Monday, October 20, 2008

Mike (a.k.a. "way outside my comfort zone")

Before you start reading, know that this post will be a long one. Okay, I warned you.

I got back from Chicago on Friday evening. Jo and the girls had gone to see her folks because I was out of town and I had intentionally not arranged for someone to pick me up. I decided to take public transit home because I was in no hurry. So there I was waiting for the bus when a guy walks up and sits on the bench near me. He asked me if I have change for a five dollar bill. I looked and didn't have change, but thinking he needed a dollar for a transfer (in Philly you need a transfer to get from one bus/ trolley/ el/ train line to another) I gave him a dollar and said, "Take this, consider it a gift from God."

Then he (Mike is his name) started chatting with me, telling me he was from Seattle and that he'd come to Philly to try out for a new NBA D-League team, the Erie Bayhawks, a farm team of the 76ers. Apparently a guy Mike had met before at a tryout in Reno a few months ago told him to call him if he came to Philly and Mike could stay with him. But this guy hadn't been answering his phone either before Mike left Seattle or at the moment when he had just arrived in Philly. So Mike kept trying to call with no answer so he was stuck. He wasn't exactly sure where he needed to go for the tryout, didn't have enough money for a hotel, and didn't know anyone is Philly. His plan was to go to Center City Philly and figure something out. When he asked if the buses at this stop would take him to Center City, I said no, but the train would take him there.

Here's where we get to the 'way outside my comfort zone' part. During this whole time, the Holy Spirit was pressing hard on me, telling me I needed to let Mike stay at our house. I quickly started making excuses but the Spirit would not let up. So I let Mike walk away to go find the train, but the the Spirit was still pressing. So after a few minutes of excuse making, I yielded to the Spirit, left the bus stop, and went to find Mike. When I walked up, he looked at me like, 'what?' So I asked what he planned to do when he got into Philly and he had no clue. I invited him to come stay the night at our house. He looked at me again with that 'what?' look and said, "Really?" and I said yeah.

As we sat waiting for the bus, he was talking to his girlfriend on the phone telling her that I was going to let him stay with me. She must have said something like, "Mike, what did you do to make that guy let you stay with him?!" because Mike said to her, "I didn't do anything at all; this is totally God!" And after that the conversation turned even more toward spiritual things. He'd already asked some questions that I answered in such a way that made Mike know I am a follower of Jesus. So as we were waiting for the bus, he asked me more even questions which led me to tell him Jo and I had been missionaries, we now work for the mission, etc. Mike then started sharing with me about the church he's been going to for the past 6 or 7 months. He told me that whenever he's there, he feels God's Presence. And then he asked me about my tattoos, always a popular topic of conversation when other people see them. Turns out that he had recently gotten his first tattoo, praying hands with the word 'Faith' above them. So the more we talked the more we connected on the topic of God and spirituality.

Eventually the bus came and we got on. About a hour later, after a bus ride and a transfer to the trolley and walking 1/2 mile, we got to our house at about 7:45pm. Long story short - we went to get Chinese food, then got on the computer to figure out where he needed to go, then both went to bed because Mike planned to get up early the next morning. Mike wanted to get an early start because he was going to have to take a combination of trolley, subway, and train to get to the tryouts, which turned out to be in New Jersey about 45 minutes away by car. So he was up early and out the door by 7am.

As Mike was leaving on Saturday morning, my parting word to him was, "Mike, God wants you to put Him first." As he walked out the front door, he told me he would call to let me know how things turned out. He also told me he wouldn't forget how I helped him. I've heard that line from people that I've helped in the past so I wasn't extremely hopeful about hearing from him, but sure enough, Saturday night, I got a call from Mike telling me he'd gotten to the tryouts okay and that he was in a hotel near there with another guy. Then he actually called me again yesterday afternoon. I missed the call because my phone was on vibrate and I didn't notice he'd called until I was about to go to sleep. But I'll give him a call today and see how things went.

He flys back to Seattle tonight and plans to spend today sightseeing in Philly. So please pray for Mike after you read this. And if you read this after the day its posted, please pray that Mike would yield himself completely to the Lord Jesus. Pray also that his church will really shepherd him towards full trust in Jesus.

The big thing I've been learning over the past few years is learning to hear the Spirit and obey immediately. I'm sad to say that I have disobeyed lots of times, making excuses to justify my disobedience. But this time, I had no excuses.
Jo and the girls were out of town so Mike would be no threat to them. The worst thing that might happen is that he would attack me in my sleep and rob me of the little bit of cash that I had. I knew I could keep Mike out of some trashy hotel, homeless shelter or worse, off the streets of Philly (where there is more than one murder per day). Although I hesitated at first, the Spirit was insistent and thankfully I relented. Jesus is teaching me how to usher in the Kingdom little by little and in this whole event, the Kingdom came in a small way.

I learned first hand about true hospitality by inviting Mike to stay with me. God brought somebody across my path who urgently needed some serious hospitality. He used me to minster to the 'stranger and alien'. Its funny because I'd just given a talk at Moody about what it means to be spiritual. I'd framed it in the context of holistic ministry and that caring for person in one fashion (physical, spiritual, etc.) is to care for the entire person. I'd encouraged the students to help those who need help, be a friend, house the homeless and do other Jesus type stuff. And the Lord called me out on what I'd just shared and gave me an opportunity to practice what I had preached. Having Mike at our house wasn't a hardship and I was blessed by spending time with him.

I also have been realizing that my car separates me from people. Getting out of my car and either walking or taking public transit puts me in contact with people. And since we who follow Jesus are in the people business, leaving my car behind occasionally is a good things. But its not about whether I drive or get to my destination some other way; its about intentionally putting myself around people. Because ministry rarely happens when I'm riding in the car (or sitting on the sofa for that matter).

Lastly, I'm not sharing this story to lift myself up or get pats on the back from people. I write this because I'm rejoicing over what happened and to encourage you the reader.
And by the way, if you're trying to picture Mike, he's African-American, about 6'2" or 6'3" and totally dresses like a basketball player (baggy pants, hoodie, etc).

No comments: