living room and sits in the darkness. He listens to the sirens outside that are fading into the distance. Is there such a thing as hell on earth? Jose knows there is. He has been living in it his whole life. But now something is telling him there’s a better life waiting for him somewhere. He has been living off the hunger of hatred for years. But after hearing about this Jesus man from Stephanie his mind is working in overload. Now he understands what the word hope means. There is hope now in his life with Stephanie in it.
The last thing she said about the Jesus man was there is hope if we believe in him. Stephanie invited Jose to watch a movie called “The Passion of the Christ” with her tomorrow night. To be with Stephanie he will do anything. But he wants to know more about this Jesus man also. She hugged Jose and thanked him for the nice dinner. He kisses her on the cheek and tells her good night. They smile at each other and wave as the cab pulls away. That was hours ago. Jose gets up, grabs his keys and slams the door behind him. He walks down the three flights and into the dark night. Tonight while he’s out dealing with the drugs and the city scum his mind will be elsewhere.

The next morning Jose’s cell phone rings. He gets the call he has been waiting on. He’s to meet his connection at Stratton Park in two hours. The two meet and talk, and $100,000 cocaine pick up will happen in two days at Hyde St Park. The cocaine pick up will be at 2:00 PM. Jose and his connection split and go in opposite directions. Jose is still walking through Stratton Park when he calls Greene and tells him to meet him at the park at 5:00. Greene shows up at 4:57 and the two men discuss on the drop off of $50,000 in cocaine to Greene in two days. Jose tells him the place and the time. Jose leaves the park and waves a cab over and heads to the movie theatre on the Northside.

Jose tells the cabby to pull over before the light. He pays the cabby and gives him a generous tip. He’s about eight blocks from the theatre and takes his time getting there. He’s early for his 7:00 date with Stephanie. Walking he tries to clear his mind in the Chicago madness. He makes his way to the theatre and sits on a bench across the street.
Jose looks at the poster of the Jesus man with the crown of thorns on his head and the blood running down his face. Jose cannot remember ever thinking of this Jesus man before like he has in the last couple of days. He always felt Jesus freaks had no guts and were brainwashed into believing a myth. Now he looks upon the blood soaked man in the poster and is starting to wonder. Why is he drawn to this Jesus man now? He never cared before and does he even care now? He watches the traffic fly by and everyone is in rush. A yellow cab pulls up in front of the movie theatre and Stephanie gets out. His heart races when he sees her. She is so beautiful. She looks around for Jose and spots him walking across the street toward her with a smile on his face. They embrace and then stand in line holding hands and talking. Now the line is slowly moving as they make their way into the theatre.
Jose wraps his arm around Stephanie and tells her how beautiful she is to him. She brings herself close to him and tells him how happy she is to be with him.

They take their seats and talk softly through the previews. Stephanie read in the paper today that the movie was graphic and brutal. She tells Jose some people have left early from the movie, because they cannot watch what is done to Jesus. Jose thinks of his life and the drugs he deals. He thinks of the brutality he lives in every day.
Last night Stephanie asked him what he did for a living. He told her he worked on the streets. He changed the subject back to the Jesus man. Tonight they hold hands, waiting for the movie to start. Stephanie tells Jose about the twelve apostles and that one of them named Judas will betray Jesus into the hands of the Roman soldiers. Finally the movie starts. From the very beginning Jose is thrown back into his chair in awe. He knows it’s a Hollywood movie with Hollywood actors, but the story and the scenes are so real to him. Jose watches and the Jesus man reaches out and touches his heart. He feels the pain the Jesus man is going through. Jose watches as they bring him to the town circle. They strip the cloths off his back and shackle Jesus man to the whipping post. Then the two Roman guards start to whip the Jesus man. Jose tries to fight back the tears but the effort is useless. The tears fall, but there is no shame. Now the Jesus man collapses and they keep whipping him. Jose’s heart is breaking as he watches. Over and over Jose whispers out loud. “My Jesus man.”

The two hold hands and Jose’s grip tightens when they nail the Jesus man to the cross and then lift him up for display. The Jesus man dies on the cross. At the very end of the movie it shows Jesus rising after three days and the nail scars in his hand. The movie is over and the lights slowly come on. Jose looks at Stephanie and the tears are still in his eyes. Jose speaks with love in his voice.
“He lives?”
Stephanie fights back her own tears.
“Yes he lives Jose.”
“Did the Jesus man died on the cross for me?”
“Yes Jose he died for you and me and for everyone.”
“But they hurt the Jesus man so bad.”
“I know Jose, but it wasn’t the nails that kept Jesus up on the cross, it was because he loves us.”
Jose and Stephanie get up and hold each other. Jose looks around and some people are crying in their seats. One couple is still in their seats holding hands looking straight ahead at a blank screen. Jose and Stephanie slowly leave the theatre holding each other tight.

The next morning Jose sits alone in his living room. The movie has opened his heart beyond his own understanding. The Jesus man is calling his heart, he can feel it all around him. Jose turns off the TV and pulls out the piece of paper Stephanie gave him. Before they departed last tonight she wrote this for him and told him to read it when he was alone. It reads, Romans 10:13: “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
The tears return to the eyes of Jose. He gets off the couch and goes to his knees and starts to talk to Jesus. “I believe in you Jesus man and I believe you died for me. I call upon you now to please forgive me for the way I live. I am so sorry Jesus, please help me.” Jose opens his heart to Jesus and lets him in. He feels the weight of the burdens that he has carried his whole life slowly lift off. On this day Jose is reborn to a new love from above. In a rundown Chicago tenant building Jose finds the Son of God. Jose finds the peace Jesus promises when you call on His name. For an hour Jose sits in the living room talking and crying to the Lord. He needs to know more about the Jesus man. Later Jose leaves the apartment and heads down to Leo’s pawn shop. Jose walks in and Leo looks at him through his thick glasses.
“Hey Jose what brings you here today?”
“What’s up Leo, do you have any Bibles in here?”
Leo looks at Jose and slowly starts to walk to the other end of the counter. He knows Jose very well and what kind of person he is. He is one of the most violent men Leo has ever met and now he’s asking where the Bibles are. Leo reaches down and grabs the ones he has and puts them on the counter. Jose looks at Leo. “You know anything about Bibles Leo?” Leo knows a lot about God’s word. “A little bit.” Jose explains he needs easy reading. Leo pulls out a Paraphrased Bible and hands it to Jose. “This one is perfect.”
Jose reaches into his pocket to get his money. Leo reaches over and puts his hand on his arm. "I want no money for this, it’s a gift from me.” Jose walks to the door and turns back before he walks out. “Thank you Leo.” The two men smile at each other. “You’re welcome Jose.” Leo watches through the store windows as Jose walks away.
Jose sits at the kitchen table and opens the Bible. He remembers what Stephanie told him about Jesus and the New Testament. The first four chapters are about when Jesus walked on the earth. Jose starts in the book of Matthew and reads for hours. He rubs his eyes and closes the Bible. He walks to the window and looks out onto the street. He does not understand everything he has just read. He understands that the Jesus man is loving and forgiving. He cares for everyone and never boasted that he was the Son of God. Now sitting in the dark Jose knows there are things in his life he has to change. And he has to change them now. He pulls the piece of paper out of his pocket with Stephanie’s number on it. After four rings she answers and Jose explains everything that has happened to him in the last couple of hours. Stephanie is so very happy for him and starts to cry on the phone. He tells her that not all is good. Jose tells her he’s a drug dealer and explains what kind of life he lives in. Then he tells her what kind of life he wants now and what he has to do to change it. And he tells her cannot see her for a week. Then with great sadness in his heart he tells her he understands if she doesn’t want to see him again. Jose smiles and says goodbye. Stephanie said she would be waiting for him.

Jose calls his connection and sets up a meeting with him in two hours. They will meet at the park. Jose reads God’s word until it’s time to leave. The cab pulls up to Stratton Park and Jose gets out. He is not afraid for what he is about to do but he is very nervous about it, because he knows his life will be on the line. The two men meet in the back of the park and Jose lays it out.
“I won’t be here tomorrow to pick up the cocaine. Tell Assanti I’m done with the whole drug scene!”
The other man has known Jose for years and he can tell there’s something different.
“What do you want me to tell him?”
“Tell him I walk with the Jesus man now, I found a better life. And tell him I will never mention his name.” The other man laughs. “So now you’re a Jesus freak, Assanti will love this.” The smile fades off the man’s face and he looks hard into the eyes of Jose.
“You know him and his men will hunt you down and kill you, you know way too much. And there’s no place you can hide that he won’t find you.” Jose looks hard into the other man’s eyes. “Tell Assanti I will not run or hide, he knows where I live.” Jose turns and walks away. The other man stands and watches Jose walk away. He pulls out his cell phone and calls Assanti. “I’ll be there in a half an hour.” He closes the cell phone and shakes his head at what has just happened.

The sun is setting and Jose climbs the stairs to his apartment. He locks the door as soon as he gets in. He goes straight to the bedroom and opens the closet. He pulls down a duffel bag from the top shelve. He pushes all the hanging clothes to the right and looks at the three foot safe. Jose reaches down and turns the combination and feels the tumblers click. He turns the handle and opens the safe. He remembers coming in here and looking at all the money and having so much pride in himself. Now he looks at the $150,000 and it means nothing to him. It’s drug money that’s all. Jose unzips the duffel bag and puts all the money into it. He puts the bag over his shoulder and grabs something off the table. Jose unlocks the door and takes the three flights down to the sidewalk. The night is dark now and he wants to take no chances so he runs through the back ways and alleys to his destination. Jose walks up to the condemned building that runs the whole city block. He’s looking for something to put the money in. Jose finds a small metal drum full of garbage and dumps it out. He opens the duffel bag and puts all the money in the drum. Then he reaches into his pocket and pulls out the lighter fluid and matches. Jose soaks the money, lights a match and throws it in. He sits and watches the drug money burn and thanks the Jesus man. Another burden slowly lifts off his shoulders.

Assanti lights the big Cuban cigar he has clinched between his teeth. The man watches the smoke as it rolls to the top of the nine-foot ceiling. He hates coming here but he has to. He works for Assanti but wishes he didn’t. Assanti is a drug lord and hatred and greed run through his veins, not blood. He puffs on his cigar and listens to the story the man tells about his meeting with Jose. Assanti waves the man to leave his office after he’s done telling him the info. He leans back in his leather chair and thinks on what to do with Jose. Assanti tells his two bodyguards to leave his office also. They leave without a word spoken and wait in the next room. He knows the two are just waiting on the word from him to hunt Jose down and kill him. But the whole Jesus thing has made Assanti stop cold in his thoughts. Assanti thinks of his brother now as he sits alone in his office. The two of them used to run the drugs together. They worked from the bottom to the top in the drug world. They had everything they wanted, and people were hurt or disposed of if they got in their way. One day his brother came up to him and said he wanted out. He told Assanti he walked by a church and heard the people singing. He stopped and listened because he knew the song. Their mother used to sing it to them when they were kids. But something drew Assanti’s brother into the church that night. His brothers’ empty heart was filled with love and peace. He said he found a man called Jesus Christ.

It was ten years ago when Assanti’s brother turned straight and left the life of drugs. Now he has a wife and three kids. And he still walks with Jesus Christ. At first Assanti hated his brother for leaving and doing his Jesus thing. But now the two brothers are very close, and now Jose Alvarez has found the Lord too. He just drops out like his brother did, but by doing this there is still $100,000 in cocaine that needs to hit the streets soon. Assanti knows he can get it out with no problems, the real problem is Jose knows too much about Assanti and the drugs. The ruthless side of Assanti tells him to erase Jose out of the picture now. However Assanti is no fool when it comes to the Lord and the people that walk with the Lord. He might not walk with the God like his brother walks with God, but he does have respect for the man upstairs. He has made up his mind on what to do. He calls his two men into the office.
“Jose Alvarez has put me in a very touchy situation. We will keep an eye on him and follow him for awhile. We will see if he walks with the Jesus man he talks about!”

Captain Jim Bowens speaks through the small microphone and asks Greene if he can still hear him. Undercover agent Greene tells him “loud and clear.” Greene is walking to the drop off spot to meet Jose Alvarez. The long hair covers the earpiece in his right ear and the mic is in his front pocket. He’s amazed that the mic is the size of a pencil eraser. This time they’re to meet at Logan Park. Greene talks loud enough for Bowens to hear. “This Alvarez punk sure has a thing for parks.”
Greene crosses the street and makes his way into the park. In a voice that Bowens could barely hear Greene said. “Let’s play some hard ball and put this street scum away.” He walks to the back of the park and finds a bench and sits down. Greene sits the brown paper bag he’s been carrying beside him. He reaches in and pulls out a pop and opens it. Inside the bag is another pop and the money for the cocaine. The adrenaline flows through the body of Greene now as they’re getting close to the bust of Jose Alvarez. The park is staked out. There are undercover cops everywhere. But when you look around everything seems normal. Greene has no gun on himself because he knows Jose carries no gun. As soon as the deal is made the team will swarm them. Greene looks at his watch and Jose is a half-hour late. It’s not like Jose to be late. He’s never late. He lights a cigarette to calm his nerves but it doesn’t help. It turns into an hour and Greene calls Jose’s cell phone. But there is no answer on the other end. He sits for three hours calling and waiting for Jose to show up.
They wait until dark and then Bowens calls off the bust. The whole set up just falls apart. They were so close. Greene grabs the bag and walks out of the park. He will never see Jose Alvarez again.

Jose’s cell phone rings and he looks at the number. Greene is calling wondering where he is. Jose takes the phone into the kitchen and puts it on the counter. He opens the drawer, pulls a hammer out and smashes the phone to pieces. He has Stephanie’s number memorized. The other numbers he will never need again. Now the waiting game starts. Jose will stay in his apartment the rest of the day and tomorrow. He will wait for Assanti’s men to come hunt him down. With child like faith Jose prays for strength and protection. He opens God’s word and finds in the back a listing of different chapters for certain words. Jose looks up fear and picks out Psalm 23 from the list and reads it.

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
Your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil,
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

The chapter touches Jose’s heart and it gives him hope and strength in his fear. He reads the one sentence out loud to himself. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” Slowly calm comes over Jose and he knows that no matter what happens God is with him. Two days go by and Jose sits in peace. No one has come near his door. The two days have brought him closer to the Jesus man. The more he reads about Jesus the more he understands that he was a man of forgiveness and love. Jose knows he has to live by these two powerful ways now. Today Jose will seek love and forgiveness. He will call Stephanie on a pay phone today and look for a man he has hurt in the past.

Stephanie walks to the kitchen and pulls the coffee out of the cupboard. Her eyes are sore and red from crying. For two days she has lived through a mental hell worrying and praying for Jose. She is deeply in love with him. Even after he told her the kind of life he was living, she still loves him. Now he puts his life on the line to walk with Jesus. The tears swell in her eyes again and she asks God to protect Jose. The cell phone rings and she prays its Jose. She hurries to the living room and flips her cell phone open. Stephanie’s voice is shaky. “Hello!”
The man’s voice on the other end says ‘Hi’, it is Jose.’ He tells her everything is fine so far. She falls apart on the cell phone and starts crying. He tells her he has to go find someone and get it straight between the two of them. There is silence on the phone. The two have not known each other long, but they have already been through so much. He should have waited for a different time to tell her, but the words fall out of his mouth. He tells her he loves her and then he hangs up the pay phone.
Assanti’s men watch Jose as he talks on the pay phone. For two days they have sat and waited for Jose to come out of his apartment building, but he never did. Today he finally appears and goes straight to the pay phone. The two men in the car would love to run down Jose and take him out of the picture, but they will do what Assanti tells them. For now they will just watch his every move. Jose gets off the phone and heads down into the worst parts of the Southside. He’s looking for Jim, the crack head he has brutalized for years. For hours Jose looks in the back alleyways for Jim. He asks whoever he sees if they have seen Jim. Finally someone saw him stumble into the next alley over about two hours ago. Jose walks over to the next alley and looks down it. The alley runs down about three hundred yards and dead ends into a loading dock. The loading dock has not been used in years. All the lights have been broken out. It is pitch black down there. Jose walks down the alley into the darkness. Jim’s coming down from his daily high as he sits in the alley’s filth and garbage. He looks up and sees a silhouette of a man coming down the alley at him. The man is big and powerful. He knows its Jose Alvarez. Jim remembers he never gave Jose the money he owes him. He wishes Jose would just kill him and put him out of his misery.

In the dark Jose sees the outline of Jim sitting under the dock in the corner. Jose crouches down about three feet from Jim. Shame overwhelms Jose as he thinks back to the last time that he ran into Jim. He had the man by the throat off the ground slammed against a brick wall. He hated the crack head then. The hatred that controlled his soul is gone now. Jose prays and asks the Jesus man to help him with the right words. No man has said a word yet and Jim breaks the silence. His voice shakes as he speaks.
“I don’t have your money Alvarez.” Jim’s mind is clearing now as he’s coming down from the cocaine, but he cannot come up with any excuse to save himself from a terrible beating or death. All hope in this world is slipping away from Jim. Now he pleads to Jose.
“Instead of beating me to a pulp today please do me a favor and just kill me!”
The words cut through the heart of Jose like a blade. Jose has been selling cocaine to Jim for years. Jose speaks in a tone that Jim has never heard before.
“I do not care about the money anymore. I am never going to lay a hand on you ever again. I tracked you down today for a reason. I have something I want to tell you. I am not messing with your mind and this is straight from the heart.”
The panic and shaking that Jim feels slowly starts to fade the more Jose talks.
“Jim, I am sorry I have hurt you physically and mentally, and I am sorry I shoved the cocaine down your throat that helped with your addiction.” There is silence between the two men now. Jose reaches into his pocket and pulls out a piece of paper and hands it to Jim in the darkness. “This is my address. If I can do anything for you let me know. Jim I am truly sorry.” Jose stands and turns from Jim and starts walking from the darkness to the light. He stops and turns when he hears Jim call his name. Jim walks from the dark and stands face to face with Jose. “What happened to you Jose? You have changed, haven’t you?” Jose sees the streaks on the face of Jim where the tears have rolled from his eyes.
“Jim I walk with the Jesus man now.” Jim just looks at Jose. Jim’s mind is confused on what’s going on here, but something tells Jim in his heart that he can trust Jose now. Jose puts his big hand on Jim’s shoulder. “Jim when was the last time you ate anything?” Jim tells him maybe two days ago. “Let me buy you lunch Jim.” He looks at Jose and then he says “okay”. The two men walk out of the alley together.

They watch from the vehicle as Jose and the other man come out of the alley. The two men follow Jose and the man as they walk to a run down diner on Wilson and Harrison. Jim goes to the washroom, cleans up and combs his hair back. He needs a shower bad. But he needs to eat more than anything right now. Jim looks in the mirror and doesn’t even know the person he’s looking at. His weight has dropped down to about a hundred and twenty pounds. He knows he’s slowly dying inside. The cocaine is eating him alive. He needs help but doesn’t know where to go or who to turn to. Jim leaves the bathroom and sits down and picks up his coffee cup. It shakes are so bad that Jim has to set it down. Jim asks the waitress for cola with a straw. He is blown away that he is sitting and eating lunch with Jose Alvarez. He hated Jose, but for some reason that hatred is starting to pass away. The waitress brings the burgers and fries. The two talk and eat. Jose watches Jim’s hands as they shake holding the burger. Jim looks across the table into the eyes of Jose. He used to see hatred, but now he sees kindness. Then the words Jose speaks to him grip his heart. “Jim is there anyway I can help you?”

The days fly by and Assanti’s men have quit following Jose. Assanti finally decides to call off his dogs. Jose knew they were there following him, but he also knows he is blessed nothing ever happened to him. As each day goes by he gets closer and closer to the Lord. Daily he dives into God’s word and learns more about the Jesus man and his never ending love. Today he will finally see Stephanie again. The days have been hard not being able to see her, but he wanted to keep all trouble away from her. Jose does not know where his life will take him now. He has decided not to look back on his former life, but to look forward and keep his eyes and heart on the Jesus man.
Jose grabs his duffel bag and puts his Bible and a blanket into it. He’s to meet Stephanie at Stratton Park for a picnic when she gets off of work. He hits the stairs, gets a cab and goes to a deli close to the park. He walks to the park with the food and sets out the blanket and waits for Stephanie. He looks up at the blue sky. Everything looks different now through his eyes. He now sees the awesome creation of God all around him. Jose sees it in the flowers, in the grass, and in the massive sky above him. Then he sees her walking up the path to him. She is smiling and walking faster the closer she gets. Jose tries to sit and wait for her, but he cannot. He gets up from the blanket and runs to Stephanie.
They hold each other tight and their lips meet. They love one another deeply and tell each other ‘I love you.”

Together the two sit on the blanket and have a picnic in the park. They talk about all the things that have happened in the last week. Jose pulls out his Bible and shows Stephanie, he tells her how he went down to Leo’s pawnshop and Leo just gave it to him. She smiles and stretches her hand out. Jose hands the bible to her.
“I want to show you something in God’s word that I read the other night. It reminded me of us.” She turns to the book of Isaiah, chapter 11:6 and reads it to Jose.
“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.” She smiles and closes God’s word. “The beginning of the verse sounds like us.” Jose smiles and kisses her hand. “I must be the lamb and you are the wolf Stephanie.” She smiles back and laughs.
“You’re very funny Jose Alvarez.”

Four years later Jose stands at the grill in his backyard and turns the steaks over. He shuts the lid, turns and talks to his close friend Jim. His friend has been clean now for four years. Jim knows without Jose’s help he would probably be dead today. That day in the diner Jose asked Jim if there was any way he could help him. Jim pushed his fears aside that day and asked Jose to help him beat his addiction. The two men talked in the diner that day for hours. They decided Jim would move in, and Jose would help him break the chains of cocaine. That day Jim found a small piece of hope in the man he used to fear. When they left that day from the diner they stopped at a small grocery store on a corner and bought the things they would need to last out three days. Jim was about to go to the depths of hell mentally and physically, but he knows he must go there to survive and regain his life back. Jose thinks back to his journey with Jim to the depths of hell.

Jose sits in the recliner in the bedroom with his Bible on his lap. Jose is young in his Christian walk, but he knows he needs to pray for Jim continually. Jim is sleeping, if that’s what you want to call it. Jim’s head moves back and forth and words of no meaning slur from his mouth. The man is drenched from head to toe in sweat. Jose gets up and grabs the towel again and wipes off Jim’s face and forehead. The bruises and scratch marks are visible now up and down Jose’s arms. Out of nowhere Jim will fight with Jose to get back out on the streets and get his cocaine fix. But he is no match for Jose, he collapses back into the bed from exhaustion. The two agreed that no matter what Jim says or does he is not allowed out of the apartment, no matter what happens. Jose has the keys to the apartment locked up in the safe in the bedroom closet.

Jim falls deeper and deeper into another nightmare. In his dream he is in a run down building, he can see the rats moving in the darkness. The cocaine is in the bedroom upstairs, but he must fight the dark shadows that block the door to the cocaine. Jim shakes as he climbs the stairs in the dark. He can hear the dark screams getting louder the closer he gets. At the top of the stairs he looks down the hall and sees the door and the beast from hell that is blocking it. Jim is in his own mental battle as to what he will do. He wants to run for his life, and at the same time he wants the cocaine to feel the high. Jim chooses the cocaine and runs down the hallway screaming and swinging his arms. The beast attacks him, and Jim fights with all he has. These are the times in the real world that he lashes out at Jose. Jose covers up as Jim hits him again and again, over and over he screams in agony. Then Jim just quits swinging and screaming. Jose puts his friend back onto the bed. In his nightmare Jim thinks he has beaten the beast.
His nightmare continues as he reaches for the door. Jim slowly opens the door and looks into room. He walks into the room and sees three men sitting around a coffee table with a glass top on it. The only light in the room is from a candle on the table, and from the man wearing the white robe. Jim goes to the table and sits opposite from the man in the white robe. The light vibrates off the man and fills the room. The light comes from within. He looks side to side and sees the cocaine on the table. The two other men are spreading the cocaine out and getting it ready. Out of their pockets they pull out the needles and the spoons. Jim looks across at the man in the robe. There is a peace that overflows Jim when he looks into his eyes. He knows the man will not touch the cocaine. Jim speaks to the man.
“Who are you?”
The man smiles at Jim and puts his hands on the table with his palms facing up. Jim looks down and sees the scarred over holes in his hands. He looks from the scars and up into the man’s eyes again. This time Jim feels love like he has never felt before.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I was here before all and will be after all. I am the everlasting. I knew you Jim before times were created.”
One of the other men takes his spoon and starts to heat it over the candle flame. Jim talks again to the man that shines brighter than an angel. “Are you going to take the drug?” The Son of man smiles again at Jim. “No Jim, this is not of my world, but it is of your world. This drug will take you to the depths of hell and back. Over and over it will take you there and then one day you will stay there in the depths.” Jim looks over to the man on his left. The eyes of the man are sunken into his sockets and there is only skin and bone left on his body. His face is unshaven and the sores are all over his face and arms. Jim’s heart leaps into his throat when he finally recognizes the man. That man is himself. The man in the robe speaks again and Jim looks his way. “My father gives everyone free will to do as they must, and a free choice to live the way they choose.” “Jim you have the choice to take the drug or not.” The man in the white robe stands lifts his arms up and the room turns brilliant white. Everything in the room is gone, except Jim and the man in the robe. He walks over to Jim and puts his scarred hands on his shoulders. “I am Jesus, the Son of the living God, and the truth to life. Search for me and you will find me. Search with your heart and you will find salvation. I love you Jim, I always have and I always will.”
Jim’s awakens and looks at the ceiling. The nightmare turned from horrible into something heavenly. Jim lifts his hands and sees they are still shaking, but he has made it over the first hill to getting clean of this cocaine addiction. Jim clenches his teeth and fights to hold back the tears. He fails and sobs uncontrollably.

Jose awakens and his neck is stiff from the recliner. He looks over and Jim is sitting up in the bed. The two men smile at each other. Jose reaches over and the two of them shake hands. Jim mouth feels like the Sahara desert.
“Do you have any coffee Jose?”
Sitting at the kitchen table Jim tells Jose about his dream with Jesus. Days later Jim comes to know the man in the white robe as his Lord and Savior. Jim believes now that Jesus used Jose to save his life.

Jim stands in his friends’ backyard clean with the love of God in his heart. “The last four years God has blessed us Jose.” “Yes he has Jim, yes he has.” The back door opens and Stephanie steps out onto the porch and smiles at Jose and Jim. In her arms she holds Amy their little girl. Jose smiles at his friend Jim, then he smiles at his wife and daughter. Jose looks up to the heavens “Thank you, Jesus man.”

Wayne Roe

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