Last week we went with a group to St John to help a missionary couple who live there. Our mornings were spent working on some projects, but we took advantage of our hosts’ knowledge of the island to plan some afternoon outings.
Our first excursion was to a local restaurant overlooking the bay. As we watched the sailboats dance in their moorings, we happily enjoyed a heavenly breeze and some fried key lime pie. When we finished I paid my bill and stuffed the change into my billfold.
There were several shops downstairs and as we window shopped I saw the reflection of a man appear beside me. He was tall and thin with braids down his back and a colorful knitted hat covering the top of his head.
In order to move to the next store, I had to step around him and before I could do so he spoke to me in a distinctive island accent,
“Are you a Christian?”
I was caught off guard by his directness but didn’t feel the least bit threatened. I paused a moment before answering because I was trying to figure out how he knew. Then I realized I was wearing a cross around my neck and replied, “Yes, I am.”
“I am a Christian too!” he said pointing to the cross around his own neck.
“Then you are my brother in Christ,” and I was turning to walk on when he said,
“Will you buy me some food?”
Now I had just acknowledged him as my brother (a little flippantly). How could I tell him no? I couldn’t so I took his arm intending to go back to the restaurant area we had just left and said,
“Sure. Come with me.”
He held back and quietly said, “They won’t let me in there anymore.”
Well, to make a short story shorter, I adjusted my plan and pressed some money into his hand. He responded by giving me an unexpected hug then turned and walked away.
People respond differently when a stranger on the street asks for money. One friend will always share and another carries bags filled with toiletries to give when asked. Others just won’t stop, preferring to help through organizations.
I don’t have any hard and fast rule about helping people who stop me on the street. Most of the time I don’t have any money with me so to stop wouldn’t be very helpful, but if I do have money, I check my spirit and rely on my gut feeling before deciding whether or not to share.
My response to this man was as much for my benefit as his. By wearing my cross I had advertised my faith and he responded to my “brand”.
Maybe experience had shown him that people wearing crosses were easier to approach or maybe his own cross indicated a belief in a fellow faith walker.
Either way that brief encounter on St John was a forceful reminder to be what you advertise or you are falsely advertising.
In her journal Mother wrote, “God controls all events and works His will in them.”
In that event, I received more than I gave.