What you will read below is only one chapter from Nic Billman’s first book, Between the Flowers and the Broken. This book contains stories, songs, and lessons from the streets of Brazil. The Father calls to us all; listen as He calls you through the words shared here.
“Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you, from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in, I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.”
My very first trip to Brazil was in October of 2008. I saw God do many miracles and heal many people on that trip. One of my favorite stories from that trip is that of a little boy named Julio. When I saw Julio and his mother standing a few people back in the line, I asked the translator to bring them to the front. I had been away from my children for ten days, and I was really missing them. I wanted to pray with this young boy. Julio’s mother explained that he was four years old and had been born eighty percent deaf in both ears. I asked her to demonstrate the volume in which she would have to speak for him to hear he. She had to yell loudly to get his attention. They had prayed many times for his healing, and yet when I asked the mother if she believed for his healing, she said yes without hesitation. I got down on my knees and put my hands over Julio’s ears. I felt the gift of faith rising up within me, and I simply said, “Julio, Jesus loves you. Jesus loves you.”
As soon as I said it the second time, he took a quick deep breath, and his head popped up. He jumped into his mother’s arms, and she whispered. “I love you.”
With a huge smile on his face, he whispered back, “I love you, Mama.” Not only was his hearing restored, but the speech impairment he had as a result of the deafness was also healed.
The next day, we had the morning off, and I was resting in the hotel room while most of the team was out shopping for souvenirs or sight-seeing. The room was getting hot, so I walked over to open the window, Outside, I saw a boy laying on a piece of cardboard on the sidewalk. I felt drawn to him. Knowing he would be hungry, I searched my room for anything I had to give him. All I found was a bottle of water, cherry Pop Tarts, and a pack of Shock Tarts. As you can see, at the time I was really on a health food kick. I took the portable feast downstairs and brought it to the boy. He probably weighed about seventy pounds. His whole body was dirty, and his feet were raw and cut open. He spoke no English, and I, at the time, spoke no Portuguese. I was able to figure out that his name was Henrique, but that was about it.
We spent one hour together, there on the dirty sidewalk with no spoken language, only love, and friendship. After the hour, I went and found a translator in the hotel lobby, and he helped me find out some information. I learned that Henrique was fifteen years old, and he had been abandoned by his parents when he was ten. He told me about his life and experiences. As I sat listening, I thought, ‘This is Jesus. I am communing with Jesus’. It was a powerful encounter. We went to a store and bought him some socks and shoes, and despite all of the healings I saw on that trip, my favorite memory was watching Henrique walk away, staring proudly at his shoes.
A couple days later, we were preparing to leave that city to head north to Brasilia. While I was in the hotel lobby, Henrique came to the front door, and one of my team members, a translator, and I went out to meet him. He excitedly told me, “I have a place to sleep tonight!” We congratulated him on his find. He said “I want to show you where I will sleep tonight.” We walked with him around the corner, where the dumpsters for the hotel were located. He climbed up over some built-in fencing and dropped down into the garbage of the hotel — my garbage. He had a huge smile on his face as he said, “I have a place to sleep tonight!”
After we said goodbye, I began to cry, my heart was broken because I didn’t know what to do. As we rode on the bus to the next city, the Lord spoke to me. He said, “Nic, when I used you to heal the deaf boy and when you bought shoes for the street boy, it’s the same to me. It’s worship unto the Father.” What a great privilege it is to find Jesus in the lost and broken children of the streets – in the least of these – and to pour out my love at His feet.
Come Find Me
One night before we moved to Brazil, we were in our church worshipping with a group of friends. All of us were singing spontaneously in that place of high praise. As I was singing, “Holy, holy, holy,” the Lord took me into an open vision. For me, the vision occurred in Brazil because that is where my heart is, but it applies to any geographical location. He took me into a large church in Brazil that was full of people singing and dancing. It was a beautiful and alive church! The people in the church were crying out, “We want to see Your face; we want to hear Your voice; we want to see You!” over and over again. As I watched, I could feel their passion for God filling the room.
Then, all of a sudden, the Holy Spirit took me out to the streets, and I saw hungry children begging for money, a widow sitting alone weeping, a prostitute selling her body, and a drug addict shooting up heroine. From their mouths, I heard the voice of the Lord, “Then come find Me.”
Suddenly, I was back in the church, and the people were still crying out, “We want to see Your face; we want to hear Your voice; we want to see You!”
Quickly, I was back to the streets again, and the voice of the Lord again came from the lost and broken, “Come find Me.”
So many believers cry out for more of Jesus from within the four walls of the church; all the while, He is inviting us to come out to the streets and find Him in the least of these. This isn’t a popular message, but the truth is that Jesus cares very much about His children seeking out and care for the hurting and broken people in this world. In fact, in Matthew 25, Jesus tells us that at the Final Judgment, when He separates the sheep from the goats, the deciding factor between the two groups will not be how many miracles were done, how big our churches were, or how many people we led in a salvation prayer. No, the determining factor will be whether or not we were able to recognize Jesus in the least of these and whether we cared for the poor and the weary. The genuineness of our relationship with Him will be evident in whether or not we were compelled to love like He loved.
In Matthew 25:34-40, Jesus says to those on His right,
Then the King [Jesus] will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.”
Then the righteous will answer Him saying, “Lord when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick or in prison and come to You?”
And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”
Here, Jesus gives us a key to encountering Him. If we want to see Jesus, we will find Him with the hungry and the thirsty. If you want to meet with Jesus, we should seek Him in hospitals and prisons. Of course, as we talked about in the last chapter, living this way is only possible when we refuse to let fear get in the way of love. The Bible promises that when we seek Jesus with all our hearts, we will find Him (see Jer. 29:13). He’s given us a clue. We will find Him among the broken.
To those who do, Jesus will say, “Come you who are blessed by My Father and receive your inheritance.” The people on the left will have quite a different experience. These are the people who have guarded their earthly inheritance so closely that they have not recognized Jesus among the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, or the prisoner. To these people, Jesus will say, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). Here’s the bottom line: If we truly love Jesus and follow Him, we will care about the same things that He cares about. Our hearts will break for the things that break His heart, and we will desire to be the solution, not just those who point out the problem. The truth is, Jesus is all around us; if we have eyes to see Him, we will.
We can testify to this truth. We have encountered Jesus in deep and amazing ways by caring about the Father’s lost children. And we have learned so much from the poor and weary on the streets of Brazil. Many nights we head to the streets or to a rescue home with the expectation that we will teach them about Jesus. Most often, Jesus teaches us through their brokenness and simple desire for true love. It is always a great occurrence when we are sharing with a prostitute or a transvestite and the Father begins to teach us through that person’s story. Then the prostitute or transvestite is the one hugging us and sometimes praying for us as we cry under the weight of His love. This sort of “holy switcharoo” has happened many times during our two years on the streets.
The truth is that there is an encounter with Jesus that you can only experience among the least of these. That’s not to say that you can’t encounter him in other ways and places; of course you can. However, we discover a greater understanding of the depth of His love when we stare into the eyes of the poor and we see Him there.
Communion on the Streets
One of the ways in which we find Jesus in the broken is by relating to them in the way that He did. Jesus always explained the Kingdom in ways that people understood, in parables and stories they could relate to. We like to follow His example. When we arrive at our street church, the people invite us to sit with them, usually offering cardboard for the girls to sit on. This is their grid for fellowship. During worship, I like to tell them, “When we worship God, it’s just like when we come to visit, and you are so welcoming, and you invite us to sit with you. When we worship, it’s like inviting Papa God to come and sit with us. He isn’t looking for big fancy buildings; He’s looking for hearts that say, ‘Here’s a place for You, Papa!’
And He loves to come and visit us right here on the streets.” It’s one of my favorite things, to watch people gain a simple child-like understanding of worship that will tear down the walls of rejection, abandonment, and fear in their hearts.
During worship, we all draw pictures, and we explain what it is to give an offering—that an offering is not simply a monetary gift, but giving of the heart. It is amazing to watch a person who seemingly has nothing to give excitedly draw a picture and then give it to another person. One night after this time of giving, I taught about communion, explaining that Jesus came not only to die for our sins, but to show us how to live. I told them that Jesus came from Heaven to earth and spent most of His time on the streets with people just like us so that we would know how much He loves us. He chose to be broken and poured out so that we can live abundantly with Him, and when He rose again, it sealed the promise that He will never leave us. Then I took the bread and broke it and passed it to the twenty people in attendance. Then I passed the grape juice, and they all partook of communion that night. Afterward, I brought out some sandwiches and explained that one of Jesus’s favorite things to do was to share a meal with the ones He loved. I told them, “These sandwiches are a sign of the promise of Jesus, that He has ever left you.”
Because we have our services out in the open at the park, hundreds of people are always nearby. We start every week by walking around the park and praying for the sick. When someone is healed, we share the testimony with the crowd and ask if anyone else needs healing. One night we were praying for a man who had several metal screws in his foot and ankle because a motorcycle had run over his foot. He also had a problem with his left shoulder that prevented him from lifting his arm above his chest. On this night, my son Forrest was with us; as he and Rachael prayed for the man’s foot, the man started to move it around. He turned to his friend sitting next to him and excitedly said, “I can move my foot! I couldn’t do that before. It’s impossible!”
He got up and started walking around to test it out. All of the pain had left, and total movement was restored. He was so happy he started to dance right there in the park; as he danced, he lifted his hands up and realized his shoulder had been healed as well. He told everyone around what God had done. A man who heard his testimony asked us to pray for his hearing.
I asked the man who had been healed to help us pray. When we prayed, the second man’s hearing issue was healed as well. It really is that simple. When we seek Him, we’ll find Him. When we seek Him among the least of these, not only do we find Him, but His love and power are revealed for all to see.
Love looks like something. In this book I’ve talked a lot about what compassion looks like in our hearts and how it causes us to treat people. This is our starting place, the foundation upon which love grows, and the result of real love for people on the streets is food and clothing for the poor and healing for the hurting. In our work here on the streets of Brazil, we run into two different kinds of Christian groups. One group desires to operate in great love; they constantly take food and clothing to homeless and perform beautiful acts of kindness in the name of Jesus. However, this group tends to skip the power aspect of the Kingdom, rarely praying for healing or miracles. The other group goes to the streets desiring to operate in power; they pray for miracles and healings, and at times they see great fruit. However, the hungry are left unfed and the naked unclothed. The answer is found in the balance of the two.
In Scripture, we see no better example of ministry to the poor than in Stephen, who was chosen to help with the distribution of food for the widows and orphans because he was a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit (see Acts 6:5-6). As he distributed food to the poor, he moved in great power and performed many miracles. In other words, Stephen didn’t just say, “Here’s a cheeseburger” to the hungry. He said, “Here’s a cheeseburger. In Jesus’s name, you are healed. Now get up and walk.” We must walk in this same combination of power and love. Feed the hungry, and heal the sick. Clothe the naked, and cleanse the lepers. Love the unloved, and raise the dead. Give water to the thirsty, and cast out the demons. This is the message of the Kingdom. It’s what Jesus did when He first walked the streets and announced the Kingdom, and He invites us to find Him there again.
The Father’s Love Letter
One cold night in April, I learned two very important truths as I answered Jesus’s call to come to the streets. If we want to love the least of these, we must learn them well. Here’s how it happened.
As we often do, we took roses and The Father’s Love Letter to people on the streets in Curitiba. On this particular night, I felt really desperate for accurate prophetic words. As we went from person to person, I really pressed in internally for prophetic words. I got a few, but nothing that opened up the heavens, at least not to the natural eye. Around 2 a.m., we approached two transvestites on a corner and presented them with the roses and the letters. I had nothing to say; I was stuck. We simply asked if they wanted prayer, they politely obliged, and then we continued on our walk. A block later, we encountered an eleven-year-old girl who was out prostituting. As we shared with her, she remained distant, and it seemed like she was on drugs. She accepted the rose and the letter, but then had to go.
We walked back around the block, and on the corner where we had encountered the two transvestites, we saw their two roses, thrown onto the street and run over by cars. My heart was broken as we drove home that night. I thought, Father, they don’t know! They don’t know how valuable they are! By the time I laid down in my bed, it was about 4 a.m., and I felt deeply frustrated and helpless. I began to pray, “Father, I don’t understand. We’re going like You said to go, and I’m trying to get words, and nothing is happening.” After some silence, the Father responded, “I didn’t tell you that you needed prophetic words. I just told you to look them in the eye and to love them.” Instantly, I realized that the whole night I had been so focused on getting words for these men and women that I hadn’t looked them in the eyes and listened to their hearts. Because I felt overwhelmed by the pain of their situations, I had subconsciously begun grasping after a quick-fix, like a prophetic word that would instantly transform their lives. As a result, I had neglected love. And in doing so, I had missed the real source of breakthrough. Often the key needed to unlock the hearts of the captives will be revealed in the words that come from their own mouths. We just need to take the time to look and listen.
A few nights later, we were back on the streets, and I was simply listening to these men and women. I was looking them in the eye as a Father would. I would tell them things like, “I’m so sorry that you have been through that situation. The Father loves you so much, and He wants to restore your heart and redeem dreams inside of you.” It was a powerful night, as much for my own learning as for anyone else. Toward the end of the night, we saw those same two transvestites again, and they had a new friend with them. We gave the new one a rose, and as I was handing him the letter, one of the other transvestites pulled his letter from the other night out of his purse and said, “You have to read that! It is so beautiful! I’ve read mine over and over again.” We then prayed with each of them and told them how their Father sees them. It was beautiful!
Here’s what I learned. As we go to the streets, we must listen and love. We must see like Jesus sees and pour out our hearts in compassion. Then, we must offer the seeds of love that we’ve sown in the hearts of the broken as worship to our Father. He’s the only one who can make them grow. If we look only with our human eyes, ministry on the streets can sometimes be desperately discouraging. But many times we don’t know what God does with the seeds that we plant. Even when the gifts that we give are thrown to the ground and trampled, He still finds a way to water the seeds that were planted in the hearts of the lost.
A Heart for the Nations
With this confidence, let’s fully embrace the call of Jesus to find Him in the least of these. Like children who want to be just like their Papa, let’s join Him on His walk through the streets of the nations. Let’s be like my ten-year-old son Forrest. One night I was out on the streets very late, until about three o’clock in the morning. When I arrived home, I found a notebook sitting on the couch with a note for me on top. The note said,
Here is my book’s first chapter. Can you read it and let me know what you think?
Here is what he wrote:
Chapter One: My Heart For Nations
My heart is for Nepal, Asia, or I will just stay in Brazil, one of them, or all of them. God told me, “Like the sound of the ocean in a shell, you are the sound of My heart for the nations.” My heart for Brazil is to stop prostitution. My heart for Asia is to stop the believing in idols, and my heart for Nepal is to tell the poor that they are already rich. God says love each other, so that is what I will do. I will go to nations and love the unloved. When I say that those three are what my heart is for, that does not mean that those are the only countries that I will go to.”
There it is—the simple gospel of love overflowing from our hearts to bring the nations home to Papa. “Like the sound of the ocean in a shell, you are the sound of My heart for the nations.” This is His invitation to us. We get to be the song of His heart calling His lost ones home. We get to plant flowers in the streets.
I believe a true revival is coming from the dirtiest and most broken places of our generation. It will not be a social justice movement, but a revival of the arts, creativity, and healing that rises up from the streets, the slums, and the poor. A great harvest awaits us in the world. The dry bones are beginning to rattle in the wind. And His voice calls out to us from the poorest and darkest places, saying, “Come find me!” The Father is calling us by name, saying, “Take my hand. Let’s walk together. Come walk with me through the garden of this world, through the streets you live on.”
Jesus is walking among the poor, the broken, and the lost, and we were created to follow His footprints through the garden. We have much work to do, much love to give. All of creation is groaning and waiting for the revealing of the children of God, for the unveiling of the true identities of the desperate and needy. The Father has hidden His treasure among the lost, the sick, and the broken, and it is our privilege—our glory—to seek out that treasure with Him (see Prov. 25:2). As in the very beginning, once again He is calling His sons and daughters by name, inviting us to walk with Him through the garden of life—between the flowers and the broken.
By Nic Billman
When I was hungry, you gave Me bread.
When I was thirsty, you gave Me a drink.
When I was sick, you came to Me.
When I was naked and poor, you clothed Me in grace.
Just stare into the eyes of the child whose left alone.
There you’ll find Me, there you’ll find Me.
Just open up your arms to hold the least of these.
There’ll you find Me, there you’ll find Me.
Come find Me.
I was in prison, you came to see Me.
I was broken, you made Me whole.
I was abandoned, you gave Me a home.
I was wounded, you healed Me with love.
To order this book, click here.
To order the double CD this song is on (The Least of These), or any of Nic and Rachael’s music, click here.