32-year-old David Ruffin found himself homeless for six years, battling alcohol addiction and living in fear, until one day at the back doors of a church, he heard a call to true peace and a love that would never leave him.
"I was sleeping in an abandoned truck," David tells of his dark time on the streets. "On many nights I laid there, afraid to be there but at the same time, afraid to leave because even though it was dangerous in there, I thought that it was even more dangerous out there.
"To me, being homeless was about the worst thing that could've happened to me."
One particular incident stood out to him: "It started to rain and I would see people scurrying and scattering in all different directions to their homes. Then, I looked at myself and I was like, 'Now, where do I go?'"
David moved from shelter to shelter but, he found them dangerous and he was afraid to stay. Instead, he spent most of his time collecting bottles and cans so he could have enough money for his next drink. He would end up sleeping in his own urine outside the back doors of a church on many occasions.
Then, one particular Sunday, David stumbled to the back steps of the church, as usual. "I was at the end of my route and wanted to rest," he says. "As I sat there, I could hear the singing inside. The music was so heavenly and it sounded so good. I could feel that there was something wonderful going on inside of this building and I felt that I really wanted to be a part of that."
As he was sitting there, he recalls arguing with the thought of whether to go inside or not. "I was looking at myself, dirty, filthy, smelly, and drunk - and I'm thinking, 'Well, with all of what's going on inside of there should I really present myself that way?'
"But I know it was the Lord who communicated the thought to me and told me that this was His house and I was supposed to go in there anyway I was," he continues. "And so, with that in mind, I went inside. But when I came into the building that night, I walked up to the balcony and I sat there, being a little surprised that in the condition I was in, that nobody asked me to leave."
A woman stood up to give her testimony to the congregation and David found himself listening intently to her story, which sounded similar to his own. When the woman stopped talking, David knew that he wanted what she had: Jesus.
"The pastor gave the altar call and it was already in me to respond so I went forward and surrendered my life to the Lord," he smiles.
The pastor, Jim, clearly remembers when he saw David for the first time: "I see this wrecked guy sheepishly looking up at me and I'm thinking, 'Great, someone's going to hit me up for money.' As he gets close to me, he smelled worse than any human being I've ever smelled in my life. Matted hair, the dude was a mess. The odour was so horrible – of the street, of filth, of sweat, of urine – that when I talked to him, I had to look away to inhale.
"I started to give him some money, just to get rid of him but he put his finger in my face and said, 'Reverend, I don't want your money. I want this Jesus that you were talking about. I'm going to die out there. I don't have a hope in this world unless somebody changes me.' At that moment, I became so convicted of my lack of love and my lack of compassion that I raised my hands and said, 'God, forgive me.' And I began to just weep for my own need and heartlessness.
"We both needed God that night," Jim admits, "me and David. David sensed what God was doing and he came close and fell against my chest and I put my arms around him. We just stood there holding each other.
"When I embraced him I felt like I embraced something that was real – that this man really stood for the Lord and it was that love that drew me," he recalls. "It was like God was telling me, 'Jesus didn't die for a nice, clean, neat little world. He came for that which was lost and ruined.'"
Pastor Jim says Jesus revealed to him: "You smell this smell? If you can't handle this smell, I can't use you because the whole world smells like this to me. This is what sin smells like in my holy nostrils."
That night, Easter Sunday, Jim introduced David to Jesus and David's life has since been completely transformed. He got into rehab for his alcoholism, started coming to church, reading the Bible and memorising verses. "He became like a model Christian," Jim jokes.
The smart, handsome young man worked for Jim's church in maintenance and security for a while, and met and married a pharmacist.
They now have two children and David is an ordained minister, serving in New Jersey.
His life inside and out is unrecognisable from the mess it was before – Jesus saw through David's filth, as He does with each one of us. He saw through Jim's filth too and that Easter Sunday was a life-changer for both men.•