Brian Carlson photography

By Phil Hissom

John has lived in Palms Trailer Park for three years. He has seen a lot of rough stuff go down, but he’s also seen the positive changes in the park. I had the opportunity to spend some time with him the other day, and I asked him why he thought things have gotten better.

His answer surprised me: “It’s you guys; you are the light.”

I was taken aback. I believe Jesus when he said, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). But when John said it, sincerely and to my face, my mind raced for a way to correct him – “oh no, we just help out,” or “Jesus is the light,” or “there have been so many people involved, we’re nothing special” – true enough, but I'm glad that what actually came out of my mouth was, “Thanks John, that’s a very kind thing to say.”

John went on to share about his life and his own budding relationship with God.

“You know,” he said, “I’m all about the facts. When people say ‘God did this’ and ‘God did that’ after I’ve just seen them do it themselves … well, that makes me suspicious.” He continued, “There’s usually a perfectly reasonable, scientific explanation for things and that’s the way I think.”

So he decided to test God, scientifically, by the facts.

He prayed one day and asked God to give him a sign, and within 24 hours – Bam! - he got it. To him, that was now just a fact, plain as day. He did it a few more times and – Bam! – within 24 hours each time it would happen. “I couldn’t ignore the facts so I started praying every day. I didn’t feel right about testing God so I stopped doing that. I started to just ask him to help me. I have been doing that now for about six months.”

John went on to talk about making something of his life with the skills God has given him. And even though he’s far from home and close friends, he’s moving forward with his plan:

He works full-time and recently enrolled in college. He’s also helping others. He helped a single mother who had been lured into prostitution get back to the safety of her family in another state and into the arms of her daughter. It took a long time to make it happen, but he persisted in doing good because he knew it was right. John’s an awesome young man. He said, “My family is so proud of me now.” I can see why. I’m proud of him, too.

At some point, I had to ask, “So why do you think all these positive changes are happening in your life?”

He thought for a moment and said simply, “God,” while he continued in thought. After a few minutes he added, “But I ain’t about to get all religious or anything; some people get carried away with that stuff. I keep it simple. I know God hears my prayers and helps me and my life is getting better. Failure’s not an option for me anymore.”

Wow, John. Thanks for sharing your story and allowing me to share it on this blog. YOU, my friend, are the light.

Phil Hissom

Phil Hissom is the Founder of the POLIS Insitute and the primary author of Dignity Serves. He can be reached at

Consider signing up for Dignity Serves, a six-lesson course that helps you rethink the way we serve others in our community. It teaches you to see problems differently and respond in a way that empowers those you serve rather than just meeting their immediate needs.