Tuesday, August 16, 2005

timing

been trying to do an outreach project of some kind every second saturday of the month, which had to be rescheduled to sunday this month because of a wedding this past saturday. i hadn't gotten much response from people in the church yet, so as i drove to church sunday morning i still wasn't sure exactly what we'd do after church. passing the Sunoco station off U.S. 23 & Carpenter Rd in Milan, though, i felt a sense of conviction that we should start by washing the bathroom there.

after church, i could find only one person who wanted to join me, a 10 year old named Sarah. (a little background: Sarah, who loves Jesus with all her heart, had heard about our last servant evangelism project a couple of months ago, and then the next day she'd called me saying she read an article in a magazine about a vineyard church in another state doing the same kind of outreach, and how God had done something awesome through it. she made me promise to take her along the next time we washed bathrooms.) i knew Sarah was really eager to go, but i also knew it probably wasn't a good idea to go out if it were just going to be she and i. so i told her and her parents we could reschedule for another time when there was at least one other person available.

as we were talking about it, servant evangelism veteran Jon overheard and said, "oh, you're not going?" as i explained the situation, he told me he was up for it, if we still were. alright, we decided, it was getting late, but it would be worth doing at least one bathroom, if only so Sarah could get a taste of serving Jesus this way.

we loaded cleaning gear and some chocolates into my car, and pulled out of the church parking lot. on the road, i shared about my sense earlier that morning. we agreed to go to the Sunoco station, and prayed that God would use us and that we'd be allowed to clean their bathroom, since it was the only place we had in mind.

inside the station, there was a small line of people waiting to pay. we got in line behind them so that we could ask the cashier permission to clean the bathroom (funny, huh? you can dirty bathrooms without permission, but you've got to ask to clean them). the line took some time because the cashier was on the phone for a while, writing something down on a sheet of paper. eventually the line moved, people payed, and we got close to the front. only one young woman was in front of us--she'd been up front the whole time in fact, as people we're paying their bills. she hadn't moved. that is, until it was our turn to talk to the cashier.

she turned to face us, and seemed to be on the verge of tears. our eyes met hers, and she seemed to be pleading. "are you o.k.?" we asked.

"no," she said, and began to cry.

"what's wrong? is there anything we can do to help?"

"i'm lost. i just moved to Monroe a month ago, and now i don't know where i am or how i got here or how i'm going to get home." there was panic in her voice, and despair, like she was confused and trapped.

"it's o.k.," we said, trying to reassure her that Monroe was only 20 minutes or so from Milan, and that we were sure we could help her find her way home, no problem. that seemed to produce no relief whatsoever. then the cashier told us that she already had directions (that is why she'd been on the phone, writing down directions on the paper).

"is there something else?" we asked.

"i ran out of gas, and i don't have any money..."

aha! it suddenly became clear why Jesus had sent us to this gas station today. "no problem at all," we said, "your gas is on us today. that's why we're here. will you let us pay for it?" as we gave the cashier money, the anxiety and hopelessness melted away from the young woman's face, giving way to relief and bewilderment.

"would you like some chocolates?" Sarah asked, handing her a gift box of Godiva chocolates. the tears on her cheeks seemed to change midstream, from sadness to joyful surprise as her face brightened.

"would you like us to pray for you, too? we'd be happy to."

"yes...please. that would be great..." so we did, briefly and simply, there in the checkout line, and her whole person seemed full of peace when the prayer was done. Jon said he looked at the cashier while we were praying and her eyes were tearing up as well.

after the young woman went out to fill up her car with gas, the cashier asked what we wanted. "oh," we said, "we're here to clean your bathroom for you...may we?"

the expression on the cashiers face was genuinely priceless, as she nodded, temporarily too discombobulated (is that a real word?) to speak. we gave her some chocolates as well, and attended to our business, cleaning the bathroom to the best of our ability.

we thanked her for the opportunity to serve her afterwards, loaded the car back up, and drove back to the church, praying for the people we'd served and rejoicing that God had met us at Sunoco. rejoicing that he'd loved that young woman enough to send us to express his love and care to her. and rejoicing that he'd loved us enough to let us play.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dont ever get so busy that you loose sight of the beauty of the quiet simple act of love. I really enjoy your blog and look forward to your new discoveries. You most certainly have the good qualities of both your parents and your children already reflect it.

One of the things I wanted the Prayer Ministry team to "get" was God speaks to us in the language he created us to understand. He uses all of our senses to touch us. So often we are straining so hard to hear him when all we need to do is open our eyes.

You get it...

God Bless you
Paul

Daniel Newville said...

WOW! What an awesome post. That's one of the best stories of God's care and compassion. Thanks for sharing that.

Daniel Newville said...

Paul, I fully agree with you and would love to hear more of your thoughts on this. You should consider a blog.

Jesse said...

thanks for the encouragment, Paul & Daniel. especially great to hear from you Paul...thanks for dropping by; i second Daniel's suggestion :)

Anonymous said...

I have one, I just dont tell folks about it. www.studentofjesus.com

it has two parts 1. foolish 2. fury

peace

Anonymous said...

guess i just told folks about it...grin

amy said...

jesse - i love that story - you are awesome. thanks for being so amazing and such a great listener to god....thats a nice thing to have in a pastor - the whole "listens to God" thing

(:

Don said...

cool story

strunny said...

that was awesome to read! my mouth just dropped further, and further, and further...:)how neat on so many levels! :) - (sarah mark)