Monday, 28 May 2012
Acts 8: Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.”
This verse really explains what had happened to me on a Friday afternoon in the summer of 2012. I was in the library at AMBS checking email, using the internet and reading. I then received a phone call. The person was someone I went to a church with about a year ago. For this article I will call her Alisa to protect her identity. Alisa is a hispanic woman who I believe to be in her mid 30’s or early 40’s. She told me that she was at the library in downtown Elkhart.
This was not the first time that she contacted me like this. Although we did not see or talk with each other much we would occasionally see each other in downtown Elkhart. I really did not think much of the conversation. After a few minutes, I felt like something was telling me to go to the library and meet her as she was in some kind of trouble or problem. I think this occurrence happened to me 3-4 times. I finally decided to go to the library in downtown Elkhart to see why God was telling me to go to the library.
I did not have a car, so I decided to sprint most of the way as my fear was, she would leave and the problem she had would still be there and I would have missed the opportunity that God was trying to lead me to. I finally got to the library, and spent 45 minutes trying to find her. She did call me again, and I am not sure where she was calling me from because when I would call the number it would go to a business name that I did not recognize. A major reason why I was having trouble getting her to meet me at a specific location was because her English is very limited, and I really do not speak her native language, Spanish.
After spending the 45 minutes trying to find her at the library, I was about to give up and go to a nearby coffee shop and continue to do what I was doing at the AMBS Libra, and also in case she called me again, so I could quickly go back. I decided to make one more quick run through the library in an attempt to find Alisa. This time I found her and was wondering what the problem was.
Alisa mentioned that she had no water where she was staying and really needed to take a shower. I invited her to my place to use my shower, thinking that this was the problem. As we began walking though, it took me 5 minutes to realize this was not the case, and the problem that God spoke to me of was that she did not have a home to go to. We first walked to a parking garage where Alisa said she had some clothes. However, they were not there. We then walked about 2 miles to this house where she said some of her stuff was, but no one was there (I later found out that she was living there, however, due to not having money she could not pay the rent so she was evicted).
We then began to head for my place. At this point I finally just felt led by the Spirit to ask her directly, “You do not have a home right now do you?” Hoping she understood what I was asking and she confirmed my fear. At this point I was wondering, “God why did you place this woman before me, who I really do not feel as if I can help?” I began calling people and texting people I was close to for prayer support and advice.
The pastor of the church made a call to a local mission, and they were full and they suggested calling the police hoping that they could at the least send someone who could bridge the gap of English and Spanish. Sadly, the police were not much help and would not send someone to help with translation. They even recommended calling the same mission agency that the pastor had called.
At this point I felt like it may be Tuesday at the earliest that I could help her out as the weekend had a holiday weekend. I decided to do just what I could do to help her. Alisa mentioned that she was hungry, and hungry is putting it lightly. She ate nearly all of a frozen pizza, about half a pot of spaghetti, some sweet potatoes and some bratwurst. Clearly she had not eaten for a while, and she must have drank over a quart of lemonade.
I eventually got a hold of a friend who spoke fluent Spanish and he said he was willing to come later in the evening to help translate. I ended up doing a lot of prayers while Alisa watched movies. I watched them a little, but my mind was elsewhere. I just kept thinking, “What can I do and why did you put her before me God?” I felt this because at the latest she could stay until Tuesday and I had a roommate who I was not sure how he would feel (he was okay with her staying a few days and was glad that I brought her to our place as she clearly needed help).
When my Spanish speaking friend came I found out a lot of information that I will not write about, but for this article, I will say that the place Alisa took me to earlier was her old apartment, and it was only $125/month. I had also gotten in touch with a good mentor of mine who was also a retired professor. This professor said that he would be willing to pay the $125 dollars. I mentioned this to Alisa. Unfortunately, she was not sure of going back stating she was afraid of the area. At the end of the conversation, I felt that God tell me that I should not worry about finding a place for her, as a place would open before the end of the weekend. I at this point told her that because I do not think there will be many options that she could stay until Monday or Tuesday. I also told her what I felt God told me, but also felt led to add, “but a lot will depend on how open you are to what opens and if you will trust me.”
At this we ended the evening, and went to bed. I showed Alisa to the room she would be staying in. Unfortunately, I did not sleep well that night. I kept waking up wondering what to do. Each time, I would pour my heart out to God, and again give the problem to Him. After about 6:30 am, I finally gave up on sleep and decided to wake up. I spent about a half hour in prayer, praying in tongues, asking God again, “Why would you lead me to this woman who I do not even know what to do with?” I even read Psalm 4:8 multiple times: In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.
At about 7 am, I decided to call any missions and shelters and agencies and ask if they had openings. Sadly every one I called did not, and I would ask if they could refer me to other numbers. Some did refer me to others, others did not, while others that I was given were not shelters at all. After calling about 20 different numbers, out of frustration, I told this one lady how I was feeling at this point. She said to call back every day as one day they could be full and another day they could be empty.
I sat there for 5 minutes trying to figure out what to do. I decided at this point to call the mission agency I called the day before on the advice of that lady I talked to a few minutes ago.
God had then provided. There was an opening for a single woman. I put a hold on the room. I told Alica about the opening. However, she would not get ready and I was wanting her ready as the professor I knew was coming in about an hour to pick us up and take her there. I decided to call my translator on the phone and explain it to her. Needless to say she did not want to go. She said that she wanted to try these friends she knew at this apartment complex, but she could not get a hold of them.
I will admit I became frustrated by this point. I felt like she would not take this opening. My mentor and I talked for quite a while on the front porch about what to do. I remember one of the people I talked to before had warned me about this. If we found an opening of her, she may not take it, and you may need to “push” her into it as she may want to stay as long as she possibly can with me.
I had decided to ask my translator that we could either take her to the local mission, or to her old apartment and my mentor was still willing to pay the rent for her, but since there were options at this point, my place was no longer an option. Perhaps there was some confusion due to the lack of language we shared, I really do not know. She said she wanted to go check with her friends at the apartment complex. My mentor and I decided to take her there and if that did not work we were just going to have to release her at this point.
I know both of our hearts were troubled over what to do, if this was the case as we had our doubts about these friends of Alisa taking her in, but we went on our way. We first stopped by a local Arby’s and got her lunch in case we had to do what we feared we had to do. I felt bad, and the reason I was being strict is because the local mission would only hold her bed until 4 p.m., and then after that bed may not ever be available again. We went to the apartment complex and long story short, it was not an option. My heart was broken for Alisa.
I just remember looking at my mentor thinking, “Can we really do this, can we really release Alisa here like this? And “God why did you place her before me if she is not willing to go to this mission?” As I was thinking this, Alisa asked, “Can you take me to the mission?” You could have knocked me over with a feather. I could even see the relief in my mentor’s eyes. I began to thank God for this change. We took her and got her set up at the local mission.
The sad truth is that this is becoming common place in our world and in the United States. As the economy continues its slump (and sadly I do not see it getting better) more and more people are ending up like this. Alisa I know from when we went to the same church was a hard worker. She was working at a local hotel in house keeping when a manager left and a new one took the spot. This manager did not like her and in a couple days fired her.
I found out that there are not a lot of resources for people like Alisa and what few resources there are is being strained. This is where I believe the church should step in, but it has really dropped the ball (as a whole). I hear that the church is not equipped to do this.
I know the church for the first 300 years would argue and they would often help people like Alisa. I still believe that it could. In the book Compelled by Love by Heidi Baker, her missions program is in Mozambique. This is one of the poorest nation on the planet and her mission is really taking the rope. This book is filled with stories of how they have fed people using some of the same things Jesus did like healing the sick, multiplying food, and loving the poorest people on the planet.
Sadly though as what I believe may happen in our nation sooner or later, I do not believe the church as a whole will take the lead and help people. In fact I would argue that it will be doing what the people are going to be doing, which is wondering what to do. What I believe the church should be doing when/if this happens is to take the power and authority that Jesus gave us in John 14:12: “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
Sadly though not too many churches and Christians are doing the “greater” works that Jesus did. I believe the reason could be because of a lack of belief that may be hindering people who could do these greater works. Even Jesus had this problem in Mark 6:5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. I pray that if what I feel may happen in our nation, that the church will do what they are called and use the power and authority that Jesus has given all believers.
Where has the Spirit of God led you? Have you been led to help others? What are some of the difficulties you've seen in trying to help others who are less fortunate?