Reflections from Washington DC

by Mike Ratliff

My wife and I are in our nation’s capital visiting our son. He lives in Columbia Heights because he is physician who is in his first year residency at GWU Hospital in their Emergency Medicine program. As we ate dinner with him this afternoon he shared some things with us about some of his latest patients. There was the woman who died as they began treating her. She had massive hemorrhaging in her chest cavity and bled to death in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Then there was the intravenous drug user who didn’t have any veins left in which to give him an IV. There were more…

On Thursday, we took the Metro Yellow Line from our hotel in Crystal City to our son’s neighborhood. The best way to describe the area of DC in which he lives is as a melting pot and very busy. The sidewalks are packed with young people, old people, Hispanics, blacks, students, you name it. I was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt with sandals. Neither of us was dressed in any way that would suggest that we were not part of this seamy side of the city. At least that is what I thought. However, it became obvious in a hurry that we did stand out and were stared at. Some reacted with indifference. Some reacted by making the point that they were just as significant as us by being rude and loud, bordering on obnoxious.

This morning I prayed that God would give me insight and wisdom and discernment about what He was showing me. The word that kept coming to me was that I was seeing what people are like without Jesus. Now I know that there are believers in this city because this is where Mark Dever’s church is, however, the focus of these people’s lives was on trying to find significance any way they could, in the best way they could. They found it, or at least they thought they did in their “culture” and “lifestyles,” but if they are confronted with the gospel, hostility is their first reaction.

There is another side to the city as well. There is money and power here. Property and rental property is way over-priced. My son’s rent is more than my house payment back in the Kansas City area and he is paying only half the total rent for a two-bedroom apartment. Those with the money live their lives as if God doesn’t exist either. You see them at the expensive sidewalk café’s just off of Dupont Circle or Massachusetts avenue or at Pentagon City or Crystal City, etc. Instead of going home after work, they hit the scene, eat and drink and party. I don’t see anyone being broken hearted over the masses of lost and dying folks all around them either.

Isn’t this the state of fallen man? What can we do about it? I can do nothing except pray and obey. That means that God can do something and He can and does work through His people here such as Mark Dever. Each of us should be lights of truth by being humble and content where God has us. Then we should be ready to give an account to all whom the Lord brings into our sphere. We are not responsible for what they do or don’t do with the truth we give them, but we must give it to all who will hear. Again, this isn’t about telling people about Jesus making anyone’s life better temporally. Instead, it is about telling the truth about fallen man and the only way to eternal life through the Son. We must give them the good news then pray for God to bear fruit in their hearts.

God’s will be done.




21 thoughts on “Reflections from Washington DC

  1. Thanks for posting this Mike. I live in Northern VA and my office is in Crystal City (probably very close to where you stayed). I see what you have seen this week on a daily basis (I also have family in the inner DC neighborhoods and visit there also). It is heartbreaking and it is challenging but thank you for pointing out the Lord has given each of His own a sphere of influence, a sphere where they are to be the light., and to tell others who they come across in that sphere (whether it be family, friend, co-worker or the mailman) the truth about our fallen state and that there is one way to salvation. When all the celebrities, politicians, and social gospel preachers, leave after spending a weekend tickling the ears of fallen man, this is still the sphere the Lord has placed me in. May we all be reminded, we don’t need to look across the ocean for a mission field (not saying anything against that, for it is good also), there is a large mission field right here in our own back yard.


  2. Hey Mike,

    You’re in my neck of the woods, too. I live in Landover, MD, but DC in just over the line. Like, Renee, I see and experience this everyday. It is heartbreaking. Even today, as I dropped my daughter to school and drove to work, there were so many who had the look of hopelessness. I wanted to stop and tell them that there is hope – it is found in Christ. We look to so many things to try to satisfy and these things do not measure up. We need to know only Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

    Just act natural, Mike. Everyone will know you’re a tourist :-)! Keep your eyes open and trust the Lord. Maybe you can share with someone while you’re here. Please do pray for us who live in this wicked Metropolis that we may be lights shining Christ!

    Safe journey,



  3. Wow Mike, what you describe sounds like what I left 17 years ago. Mine was on the other side of the ocean. California. And I don’t miss it a bit either. It sounds like no matter where you live, it seems to be the same ol thing. Some areas not as populated, but most people the same, worldly with no care at all for the Lord what so ever. Sad. Like you always say……..come quickly Lord Jesus.


  4. Paul and Luann,

    This is heartbreaking and I knew God was going to use this in my ministry somehow. You know that God has made it clear that we are to live our lives with our Treasure in Heaven. When we do that then this sort of thing breaks into our consciousnesses and it is so heart-rending…

    You have it right… Come quickly and soon Lord Jesus!


  5. Mike,

    I don’t miss any big city. I lived in Phoenix and Minneapolis. I think I will stay in small town IA. I have been out on the East Coast and I was glad to go home. 🙂 I did get the wonderful opportunity to witness to an elderly man when he came into the store I manage. After I read this post about praying pelafterwards that God bear fruits in their hearts. I did that. Thank you.

    I agree with Paul and you ..Come quickly Lord Jesus!!!


  6. I can sympathize with your situation, Mike. I just returned from Jakarta, Indonesia recently. Jakarta is a city of more than 12 million documented citizens, but it also contains an estimated 2-4 million additional undocumented “drifters”. Indonesia is an island chain (technically an archipelago) whose denizens simply come and go from island to island without anything like “border control”.

    To put it in perspective Jakarta’s population density is comparable to taking a city that’s roughly the geographic size and population of Tokyo – without the well planned infrastructure – and then throwing the population of the city of Atlanta in on top of it.

    To put it mildly I’ve never seen such a press of humanity in my life. I’ve also never seen such abject poverty and human suffering in the midst of such displays of fabulous material wealth and abundance.

    There are the “haves” and there are the “have nots” and there’s no middle ground; no middle class. The very rich and the very poor literally live side by side. Beautiful modern condominiums and skyscrapers rise from shanty towns surrounded by filth and filled with misery.

    A constant, choking blue-grey smog hangs over everything – at all times of the day and night – and what might have been a scenic river flowing through the middle of town flows with trash and various unidentifiable forms of flotsam and jetsam. I believe it would have literally caught fire and burned if someone threw in a lit match.

    I was shocked, amazed, and saddened. As you’re no doubt aware Indonesia is the largest Muslim nation on earth. Everywhere I looked I saw the moon and crescent and the towering spires of mosques. Most of the women wore head coverings and on Friday night as I lay upon my bed I listened to the doleful din of Friday night prayer calls emanating from the giant loudspeakers adorning the dozens of mosques dotting the city’s landscape.

    It was surreal and gave me pause to seek the Lord of Glory with a truly broken heart. My heart was wrenched at the rampant deception and hopelessness gripping that country. I saw small children, no older than my own, sleeping alongside the roads or begging random passersby.

    I was reminded of the pain of sin and the terrible toll it has taken upon mankind since the fall. I was also reminded that in and of myself I have nothing to offer; no peace, no solace, and no hope apart from the hope of glory which the King of Glory has placed within me. Yet this hope is more than enough and His grace is more than sufficient.

    For me Indonesia served as an object lesson in the utter hopelessness and inherent religiousity of fallen man. An intense and pervasive sense of oppression hung in the air, not unlike the ubiquitous blue-grey smog. It was so thick I felt I could cut it with a knife. I can only describe it as demonic. Indonesia is a known hotbed of sex traffic and illegal drugs in Southeast Asia. It’s a seedy, backwater part of the world where every base sin and corrupt impulse is available for depraved men to indulge in to their black heart’s content.

    To say I was appalled at the condition of Jakarta would be an understatement.

    Oh, Father God help us to be salt and light in a sin sick and dying world. Oh, King of Glory may your light shine through those who are called by your Holy Name as a flame shines forth from a lamp. May we be debased and may You be glorified, may we decrease and may You increase in all things and in every area of the life which you’ve given.

    May all praise, and glory, and power, and honor, and strength, and wisdom, and riches be unto Your Holy Name forever and evermore.


  7. the focus of these people’s lives was on trying to find significance any way they could, in the best way they could. They found it, or at least they thought they did in their “culture” and “lifestyles,”

    For those of us who were saved later in life, this describes how we tried to live for so many years. Looking back (just 4 years ago), I find it unbelievable that I thought I had a good, successful, and significant life. When the Truth struck me, it was devastating. I died. It is now no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

    Lord, give me great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart for the lost, and give them a heart to understand, eyes to see, and ears to hear.


  8. I had an experience at work a few days ago with a young man who has cancer and psych issues. He was not at all accepting of the Gospel even though he did own his grandmother’s Bible and read it some. It was a hard thing for me to do while I was in the middle of caring for him and I certainly didn’t go home with good feelings, but I did as much as I could. Maybe a seed was planted…only God can grow the seeds!


  9. Coram Deo,

    Exactly! Well said brother. My brother-in-law worked in Jakarta several years ago. He’s a petroleum engineer. What you shared here pretty much describes what he said about it. What a mass of humanity mostly full of hopelessness. Oh that the Lord would break in on them!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  10. You say you and your wife thought you blended in with the rest of the people but they spotted you as tourists.Could it be that they saw the Light that shines within?We may not notice the light in one another,but there is “something”the unregenerate “see” in us.Perhaps your lack of the look of hopelessness was off-setting to them,though they may not have realized what it truly was in you!Let the Light shine,everyone!It is noticeable!


  11. I agree with Sherry C. that it might have been nothing outward but that inner light that was making you stand out from the crowd. I’ve had that experience when I’ve been in downtown Seattle. I’m not a tourist … I don’t look any different from everyone else in the Pacific Northwest … but it happens again and again that I get treated oddly from the rest of the people walking down the sidewalk. I’ve come to believe that it’s simply that they can somehow see Jesus … and then scurry like mice away from the light.


  12. Bonnie,

    Welcome to Possessing the Treasure. I pray that the Lord will continue to draw your heart into the light as he has mine and so many others who come here to bask in it. He is good!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


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