Part 1: Redemption
It’s a cold and wet night. Jesse is in a doorway trying to get out of the bitter cold. He has been on the streets for close to a month. His clothes are soaking wet and starting to come apart. He has no home to go to. He has no family and no friends. He is at the point where he is going to have to do something drastic that he hates. Not a happy story for this 14-year-old.
A few blocks away a young man a year older than Jesse is arguing with a man on the street corner. The man, David, is saying, "Dang it, Ryan, why are you back doing what you know you shouldn't be doing? You broke your promise here at the Mission and went back to hustling, doing drugs, and so many other things. You get one more shot at this. Quit the sex for money, the drugs, all of it, and come back to the home. Do you even remember that not too long ago you asked Jesus into your heart? How do you think He feels about you doing what you are doing?"
Ryan just makes an obscene gesture and walks away. The fix he desperately needs is more than his need of help.
Jesse: "God, I don't want to do this, but I am so hungry and I am so tired of sleeping in alleys and on park benches. I am so cold and I am so scared I won’t wake up." He sees a woman going by, purse loosely hanging on her shoulder. He waits till the area has little foot traffic and he
starts running at her. He knocks her down and takes her purse. He starts running for his life, in the process, losing the woman and some who came to her aid. Now in an alley, he goes thru her purse. "10 dollars and a roll of lifesavers! God, I risked JDC for 10 bucks and candy." He throws
the purse into the garbage. He hears people looking for him so he gets jittery and accidentally drops the woman's credit cards. Seeing a set of stairs heading up to the top of a parking garage, He quietly and quickly goes up to the roof, while thinking, "What have I become? A thief, and a bad one at that." He eats the lifesavers and stands at the roof's edge looking down.
About to jump, he hears another teen's voice. "Not a good place to jump. Could damage some cars right down there on the street."
He turns to see a kid about a year older than he is. Kid says, "Name's Ryan. Things going that bad, huh?"
Jesse nods his head, not moving away from the edge. "Name's Jesse. Now just go and let me do this. I've been on the streets a week and I am at the end of my rope. I see no hope and I have no future so, yeah, I'm going to jump."
Before Ryan speaks, he goes through a coughing jag. As soon as it’s over, he smiles and says, " So purse-snatching isn't your occupation. Yeah I saw what you did and what you got for your troubles. If you come with me, I can help you, but jumping isn't going to help. I'm cold and at the end of my generosity, so let's get this over with. Either move away from the ledge and come with me, or jump already."
Jesse steps down away from the ledge onto the roof and collapses. Later that night, he finds himself waking up in a warm cot in a run-down room. He wonders where in the world he is and how did he get here.
Jesse gets up and goes out of the room. He sees that he is in a dilapidated old building. He sees Ryan sitting on a couch in front of a fire in a fireplace.
"Glad to see you up, my friend," Ryan says to him. "Did you sleep well? You were out for close to 24 hours. Me and the other residents here kept looking in on you to make sure you were still alive."
Jesse asks, "What is this place? How did you get me back here?"
Ryan: "Couple of your new housemates came and carried you back here. This is our space. We find homes that have been abandoned. We have been here about a year."
Jesse: "How do you survive out here?"
Ryan : "It's almost night time. I will show you my way. And if you don't like that, Tony is into B and E. So if you don't like my way, Tony will teach you his way. There are 4 ways to survive here on the street. Hustling, stealing, selling drugs or panhandling. Drugs are not sold here. If I or the others find out you are dealing drugs, you are gone! No second chances, nothing. Kid, you got to learn how to survive out here in the streets if you are going to make it. I wish I could wave a magic wand and all would be nice and you would live happily ever after, but that never works."
Jesse: "What do you do?"
Ryan hands him some clean blue jeans and a black tee shirt. "Here," he says. “This belongs to one of our guys who got nicked a couple of weeks back for burglary. These are close to your size. What I do is have men pay me for sex with them."
Jesse is shocked. "That's disgusting. I'm not gay. I would never do such a thing."
Ryan laughs. "I said that exact same thing. But if you get hungry enough, and you are, you will do anything to survive." He hands Jesse a bottle of alcohol. "Here, drink this. At least it will kill the pain, and you won’t feel what these sickos do to you."
As Jesse hustles, Ryan goes with him, staying aways off to keep Jesse safe and not harmed in case some freaks try to do something bad to him. "Seen too many guys dead, faced down with a knife in them or something. Not going to let that happen to the kid."
Months have now gone by, and Jesse goes past a place called the Mission. A man outside says, "Hey, you hungry? We are almost done feeding, but I think there is some food left, if you are interested."
Jesse is a little wary. "What do you want from me in return?"
The man, David, laughs. "Not a thing. Just a chance to talk to you. See if you need any help. We are a ministry for male prostitutes. We have a place for eating, cleaning clothes, getting new clothes that we have, and other things. If you are interested."
Jesse goes in and talks to David after he eats. But he isn't ready to change and with that he gets up to leave.
David: "When you are ready, we will be here to help. No matter what you do wrong, always remember, God loves you and wants you to be in His Kingdom."
Ryan comes out of the shadows and says to David, "I was really hoping that would have worked. He really needs to get off the streets while he still can."
David, treading carefully, says, "Did you ever go see the doctor after your exam right before you left the house? He did tell you he was worried about those lymph nodes on your neck. Did you ever go back to find out what was wrong?" But Ryan is gone, never saying a word.
David thinks, "You're dying, my friend, and that is why you set this up. You don't want Jesse to end up like you."
Jesse goes back to the house and tells Ryan about the Mission, as Ryan is in the bathroom again for what seems like the tenth time today. "Man, Ryan, the runs are really hitting you hard this month. What is going on? You've lost 20 pounds, at least. What is going on, Ryan?"
Ryan: "Yes, I know all about them. Good group if you want to get out of this. I just couldn't handle all the rules and I blew it. Of course David wanted to 'save me,' and I knew then it was a lost cause." He looks Jesse in the eye and says, "Listen, my brother, there is a day coming and it will be soon where you are going to need help, and David will be there for you. I think it’s time you got off the streets and tried to be a normal kid again."
Jesse: “Come with me . We can both get help."
Ryan starts coughing and sweating profusely, burning up. "I screwed up my life too much. There is no hope for me. David hates me and wouldn't help me anyways, since I disappointed him so many, many times."
Jesse: "If you won't try, then I won't try."
Ryan is starting to run a high fever and is delirious. Jesse is scared. He thinks, "I need money to get Ryan to a doctor." He goes in the middle of the night to the Mission. The place is closed up. He breaks a window and sneaks in. As he is rummaging around looking for something to steal and sell so he can take Ryan to the ER, he comes face to face with David who is angry. He slams Jesse to the floor. Jesse starts to talk, but David won’t have any of it. He grabs the phone to call the police.
David: "What do you think you are doing? Breaking in here to steal!!!! What, your drug habit is getting so hard that you can't continue at your level on what you make hustling?!!! I don't know how many places you've robbed, but this stops here. You are going to Juvenile Detention Center for this one."
Jesse, crying: "No man, it's Ryan, my best friend. He's sick. I think he's dying. I was desperate and came in here to find something to steal to sell and take him to the doctor. We had no one or nowhere else to turn to. If you want to arrest me, fine, but please help Ryan."
David softens. "Oh my, I'm so sorry. Take me to him. I can help."
He goes into the house with Jesse. Ryan, who can barely do anything, gets upset. "Please, David, don't be angry." He looks into David's face and sees tears coming down from this tough, hard man. "Ryan, I was never angry with you. I care about you, like I care about all of you. I am so sorry." He carries Ryan out of the house and to the emergency room. He and Jesse sit down and wait.
Jesse, outside Ryan's room at the hospital, is waiting for the doctor's evaluation.The doctor tells David and Jesse that Ryan has full blown AIDS and has only weeks left.
David takes Jesse back to the Mission to rest and sleep for a time. He then returns to the hospital. Ryan collapses in David's arms, crying.
Later, Jesse is in the hospital room with Ryan, who is in a semi-comatose state.
David makes Jesse go at the end of the night and eat at the Mission. The pastor talks about the Prodigal Son and how his dad was always outside on the road close to home, wondering, " Is this the day my son comes home?"
Jesse is back in the hospital and he leans over to Ryan. "Heard a message today at Emmaus. God wanted me to tell you about the Prodigal Son who was away. His dad was out on the road by the home wondering, 'Is this the day my son comes home?' " Jesse is crying, "Ryan, the Father God is at the road saying, 'Is this the day my son Ryan comes home? I love him and I do not hate him for what he did in the past. IT IS IN THE PAST. "
Jesse: "If not for you, I'd be dead. You pushed me at the end to go back to David and get help. I am moving into the Mission and getting back my life. If not for you... I love you, my friend. The battle is over. Go be with Jesus. No more pain, no more hunger, no more sorrow, no more tears."
Ryan, semi-comatose, in a great deal of pain, hears Jesse and wants so desperately to tell him he is going to be okay. Then all of a sudden, the pain is gone. He feels totally well and whole, and he swears he feels arms holding him in love. Not sexual love but pure, complete love, and he opens his eyes and finds that he is in the arms of Jesus. Jesus with tears in his eyes says, “Welcome home, My son. A place has been prepared for you. There will be no more pain, no more tears, no more illness, no more struggles. You've come home."
Ryan flatlines. Jesse puts his head on Ryan's chest and just cries and cries.
We see David helping Jesse move what little stuff he has into the Mission.
Jesse meets with the house staff and residents. "My name is Jesse and I need help."
Months later Jesse is back in high school and has a life. Jesse is applying for Bible colleges, looking to become a minister just like David and help men everywhere find the hope that he has. He knows that one day soon, Jesse will see Ryan again, and both will be in the arms of Jesus, as He says, "Welcome home, My son. There is a place prepared for you."
Part 2: Purification
Jesse has been at the mission home a couple of days when the house leader Greg comes to see him. He walks into the room Jesse shares with three other men. The others are out working at jobs that the mission helped them get.
Greg: "Hey we need to have a chat."
Jesse sits up: "What’s up, Greg?"
Greg: "School starts next week. We need to get you enrolled."
Jesse laughs. "What high school would take me with my background. The kids will kill me when they find out what I did for almost two years."
Greg has his hands folded. “You got no choice. For you to get back on your feet and to have a chance at a great life, you need a high school diploma." Have you found a church youth group to get involved with yet?"
Jesse: "No, for the same reasons."
Greg: "You are going to have to follow the rules and the plans set out for you when you came in to this house."
With that, Greg leaves the room and leaves Jesse to think what his next move is. It’s now Wednesday night. Jesse is standing outside the door of a church. He is so nervous when a boy his age walks up to him and says, "Hi. First time here, huh? It’s ok. We don’t bite. New to town? Don’t think I have ever seen you before."
Jesse: “You might say I’m new to this area of town. My name is Jesse."
The kid: "My name is Doug. Welcome to the Rock Church. So, do your parents go to church around here?"
Jesse tries to avoid answering the question. But Doug keeps asking.
Jesse: "My parents don’t go to church at all. Never have."
Doug takes him to the youth group room to meet the youth pastor, Tom. Tom asks the same questions as Doug did. Jesse gives the same answers to Tom that he gave to Doug.
Soon he is walking home. Too late he realizes he’s going to have to walk past one of his cruising areas and see his old friends. Soon one of his old buddies comes walking up to him. Jesse sees Ben carrying a large bottle of Whiskey. Ben is Jesse’s age. "Hey, been long time no see. How’s it going?"
Ben takes a swig. "The johns are getting rougher. We lost Tony last week. Found him in a dumpster with a bullet in his head. Chris and Pete, they died of aids like the rest of them right here on the streets. No one noticing or caring. So most of the old gang are either dead or in jail or missing." Offers Jesse the bottle. Jesse caresses the bottle, fighting an urge but he hands it back to Ben. Jesse: "No thanks, Ben. Not today."
Across the street is David watching what just went on and he’s not happy. Soon Jesse is back at the house. Greg and David are in the kitchen waiting for him. All David says is, "Come with us into the office, young man."
Jesse thinks as he walks in, as Greg closes the door behind them, leaving David, Greg and him. One in front of him and one behind him. "Great. Whatever I did, they must be afraid I might try and run for it." So to ease their fears, he takes a seat at the far end of the office on a couch.
Greg: "You may not have known this but for the first few weeks after someone joins the house, we have someone at all times shadowing them."
Jesse realizes that someone had seen him talking to Ben and holding the bottle of whiskey. He gets up and heads for the door.
David: "Where are you going, Jesse?"
Jesse: "Well, I blew it, so I am going to go get my stuff and leave. I mean, you are kicking me out, aren’t you?”
David: "No, my friend. We just want to find out what made you do what you did."
Jesse: "Found out many of my friends out there have died of aids, johns killed them or in jail. The booze was a temptation to kill what I was feeling inside. But I knew it wasn’t the answer. So I refused the drink, gave it back to Ben and got out of there before it was too late."
Greg nods his head. "Get ready for bed. You start school tomorrow."
Later, in the middle of the night, Jesse is having a nightmare. It starts out ok. He lived with his mom, dad and sister. They were a loving family who cared for him a great deal. Flash forward to visiting a friend of the family’s and, later that day, we see a bleeding and bruised Jesse in the shower crying and trying to scrub off what had just happened to him.
He tells his parents what had just happened. They didn’t believe him and called him a liar. That night, he packed his bags and took the bus off to a big city where he can disappear. He wakes up screaming. Greg and David come rushing in, comforting him, praying and talking to him, trying to help him deal with his demons.
A few minutes later, David and Greg leave the room and go into the office. They just sit there for what seems like hours, neither wanting to say what they were thinking.
David:"We are going to lose him, aren’t we?"
Greg:"I don’t know. I just don’t know."
A year later, Jesse has settled in at school and church. No one in either place knows about his background and he is happy about that.
Greg stands outside his door. "Jesse, it’s been a year. It’s time to go to the health department."
Soon they return. Jesse: "How long till we get the HIV results?"
Greg: "It takes about two weeks.”
Doug and Jesse have become good friends. The two go to the movies one night two weeks later. As they head back to Doug’s place, Jesse realizes they are going to be going past his old cruising areas and he starts getting nervous.
They get almost past the area when Jesse hears a drunken Ben call out to him. Doug: "Who is that and how does he know you?"
Jesse: "I have no idea who he is." He walks Doug back to his place fast and leaves him outside.
Jesse heads back to Ben and Doug is seen following slightly behind him.
He sees Ben lying in the alley. He runs over to Ben. Ben is barely breathing. Jesse picks up his cell phone and dials 911. He cradles Ben, crying, talking to him about their past, the good times, the bad times and the times in between. Doug is a little ways away, listening to everything with a weird look on his face. Doug goes away and makes phone calls.
Jesse dials the mission. "Greg, tell Dave to come to the spot he saw me with Ben, and please hurry.” Hangs up the phone and an ambulance siren is heard in the distance. A few minutes later, Greg and David come running up and Jesse collapses in their arms as a sheet is put over Ben’s body.
Jesse lets them take him back to the house. The phone rings. Greg goes and answers it. David sits next to Jesse. He leaves an envelope on the nightstand next to Jesse’s bed.
Greg whispers something to David outside Jesse's room. He says to Greg, "You and I have to get to the church. Make sure Jesse doesn’t hear about this."
Greg, to a house leader, Andy: "Keep an eye on him. We gotta go out for a couple of hours."
Soon Andy has the TV on in the living room. Once in awhile, he goes into Jesse’s room. Jesse is just staring out into space, no reaction to anything.
The phone rings. Andy picks it up. "Hey, Greg. What’s up?"
Greg: "Church found out about Jesse’s past and it don’t look good."
Andy looks on the TV and sees a live newscast at the church meeting. He says goodbye to Greg then Andy turns up the volume. We hear parents and students yelling and screaming, “We don’t want that fag in this church. How do we know our kids are safe with this freak amongst them. He might do some terrible things to them.”
Doug is leading the charge. "And how do we know that he doesn’t have aids or something like that, and we might end up getting it being near him?"
Greg tries to reason with the parents, the kids and the church board of directors. When the board finds out who he is, they have the police throw him out of the meeting with orders not to let him back in.
Pastor Tom: "We let this gay teen into our church, not knowing what a sinner he is and now he must be gone. We don’t want him near our children. Lord only knows what he will do to them and to our normal teens in the youth group. He might turn them into freaks like himself!"
Doug stands up. "How do we know he is a Christian? He claims to be one. But since he’s gay, he’s going to hell like all the other gays.”
Andy, back at the house, turns away from the TV which is still airing the church debate. He sees that Jesse has been watching the whole meeting. Jesse runs back into the room and locks the door. No matter what Andy says to him, Jesse won’t answer the door. Andy grabs the cell phone and texts what is going on to David and Greg.
At that moment, the vote at the church was 93, yes and 7, no to banning Jesse from the church. David and Greg read the text and run for the door.
Jesse tears open the envelope that David had left. It was from the health department.
A few minutes later, David and Greg are at Jesse’s door trying to get him to open the door. The two of them and Andy break down the door. The room is empty and the window is open. They realize Jesse had escaped out the window.
In the alley close to where Ben had died. No tape, no crime scene, no nothing. Jesse reads the HIV results again and trips over something. It’s a brand new bottle of whiskey.
Jesse sits down cradling the bottle, crying, realizing it belongs to Ben. He opens it and puts it up to his nose to smell. He knows drinking isn’t the answer but he is hurting so badly.
He feels he has no choices in life anymore. He sees a john slowing down near his resting place. He gives the signal to go around the block and he will be ready. Then Jesse starts drinking the whiskey.
Fade to block
To be Continued
Part 3: Restoration
Two days after Jesse vanished, a sports car pulls up in front of the mission. A young man gets out of the car and walks into the office area.
David: "Yes, can I help you?"
Young man: "Yes, I’m looking for a young man named Jesse. I was told that he lives here."
David takes the young man into the office and closes the door.
A month later, David is helping serve the men when a shadow comes across his path. In the background, we see the young man with the sports car helping out. "You have a lot of nerve showing up here after what you did." Standing in front of David is Doug.
Speed up to 4 years later. We see Jesse in rags, full beard, totally dirty, in really bad shape. Smelly, thin as a rail, slowly dying. Smelling of booze and high on drugs. He is walking down a street he has never been down before. It’s going to be hours before the johns are up and looking for someone to go to bed with. And Jesse is so bad off, it’s getting harder and harder to find johns willing to sleep with him.
He hears music coming from a strip mall. Church music. Up beat, kinda rock and roll style. He stands outside the door, listening to it.
At the end of the service, a couple from the front of the congregation gets up and walks up to Jesse. The man puts out his hand.
John: "Welcome to the Vine. First time here?"
Jesse doesn’t answer him, he just starts to leave.
Martha: "My husband is the associate pastor here and he’s here a lot. If there is anything he can do to help you or you just want to talk to him, please come back."
Jesse just walks out the door without a word. Over the next few weeks, he comes and goes but he leaves before anyone can come anywhere close to him.
A few weeks later, he wakes up with no memory of where he had been or what had gone on or what day it is. He was starting to feel awful, realizing he was just waking up from a blackout and was now overdosing on drugs.
He walks out of the alley knowing he needs to get help fast or he’s going to die. He keeps asking the crowd around to please call 911 to help him and everyone runs away from him.
Down the street, he sees the Vine, but it’s too early in the morning. No one is there yet. So he lays down in front of the door, falling asleep, praying he wakes up.
Soon he wakes up in a room but he can’t see. The lights are too bright. A voice says, "Oops, sorry. Didn’t expect you to wake up so soon." The lights dim down and he sees Martha and John on either side of the cot Jesse is lying on.
Jesse: "Where am I? How did I get here?"
John: "I found you passed out, almost dead on the front step of the church. We almost took you to the emergency room. Instead I called a member of our church who is a doctor and he was able to save your life. Rest now. You are in a room at the church. Let us get you the soup my wife just made and we will be right back."
They left him alone in the church to rebuild his strength, not asking him how or what he was.
John and Jesse talked one night. Jesse asked him to keep him in his prayers cause he was dealing with things that would not be looked upon well in the church and he needs help to get free from
Later that night as John drove home, God revealed to him about Jesse’s alcohol and drugs, which he knew about, and then the prostitution.
The next day John goes to Jesse's room. It’s empty. He is gone.
That next Sunday, John is preaching on no matter what you have done, God will forgive you. He talks about that one of Jesus’ ancestors was Rahab, the harlet from Jericho. In the back, Jesse is listening. At the altar call, he comes forward. John: "God told me what you were and what you are. Now you are His son. He doesn’t judge you. We don’t judge you. God loves you and so do we."
Months go by. Jesse has been staying at the Vine. He has another HIV test. It also comes back negative and he had been abstinent long enough to know he is clear. He talks to John and Martha about the mission and David and Greg and how much he misses them.
Martha: "I think you are now at a point where it’s time to go back to the mission and let them help finish the work God has done in you."
Jesse: "After all I have done, if I called David or Greg, they will laugh in my face and say, ‘Don’t come here ever again.’ I really screwed up."
As John and Martha get up to go, Martha hands him a phone. "Here. When you are ready, call them."
Later that night, Jesse, with tears in his eyes, calls the mission and gets David’s voice mail. "David. It’s Jesse. I’m ok. Got involved in a church in the last few months called the Vine and I am doing well but I miss you. My friends think that it’s time to go back to the mission and let God finish the work He has started. I told them, not a chance. David probably hates that I failed him and God and he won’t want me back. I am leaving an opening. If you forgive me, I am staying at the Vine. This coming Wednesday, I am being baptized and giving my testimony. Please show up." He hangs up the phone.
Wednesday night. No David. No Greg. No one. It’s just Jesse at the altar crying as the church members had all gone home. He feels a hand on his shoulder. He turns around and, in front of him with tears in his eyes, is David. David picks Jesse up in a huge bear hug and says, "Of course, I forgive you. I love you like a son. It’s time to come home."
In the back, Jesse sees John and Martha, watching and crying. Jesse and David get his stuff and soon Jesse is back in the house.
David: "We need to talk and then go over to the mission. Some people want to see you."
Jesse: "I’ve seen Greg just a few minutes ago. Who else is there?"
As they walk over to the mission, Jesse is sad. "I miss my parents and my kid brother, Chris. It’s been so long since I’ve seen them.”
He sees Doug working the tables helping the others and a great deal of anger boils up inside of him. He starts to leave.
David blocks his way. "It’s time to deal with him. Doug, not long after the church incident, came here repenting, asking forgiveness and wanted to help. He’s been here ever since.”
Jesse turns around and comes face to face with Doug.
Doug: "I am so sorry for what I did. Can you ever forgive me?"
Jesse, crying, hugs him. "Of course, I forgive you."
David: "See that wasn’t so hard. Now can you do the same thing with your family, even though they are not here?"
Jesse gets on his knees, praying, crying "God, I do forgive them. Someday, maybe I will see them again."
He opens his eyes to the young man in the sports car who showed up days after he vanished.
It takes Jesse a few minutes, then he cries and hugs him. "Chris, my God. My brother." Soon they are both crying and hugging, then laughing.
Chris turns him around to the front door as his parents come walking in and all run to each other. “The family is whole again.” Chris says to David.
Months later, David alone in his office now talking to the readers of this.
"Months later, Jesse returned home. The man who had hurt him had gone to prison for other offenses. Jesse has been sober now almost 6 months and HIV- so ends his story. Not everyone who goes through what Jesse did ends happily ever after. Many die. Many are lost. We need to do more for the street kids than what is being done now. For more information, please look up Emmaus Ministries, Chicago, Illinois, and let us all help the Jesses of this world. Thank you and God bless.