God can use you to make a difference in our broken world no matter your past. Just commit your way to the Lord like Jephthah did and depend on His Holy Spirit.
When I think about Jephthah, I think about George Floyd, who was recently murdered in Minneapolis. George was a towering 6-foot by 6-inch black man, who grew up in Houston’s Third Ward, on the southeast side of the city. Just a few years ago, sociologists classified it as the 15th most dangerous area in the United States. George was a tough young man in that ward, who terrorized the neighborhood and had a criminal history.
Then God got a hold of him and started using him to reach that same neighborhood with the Gospel of Christ. He became a mentor to a generation of young men, wanting to break the cycle of violence and use his influence to bring outside ministries in to do discipleship and outreach.
People in the Third Ward called him “Big Floyd” and regarded him as a community leader and elder statesman. They called him an “OG”, which stands for “original gangster.” If new gangsters think they are tough, then “OG’s” are many times tougher. They’re “old school” with a depth of experience and knowledge that young people respect.
George used that reputation to connect Houston’s Resurrection Church with people in his tough neighborhood, particularly in the Cuney Homes housing project, locally known as “the Bricks.”
Patrick Ngwolo, Resurrection Church’s pastor says “George Floyd was a person of peace sent from the Lord that helped the gospel go forward in a place that I never lived in.” He says, “The platform for us to reach that neighborhood and the hundreds of people we reached through that time and up to now was built on the backs of people like Floyd.”
The church expanded its involvement in the area, holding Bible studies and helping out with groceries and rides to doctor’s appointments. Floyd didn’t just provide access and protection; he lent a helping hand as the church put on services, three-on-three basketball tournaments, barbecues, and community baptisms.
The rapper Ronnie Lillard says, “He helped push the baptism tub over, understanding that people were going to make a decision of faith and get baptized right there in the middle of the projects. The things that he would say to young men always referenced that God trumps street culture. I think he wanted to see young men put guns down and have Jesus instead of the streets.”
Nijalon Dunn, a recently baptized believer in the Cuney housing project, said of George Floyd, “His faith was a heart for the Third Ward that was radically changed by the gospel, and his mission was empowering other believers to be able to come in and push that gospel forth. There are things that Floyd did for us that we’ll never know until the other side of eternity. There were times where we’d have Church at the Bricks until 3 p.m., and by 4:30, they’re firing shots right at the basketball courts.”
George had moved to Minnesota a couple of years ago (2018) to be part of a discipleship program, which included job placement. He had plans to return to Houston this summer to continue his ministry there, but he never made it back. Even so, Lillard said he’ll be “immortalized in the Third Ward community forever. His mural will be on the walls. Every youth and young man growing up will know George Floyd. The people who knew him personally will remember him as a positive light. Guys from the streets look to him like, ‘Man, if he can change his life, I can change mine.’” (Kate Shellnutt, “George Floyd Left a Gospel Legacy in Houston: As a person of peace, “Big Floyd” opened up ministry opportunities in the Third Ward housing projects,” Christianity Today, May 28, 2020)
God used “Big Floyd,” with a violent, criminal history to change his neighborhood for Christ. And I believe God will use his death to change our entire country for the better. Unlike ever before, people from all races and political persuasions have condemned his murder and are calling for changes to make our justice system more just. May he not have died in vain.
George Floyd’s pastor put it this way: “Jesus’ blood says he can redeem us through these dark and perilous times. I have hope because... I see my brother [Floyd] as a Christ figure... pointing us to a greater reality. God does hear us. He hears [Floyd’s] cry even from the ground now. Vengeance will either happen on the cross or [it] will happen on Judgment Day.” (Ibid.)
Because of the cross, God used “Big Floyd” to change his world. In the same way, God can use you to change your world no matter what your past is.