And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there. Joshua 2:1
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham…and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. Matthew 1
And we really never know the backstory of each person, which is one of the reasons I cannot judge others, besides the main reason of the full-bore mercy of God poured down on my head, that is. We also have no idea where the plan of God, laid out from the beginning of time, is going to lead. Not a clue.
So one of the many deals with Mexico Outreach is community service. Which is why on Wednesday night we had an entire commission from the city government at the night meeting, with who could even have imagined their Chinese dancers with the big swirly dragon as well as their dancers with the swirly dresses and stomping feet. And some of those nice clean people with pressed shirts and ties stood up to receive prayer at the end of the service, along with a bunch of very dusty kids wearing bandanas and green t-shirts and jergas, which are hoodies out of thick woven fabric. Including two of ours.
On Monday afternoon we were painting blue curbs in the park. And a neighbour man came over to find out who we were and what we were doing in the hot sun. And he tried to offer us water and snacks, but we were okay. But then he noticed I didn’t have a hat in the hot sun, so he ran and got me his hat, a very nice red and white baseball cap that that said “Jesus love me.” And I thanked him and put it on even though it certainly smelled like sweaty man.
And on Tuesday, two of our kids were really worried about Marco, what can we do for Marco. Marco with the crooked teeth and shiny eyes and the same shirt every day. Who was so very bien tremendo that he sent the pastor back to his dark quiet room every afternoon because he was too much to handle. Always touching and shouting and grabbing and wiggling his little way into our hearts. Loose on the streets, he had some sort of home nearby, but he was one of those kids who had talked to the Storyteller, and la pastora had nodded her head in sad agreement. But what could we do? It really messes up neighborhood dynamics to give away expensive gifts to some kids and not to others, and besides, what could we possibly give him?
And then, perhaps prodded by the Comforter, I told the kids a story. A story of Nicole-blown-by-the-wind, who is in Medellin this week, and in Istanbul next week, and then Rome and then maybe Mozambique. Or Switzerland. Then Madison. So somehow Nicole got a free Spirit ticket to the Dominican Republic if she went that weekend. So she did, with a little backpack of a toothbrush and a little black dress. And a swimsuit. And maybe I have the specifics muddled a bit, but the first night she found a church under a single lightbulb hanging by a wire over the sidewalk. And the next day she got a ride to San Jose de Ocoa, the town of her birth. Now what? She had no idea where anything or anyone was, but, pause, Nicole lit on this idea of wandering around and asking people if they had lived there twenty-five years ago, thinking maybe she might somehow find a connection. Somehow. And one person said, “Hey, the Catholic priest was here twenty-five years ago,” and Nicole remembered that Padre Quinn was part of the family story and she headed to the big church on the plaza. But the padre wasn’t there.
Next door to the church was the Social Security office so Nicole asked the guy standing there if she could go in and maybe look up her birth certificate. He said sure and she went in, and I don’t remember what happened, but she came back outside. And asked the guy standing there if he had lived in San Jose de Ocoa twenty-five years ago.
The guy touched his baseball cap and said, “I have lived here ever since Alan Voelkel lived in Barrio Nuestro Esfuerzo and gave me this hat.” And began to talk. A stream of consciousness, a stream of memories that had very little to do with Nicole standing in front of him, but all about him remembering. And he told himself stories for an hour and then he was all done, and Nicole got back on the publico and headed off to her next adventure, which involved a couple of yachts floating off of a little bay and a beach.
So Isaiah wore the red and white cap all day. And then he and Silvana pulled little Marco to the side, and told him that they loved him. And they told him to be a courageous man and to make wise choices. And that the people here at the church were always here for him. Then they gave him the hat and he could translate what it said, “Jesus me ama,” and he scurried away and hid it somewhere.
Who can even guess the story of little Marco? But we serve a God who is bigger than we can even imagine. And Alan and I are speaking at the InterVarsity meeting this Thursday night. They have asked us to tell stories, how “ordinary people can glorify God greatly by adding service to our daily lives. We don't have to all become Mother Teresa, but within our individual normal situations, we can serve and still make a big impact.”
And what I know, as we try to sift through stories and look for patterns and logic and a three-point outline, is that we just have to step into the high Jordan, to let down the rope, to toss the seed. He, the Almighty One, is LORD of the harvest.