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Testimonies

Joshua's Odyssey
Sycamore Canyon
April & May 2004
 


On a cold afternoon four years earlier a Native American in Prescott, Arizona had prophesied to me. The aggressive Indian had said, ďWhere are you from anyway? Jerusalem and where are you going, Flagstaff?Ē The angry man had really scared me a bit with those hateful eyes and his almost physical intimidation, but now I thought back to what he had said and thought it was strange how at the end of my journey I had ended up in Flagstaff again for a second time at the end of my second walk. It seemed like more than a coincidence; it seemed like God had planned it that way.

I had come to Flagstaff again without planning to stay or end my walk there. I had just come after spending about a month in Sycamore Canyon to find food and rest from the constant attempts at fasting. The plan was to head back to the canyon and try again afterwards: but as I approached Flagstaff on I-40 heading east I had begun having more intense visions and I began searching my Bible for words from God. This may seem a little odd to some, but there were times when I could take out my Bible and start reading in some random book and receive words of comfort or instruction from the Lord. I donít really remember what book I was in or what exactly God was telling me at that time, but I know that the visions and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit were increasing. This was where God took over in the battlefield of my mind. I was still in a state of delusion and mental illness, but at the same time very real words were spoken and visions were being seen. The visions and revelations that I had as I approached Flagstaff were powerful enough to make me reconsider the path I was on and I began to hear from God that my walk was through.

I had been walking in spiritual warfare and I had, experienced hallucinations, heard voices, had nightmarish thoughts and dreams, and basically been just plain tormented and mentally attacked by demons; and they had lied, stolen, and basically tried to destroy me and to make me insane. The other side of that coin was that I had also been walking in the supernatural, been led by the Spirit of God, and received from Him dreams, visions, and revelations. I understood my own mental and spiritual battle like the parable that Jesus taught of the sower who sowed good seed in his field and the enemy came and planted weeds. ďLet both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them into bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.Ē (Matt 13:24)

There I was again in Flagstaff on the outskirts of town near I-40. I set up camp behind a shopping center in a vacant lot near a couple of hotels and supermarkets with plenty to eat and plenty of newspapers to read. I sat beneath a pine tree out in the open and kept a comfortable distance from others. I had no plans to stay in Flagstaff at this point, I was just passing the time for now, content to rest and be able to eat. After a couple of days I was ready to head back to Sycamore Canyon in another attempt at fasting. I got water and then traveled east on I-40 with a plan to enter the forest again in Bellemont or Parks. A day later I was back on those forest roads heading south. I had to pretty much guess which trails to take hoping that they would lead back to Sycamore Canyon, because these were new trails to me and I didnít have a map of the forest trail system. Anyway, I made it about 2 days in and I still hadnít reached the canyon, but I began to get a sense that God was calling me back to Flagstaff. I canít remember all the details of my thoughts or visions at that particular moment, but I had already begun to feel as though something was about to change for me.

1. I donít know what God was saying to me when I turned around that day, but I began the 2 day journey back to Flagstaff. It seemed much longer heading back than it had going in, so I hurried and walked all night to make it back to Bellemont where I found nothing to eat. Determined to find something I went west again on the Interstate with the anticipation of finding dinner at the rest stop. I knew I would find food there. People always got rid of their half eaten snacks and fast food dinners. Under the cloak of darkness I rummaged through the metal garbage cans and found plenty of food. It was less desirable than the food I found at the grocery stores, but I was too hungry to care. I read the newspaper and I remember reading about the prison scandal at Abu Ghraib and about the beheading of an American named Nick Berg by Al Qaeda. They were both terrible tragedies and reminders of what a sick and sadistic world we truly live in. I took the food into the woods and ate and then made my bed.

In the morning, it was only a 7 mile trek back to Flagstaff, a short 2-3 hour hike, but it was a walk full of significant visions and revelations. There was a flow of imagery that filled my consciousness. The visions were real and abundant, though they werenít hallucinations. I saw everything in my mindís eye. I saw nothing in the real world that wasnít there. I was just having pictures downloaded into my mind. The images were of God. God as I believed I had seen Him in the beginning, in the body of an older distinguished black man. I kept seeing the light shining from the black preacherís face, an image that was forever impressed upon my memory by the vision I had seen at the beginning of my walk, when the preacher had put his hand on my shoulder and looked away and I believe I had caught a glimpse of the Shekinah Glory of God, a glimpse of the splendid and glorious light of Godís face out of the corner of my eye. I was sure of my vision and now visions of a Grandfatherly black man kept playing repeatedly over in my mind, but there was more. I saw images of black historical figures praising God and there was a chorus of Hallelujahs ringing in my ears. I saw a white horse and at the front of a great army sat a figure whose face shined like the sun and they rode. It was a vision of victory and I saw an image of The Lord as a fighter standing over the enemy who was laid out on the canvas. I felt elated, emotional, and released from my efforts. I could feel Godís pleasure and I knew I was being set free. No more walking. No more fasting.

Back in Flagstaff I set up camp in the same place right off the highway, but this time I did more exploring and searching around town. I found a Good Will store and some new clothes. I knew my way around a bit from being there before several years ago, but for a while I stayed on the east side of town in the woods behind the strip mall. I was still having visions, but not quite as powerful as the ones I had coming back into town. My walk was over but even though I felt it during those intense visions it didnít really sink in for a couple of days. The thought just kept repeating itself and I began to believe once again that there was no one pursuing or hunting me and that I wouldnít have to die after all. There was a great relief in that revelation, but it took me by surprise and now I faced the dilemma of where to go from here.

The first day of my release from my mental burden or prison, I decided that if I wasnít going to walk then I must find some work to occupy my time. I had the idea to clean up the trash in the vacant forested lot behind the strip mall. I spent the entire day thoroughly cleaning up the trash in the wooded lot. I took everything to the closest dumpster, even picking up the smallest pieces of broken glass. I felt good about my job; surely someone would be grateful to see the area picked up. I thought to myself, ďThis is what Iíll do. Iíll clean up the whole city one lot at a time.Ē It gave me a purpose and I was excited about the prospect of life without fasting and walking. I had just about finished cleaning the lot and feeling good about how it looked when a man came by walking his dog and took notice. The man who walked his dog in the lot told me that he appreciated my efforts and handed me a dollar. I accepted. After 2 years of refusing to accept or even use money I had earned my first dollar. This was huge, because now I was working and accepting money and I realized that what that meant was that I could live like the rest of society again and it felt good. I pondered what that meant and I thought about how I had basically believed the whole system of money to be inherently evil in my illness; but I came to understand once again that it was the love of money and not the system of trade itself that the scripture calls the root of all evil. I had peace about it. God gave me peace about it. I realized that I had performed a needed task and that the kind and appreciative man had rewarded my hard work with money, my first dollar in almost 2 years.

I spent a couple of more days hanging around town. I did spend some more time picking up trash in various places, but it wasnít long before I felt the need to go get a shower and a hot meal. I decided to visit The Sunshine Gospel Rescue Mission in downtown Flagstaff. Iíd been there before back in 2001, so I knew exactly where it was located. I got there early before they were letting people in. There were probably a dozen or so guys hanging out in the front of the building. I recognized one guy from years back, he was easy to remember, he dressed like a cowboy with a black cowboy hat and trench coat and boots with spurs. I thought he looked a little like a character from a movie, but perhaps he was a real down on his luck cowboy, which probably wasnít a stretch given that they were in an area of Arizona where there were probably plenty of ranches. There were also a couple of old guys, a couple of young guys, and one or two Indians, most likely from the Navajo nation.

I was a little uncomfortable around people. I had spent so much time alone that I wasnít sure what to say or how to relate to others. I felt like a sore thumb, but I needed help and I had come to the right place. I was definitely filthy and I knew I smelled, which was another reason to keep my distance; but I was looking forward to that meal and taking a shower for the first time since bathing in the Colorado river last winter.

David Garcia opened the doors to the mission and the guys sat around socializing before the chapel service which always preceded supper. I sat there and kept to myself, but I said hello whenever someone spoke to me. Six oí clock came and the men gathered in the modest sanctuary. The superintendent of the mission, David, gave the sermon. I sat there in my metal folding chair with the other dozen or so men and just listened to David speak about the Lord Jesus Christ. David paced back and forth in front of the podium. He spoke in a way to counsel and encourage the men, he was not judgmental, but he was passionate. He was on fire for Christ and he said one thing that struck a chord with me. He said ďYouíve been out there wandering, chasing rainbows, but now itís time to come home, like the prodigal sonĒ. That was how I felt and I wanted to come home, not necessarily to my family yet, but off the streets and back to a real life.

I was delighted to be sitting there at that service and I was moved by Davidís message, moved enough to go up to the front at the end and receive Christ as my personal savior. David prayed over me and I remembered what the black preacher had said to me in the beginning, ďJust say, ĎJesus Christ is my Lord and Saviorí, and it will all be over.Ē That was how I remember it, that was what I thought I had heard in his message to me. I think that there had been some confusion for me all those years on the road because of my illness and I donít think I fully understood who Christ really was. All those years on the road, all those years of delusion had led to this moment. It wasnít quite like the awesome supernatural experience I had had in Long Beach four and a half years ago. It was simply a decision, and a prayer, and it was becoming a new understanding of the fact that Jesus Christ was the Lord who had carried me through those years on the road. Perhaps this was the moment of true salvation for me.

After the chapel service, we all sat around the dinner table and David gave thanks. We shared a hot meal of Mexican food and tortillas. It was the first real home-cooked meal I had had in almost 2 years. It was a blessing to be inside eating a good meal that wasnít from a garbage can. All the men were thankful, they were a rough looking bunch, but they were grateful to God and to the mission for what had been provided.

After supper, the guys headed upstairs for a quick shower, it was a community shower. The mission provided everyone with a clothes basket that contained soap, shampoo, towels, and pajamas to sleep in. The dirty clothes went into the basket for washing. The shower was so good. I washed my skinny body as best I could and shampooed my long greasy hair and beard. I looked in the mirror as I brushed my long tangled hair, and I was a bit amused by my thick, bushy beard; it didnít fit me, but I wasnít going to shave that night. It would be too much work. I brushed my teeth and felt around in my mouth for the rotten broken tooth inside. I hadnít brushed my teeth in just as long. It was lights out after the shower. The mission had strict rules for those who wanted to stay. We made our own beds and went to sleep, my first night in a real bed in a long time.

I stayed at the mission for three weeks. I got involved in a discipleship program that they had there for men who wanted to stay at the mission and get there life back on track. I attended all the Bible studies and I did work around the mission. I met some really cool guys there as well. I wrote home to my family and before long I received a call from my grieving mother who hadnít heard from me in two years and it was so awesome to reconnect. Things were better for me and I felt blessed and thankful for the food, fellowship, and shelter, but I was restless and after being there for about three weeks I decided to leave and head northwest to Washington State. Iím not sure exactly now, why I decided to go there, but I did. I said good bye to my new friends and went to the truck stop on highway 89 that heads north through the Navajo reservation and on into Utah.




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