Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The one


I went on a mission trip to Antigua, Guatemala, in January. It was a wonderful experience. We spent a week ministering to a group of mostly-teenaged girls at an orphanage. The opportunity to focus on ministry, completely away from my everyday life (which is where life is really lived) was soul feeding. A few nights into our visit, a few of us splintered off after dinner, wandering about the cobbled streets of Antigua looking for a place to enjoy ice cream and more conversation. I had already come to love the people in our group of 15 or so. All but two of them had been complete strangers before we met on the trip. As we wandered aimlessly in search of dessert, we laughed plenty and acted silly. Along the way, I passed by a homeless man and felt sorry for him. But I didn't know what I could do for him. We walked on by. You have to walk on, right? There are so many people like him across the world.

I read a book recently that really has my attention. It's "Always Enough" by Rolland and Heidi Baker. The book details the Bakers' experience sharing God's love (right along with food, shelter, medical attention and education) with the poorest of the poor in Zimbabwe. Along with incredible hardships, they've also witnessed and been part of incredible miracles: the blind seeing, the lame walking and more amazing things.

But it's not the miracles that hit me squarely between the eyes (though their accounting is remarkable). No, it's Heidi Baker's conviction that God has commissioned her over and over again to take care of "the one." The one in front of her. Likewise, God has commissioned us -- we Christians -- to care for the one in front of us. In other words, we shouldn't spend our time shaking our heads about how "the poor will always be with us" (and I'm not just speaking of the monetarily poor). Rather, when we see someone who is obviously in need, we should discover if we're able to help him -- and, if so, act.

That's scary stuff, y'all. At least it is for me. What, I can't keep walking past the homeless guy when I'm having a good time with my friends? Well, of course I can keep on walking. Of course I can. But should I? Will I?

Monday Roy and I got the kids up and headed to Georgetown, where our awesome friends Janet and Wade (I have to put Janet first; I've known her longer and she's The Keeper of Girlhood Secrets) were hosting a Memorial Day party, complete with bouncy house and 1,000 hamburger patties. It's about a three-hour drive. Normally.

My daughter doesn't look a thing like me. She doesn't have my hair, my eyes or (thank you, Jesus) my absurdly long toes. She does, however, get carsick like her momma and her momma's momma. Let me just say pulling over quickly when you're traveling 70 mph in the fast lane alongside concrete barriers is no small achievement. But Roy, bless his heart, did just that. Major points to Madeline for being able to wait long enough that the Crayon box did not become a receptacle of something the folks at Mattel never dreamed of.

After repeating this scene a second time, we decided 10:30 might not be too early for lunch after all. So we stopped in Temple at -- what else -- McDonald's. Sure, their food is gross and the McNuggets are barely edible pieces of chicken wrapped in fat. But, HEY, they have a playground. And there's really unimaginative, cheap toys in the Happy Meals!

Roy and the kids walked ahead of me into the restaurant. A middle-aged man in a black, Lynyrd Skynyrd cowboy hat sat a few yards from the entrance door. His feet were Indian-style and pulled under one bony elbow was a small travel bag. I had noticed him when we drove up. Now I would have to walk past him like the group of people ahead of us. He didn't speak to anyone.

Help the one, I thought. So I stopped in front of him. He looked up without speaking.

"Do you need anything?" I asked.

He stared a moment more. "Something to eat," he said. I told him I'd get him a burger. Just before I walked in the door he added sheepishly, "And a cup of coffee."

I told Roy what to add to our order and why. When we got our food I asked the man if he wanted to eat with us. He did. The playground was an outdoor one, and as it turned out, the kids never sat down with us anyway. So we sat at an outside booth and talked.

His name is Leray. He was mugged getting off a bus somewhere. They took all his luggage but the one bag. They took his money and his bus ticket. He was sleeping at a mission, waiting to get past the holiday weekend before he started hitchhiking toward a friend's house in New Mexico.

At Roy's questioning Leray told us, haltingly, he had served two tours in Vietnam. I noticed, though he was in need of fresh clothes, his shirt was tucked in and he wore a belt.

I felt the Lord urging me to say more, pushing me out of my comfort zone. So near the end of the meal, I told Leray the story of Jesus and the woman at the well, about how Jesus told the woman, "If you drink this water, you'll be thirsty again. But if you drink of the Living Water, you'll never thirst again." I told him we were happy to buy him a hamburger and give him a little cash, but he'd be hungry again and run out of money. "Jesus," I said, "is the Living Water. He can take care of you far past this meal. If you don't have him, I want you to."

He just stared at me a moment, his eyes moist. "I do," he said simply.

When we said goodbye, I hugged him. He told me, "Thank you for talking to me about Jesus." What a simple thing.

I share all this for two reasons: to remind myself that once is not near, near enough. That I must minister to the one over and over and over again -- even when the one isn't so pleasant. And to say that if I, the greatest of sinners, can begin to do this, we all can.

-30-

21 comments:

Erin said...

Wow!

Erin said...

I cant' think of anything other to say except for "wow". I am going to go call you now

OneCoolMama said...

Thanks for sharing this, Toni. A much needed reminder to notice the other lives going on around us that are in desperate need. Of food. Of money. But most of all, Jesus.

BooMama said...

First - thanks so much for your sweet comments on my blog...it made my day.

Second - what an awesome post. That's the Great Commission live and in person - and if you knew what a huge topic the Great Commission has been in our house over the last couple of months, you would understand why this story touched me so deeply.

Nice to meet you, Toni. I'll be back. :-) And I'll be sending others. :-)

Blessed Beyond Measure said...

I found you through my daughter's bloglines, I think. I'm sitting here just bowled over by your post. We had dinner a few weeks ago, at a very nice restaurant in Dallas to celebrate our son's graduation from college. Across the street was a man, sleeping, on the sidewalk. Even though I've seen the homeless this still amazed me. Broke my heart. My brother chose suicide over becoming homeless two years ago. Homelessness is something that keeps coming up to me - and your post struck me so - thank you not only for sharing, but for reaching out to this one person - I will not only be back to read more of any person who could have written this, but I will also remember you the next time I see someone in this situation - if you can do this - I can do it. Thank you for the encouragement to - as I just read this evening in the current issue of Today's Christian Woman - "put feet to my faith."

Diane said...

Here by way of BooMama. :-)

Toni, you are so right. It's easy to look at a group of people and say, "It's too much for me alone", but when we look at one at a time, we have no excuse for not doing all we can to help someone. Jesus said a cup of water in His name.....I don't have much, but I can always do something. I pray God will open my eyes to the needs around me. Thank you for being my teacher in this. I needed to hear this. :-)

Brenda said...

Here by way of BooMama.

Excellent post, Toni. Thank you for the reminder, and for setting the example for me.

Michelle said...

linked by boomama, very good blog! Very good reminder of what is important!

Addie said...

Wow! This is such Great stuff! Thank you for sharing this story. I will be thinking more about The One.

Praying for your Prodigal said...

Welcome! Here by the way of BooMama! I will be back.

Diane

e-Mom said...

Also here by way of BooMama. A very timely post! I like your profile too. I'm looking forward to reading more...

janna said...

I'm another one here from BooMama. What a great testimony this story is. I've always wanted to reach out to a person like that as you said you did.

I liked what you said about "the one". That person could be anyone,as there are so many hurting people out there. Thank you for putting up this post.

jenn said...

Hey, BooMama sent me too. I am literally weeping right now. I think about this all the time. It is so hard for me to step outside my comfort zone. Sometimes I can and my whole day is changed because of it, but mostly I just walk on. I pray God will give me the strength to stop and ask if I'm needed. Thank you so much for this. I'm bookmarking you right now :)

janice said...

I am full of shivers - what a powerful message. thanks you - i came through Jenn who came through BooMama

nice to meet you:)

Rachel said...

What a simple yet powerful lesson. Help the one, over and over again. You've inspired me and apparently many, many others -- the Lord is using you in a mighty way. :)

Just added you to my RSS reader. :)

rick said...

Toni,

Greatness.

I told you that you should be blogging. Now get you Renaissance husband to share his inner Faulkner with us.

Nancy said...

Came via BooMama too.

I so admire what you did. I might have managed the burger and coffee, but I doubt I would have asked him to join us to eat. I would have wanted to share Jesus with him, but I seem to chicken out at the last second. The "well story" is a good segue. I am going to try and remember that.

Sarah's In the Midst of It said...

I'm here through Leslie (and am still in mourning that she's left us for the Other continent)--this is a great reminder to me not to avert my eyes and feel guilty for not doing anything. Whether entertaining angels or feeding humans, I don't know--but I think both must benefit us at least as much as it benefits them. :)

melissa said...

that is so amazing and i'm so glad i read this because i need to be encouraged, pushed really to do more things like that. i don't want to be too afraid to help people.

Lori said...

Oh my, heartwrenching! Thanks for sharing it.

yabbie said...

One time a young man was waiting for a bus across from my house. I knew the Lord wanted me to offer him a ride so I did. I gave him a small copy of the book of John.
He told me that he was at a crossroads.
A month later, the man showed up at my door asking for more books. He had a hoodie on with the hood pulled up over his head. It was odd because it was a warm day.
He came in amd I went to find more books for him. The Holy Spirit told me to go back into the living room and go to the door and open it and tell him I had no more books for him. When I walked into the living room, I saw this man had shaved is head and was reading a book upside down. There were two voices talking to each other cming from this man. Obviouly he did not choose Jesus. He robotically walked out of my house and I did not see him again.