From Prodigal to Victory

Cinching up the elastic tourniquet around his left bicep, Russell prepared to plunge the needle into a bulging vein. It was a clear moonlit night in Youngstown Ohio, and Russell Barnes stood at the foot of five steps that led to a dilapidated, abandoned house, adjoining the sidewalk. It was on a side road fifty feet from the corner of a downtown street, on which sat a multi storied building. Not a soul could be seen anywhere.

Just as he felt the pin prick, a voice sounded. “Are you alright?”

Quickly retracting the needle, he palmed the syringe that was full of a potent mixture of cocaine, concealing it from the intruder. Dropping his arm, the long sleeve of his plaid flannel shirt dropped over the formerly bared arm. The man who’d just come on the scene from around the tall building was rather normal in appearance. His penetrating eyes and the soft, yet judicial expression on his face captured Russell’s gaze. It was a sensation more than anything else—a powerful aura emanating from the visitor. There was definitely something different about this guy.

“Yeah, I’m alright.” How are you?”

No response was given. It gave Russell a strange feeling. What did this guy want? He just stood there, looking into his face. Russ was thinking of how to get rid of this fellow. I need my fix. The addiction was at the apex of its power. He had the drug. The syringe was prepared. This is torture, He thought.

After an awkward silence of several seconds, Russ spoke. “I’m kind of busy right now.”

“So am I,” Stated the intruder into the addict’s night, who was determined not to go anywhere.

Russ plopped down hard onto the concrete steps throwing his hands up and down with a big sigh. A look of exasperation flashed across the weathered features of his thirty year old face. He was befuddled at the man’s strange actions. What does he want?

Then the stranger stated matter-of-factly.

“You need some company right now.”

“Do you know me?”

“Yes,” Was the terse answer he gave. Then the man sat next to Russ on the steps.

“From where?” Again, the deafening silence, lasting a full minute.

While craning his neck, looking around for a place of solitude he could escape to and do his drugs, Russell heard his name called.

“Russell! There you are!” Sprinting up the sidewalk was a fellow addict who usually procured his drugs from the same dealer as Russ. Skidding to a stop in front of Russ, puffing heavily form exertion, he windily sputtered. “You didn’t do that yet did you?”

Russ nodded at the stranger while giving his friend Walter a “Shhh, don’t-say-anything” look.

That’s when the odd visitor stood. “I’m finished here.” He said, and began walking toward the corner from which he came.
As soon as the stranger’s back was turned, Walt leaned into Russ’ ear to whisper. “That dope is bad! It’s been killing guys all over town!”

Russ stared at the back of the stranger who had saved him from certain death just as he was nearing the corner of the building. On impulse he jumped up, and ran after the man who then made the turn behind the building, obscuring Russ’ view. Three seconds later, Russ made the corner also. But the stranger was nowhere to be found.

There were no alleys for the entire block and all of the businesses were closed with chains wrapped around the doors, and gates bolted in place. Neither was there any place to park a car.

“He was right there just a second ago. And then, he simply vanished into thin air.”

Russell Barnes was only 11 years old, when God first called him to faith in Jesus.

However, throughout the boy’s teen-aged years and well into his adult life, a conflict would be waged for the young man’s affections. The world and Satan seemed to be winning. Sex and drugs proved to be his weaknesses—escapes from the difficult home and school life. And then throughout his time on the streets. But the Lord pursued this wayward child with a tenacious love.

Six months after the appearance of Russell’s guardian angel, he recommitted his life to Christ, attended bible-college, and became an ordained minister. He is now a soul winner working with addicts and homeless men.

Whether Russell’s rescuer that night some thirty years ago was a regular person or a heavenly angel, nobody knows. One thing Russell is certain of, which he adamantly declares. “He was sent by God to save my life.”

The writer recording this event, fully believes the words of Hebrews chapter thirteen, verse two, the New International Version. Which clearly states:

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

(The main character has asked that Russell Barnes, his former street alias be used in place of his real name.) 

That’s the way this piece used to close years ago. But now that this writer’s past has been made public, he can give glory to God that he no longer needs to use an alias. I was Russell—Sheldon Bass

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