The London rain falls outside of the coffee shop window. I tuck my converse-clad feet beneath my legs, holding my drink with both hands. I listen to my friend, Jared, speak across the table. “I just want to experience God,” Jared says.
“You can,” I tell him. “If you ask Him, God will show you who He is.”
“Excuse me,” someone says behind me in a thick British accent, “Do you have the time?”
Jared doesn’t hear him, but I do, so I pull out my phone from my raincoat pocket. “It’s almost 2:30,” I say.
The man smiles. I’d place him in his mid-sixties. “You must be American. In England we’d say it’s half past two.”
“Canadian,” I correct.
The man turns to Jared. “Were you at church?”
“Yeah,” Jared says. “We were at church down the road.”
“I used to be a Christian,” the man says softly. When he says this, I shift deeper in my chair. Suddenly I can tangibly feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in this Starbucks, and I know it’s going to be a conversation.
“What happened?” I ask. With this, Jared and I move from the table we are sitting at to the booth where the man is. We sit across from him.
“It’s not that I don’t believe in God,” he says. “I just don’t always like Christians.”
“I feel the same way sometimes,” I muse.
The man tells us his story. He explains how he discovered the love of Jesus: through the Alpha program while he was in prison. His eyes light up as he talks about Jesus. He tells us how he suffers from a severe form of epilepsy, and how it’s hard to find a job now that he’s out of prison. He tells us how he asked God to give him a sign to remind him that his life still has meaning. He says he thinks Jared and I are this sign.
“What’s your name?” I ask.
Paul reaches across the table and places his hand near my face. He starts praying — loudly — in the middle of the crowded coffee shop. “Father,” he says, his eyes wide open staring into mine, “I just thank you for my sister. I know people will find you through the things she does with her life.”
Tears stream down my face because Paul is suddenly and loudly prophesying over me in a busy Starbucks in downtown London.
I have no idea what Jared is thinking, but Paul turns to him and places his hand close to Jared’s face. He says, “And I just pray for my brother because I know he is going to change the world.”
I think maybe Jared is crying too.
I ask Paul if we can pray for him. Generally, I don’t pray in public. It feels weird and uncomfortable. But in this moment, I feel courage. I don’t care where we are. The presence of Jesus is clear in this Starbucks, and nothing in the world is going to let me pass this moment up.
I place my hand on Paul’s left shoulder, and Jared places his hand on Paul’s right. I ask Jesus for complete healing over Paul’s body — that the epilepsy will cease, that not one more seizure will ever take hold of him again. I pray, “I feel so strongly that Paul is going to be the person going back into prisons sharing Jesus with the prisoners through Alpha.”
I look up, and Paul is crying too.
Jared prays next. He says, “I just remember that story in the Bible about Saul becoming Paul and I feel like that is happening here today too, like Paul is being completely made new.”
The three of us look up at each other, and I think: God can meet us absolutely anywhere. Even in the middle of a Starbucks in central London. All of us had tears in our eyes.
“Can I hug you, Paul?” I ask. He nods.
I give him a hug and when I release him, he looks at me and says, “Aliza, I’ll see you again someday in Heaven.”
As Jared and I leave the Starbucks, Jared turns to me and says, “What just happened?”
I grin. “Thirty minutes ago you told me you wanted to experience God. I guess God wanted you to experience Him too.”