In the past week, as the Christmas Spirit has been growing and building within me and those around me, I’ve had a guy I met in Iquitos, Peru, coming to mind over and over again.
I do not know his name and so I shall refer to him as “Cardboard Guy.” I met him when the mission team was treated to an American lunch of burgers and fries at a downtown restaurant in Iquitos. As we pulled up to park the truck, a man with an unkempt mane of dark hair, a blue T-shirt, blue jeans, and bare feet rushed over to cover our windshield and shield the vehicle from the equatorial sun while we dined. All of the other vehicles in the parking area, (including the seats of the numerous small motorcycles that are so common here) were also covered in cardboard. At the conclusion of our meal, I was sent to start the vehicle so of course, Cardboard Guy assumed I would be tipping him for protecting our vehicle from the sun and various and sundry ne’er-do-wells.
I reached in my pocket, found a five-sol coin, handed it to him and said, “Dios te bendiga.” (God bless you.) Cardboard Guy was very appreciative.
When our hostess and owner of said vehicle, Bethany Baxter de Noriega, arrived at the vehicle, others told her what I had done and I was informed that five sols might have been a bit excessive, as the standard tip was only one or two sols. My response was that five soles was about $1.25 and, while that might seem a bit much, Cardboard Guy didn’t have any shoes, he obviously needed the money, it was only $1.25, and Jesus would have given him $1.25, right?
Now, it’s been about two weeks since this whole maybe 60-second interaction with Cardboard Guy took place, but out of the blue, he kept coming to mind again and again. I felt like the Holy Spirit was telling me I needed to tell Cardboard Guy that God had a plan for his life, and that plan included telling other people that God loves them so much He sent His only Son as a gift to set them free from sin and death.
Eventually, the Holy Spirit got so insistent (“Nag” is most-assuredly the wrong word, but it is very close.) that I contacted Bethany and told her what was going on inside my soul. She was willing to help.
I thought about it and prayed on it, and came to the conclusion that there were three possibilities: 1. God was sending me a message to reach Cardboard Guy through Bethany, (Kind of like Moses had Aaron to speak to Pharaoh.) I did not hear choirs of angels singing or perceive that the doorposts and lintels in the Throne Room were shaking when that possibility came into my head, but hey, it could be, right? 2. The Holy Spirit is telling me I am going to run into this guy when I eventually go back to Iquitos and what I should do when I meet him again. I liked that idea, but again I was not 100% sure this is what I am being told. 3. The Holy Spirit is telling me what I should do the next time something like this happens whenever, wherever it happens. THAT seemed like the most likely scenario, but I will not sell God short or assume He can’t do either of the other two –or all three.
So, what I decided to do is send Bethany $20 (because in my mind it’s enough for a pair of shoes) and if the Holy Spirit opens a door and reminds her of all of this, she should go ahead and use it. It doesn’t have to be that specific guy, and it doesn’t have to be that specific situation. I trust Bethany, I trust the LORD, and I trust the Holy Spirit. Amen and ALELUYA!
And here’s the deal, and why I bring this up just before Christmas: All of us –each and everyone of us– is called to God’s plan of sharing love and grace and mercy and telling others that God loves them. My revelation for Cardboard Guy really is no different for him than it is for you. The glorious Good News of unspeakable joy is that the Messiah has come to save you and everyone you meet! Whether you have no shoes and make your living running a cardboard-based protection plan for motor vehicles, or you have wealth far greater than most people (and most of us reading this do have far more wealth than the rest of the world) we are here to love and support and encourage and bless each other –and that certainly includes His bride, the Church.
Christmas fills our hearts with joy and peace and generosity –and those are gifts of the Holy Spirit directly tied to the kingdom of light invading the kingdom of darkness. In our everyday world, we see a lot of things that seem dark and horrible, but the everyday joys and truth and grace and love far outweigh those things. Every smile, every genuine “Merry Christmas” is a battle won in the war of good over evil.
As Longfellow wrote,
“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
And so, I hope you will join with me in praying, “Peace on earth, good will to all humanity.”
Colossians 1: 19-20
For God in all his fullness
was pleased to live in Christ,
and through him God reconciled
everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.