“A Toothless Grin”

1 Corinthians 1:27 Aramaic Bible in Plain English
“For God has chosen the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and he has chosen the weak of the world to shame the mighty.”

Last week I shared how I sensed I had to go into the Pro Life clinic where I volunteered on a holiday, just to meet a young woman who would forever be on my mind and heart.

This week, as promised I’d like to share the incident that got me into a lot of trouble, and yet, everyone knew He’d chosen someone not only foolish but weak to help a homeless black man find a life in Him!

Many of you have read in the Renew “Spiritual Leader lesson” that while living in Pensacola, Florida, where my marriage was restored, there was a world-wide revival going on only 2 miles from our home. The fact that we were not only attending but later became members, kept me so humbled at His mercy since I’d wanted to go find out firsthand what He was doing that was all over the news.

There was a revival meeting every night, but with seven children we didn’t always attend. But that night something happened that was completely unusual. I had this deep, deep urge to go, while no one else felt like going. Also unusual, when I asked what he thought, my husband said just to go, not saying anything more about being careful or instructions about parking, etc. The church was in a very dangerous part of the city, and because people began lining up early each morning, coming late meant that parking anywhere close to the church was impossible.

In fact, it was already dark when I left, and then, just blocks away I envisioned stopping at the Whataburger that was right on the way. What was crazy is because I’d eaten dinner already and, as I said, I was already late. Nevertheless, I knew it was the Lord, it had to be. So I parked our van, walked in, order something and sat down.

Only a minute or two later, I heard a man speaking to the people closest to the door who were eating.  Holding a large black garbage bag he was asking if they wanted to buy some pecans. They quickly shook their heads no, so he moved down the tables—each group looking horrified. They’d each mumbled something to get him to leave and when he was just across from me, I could smell strong alcohol and urine.

After speaking to several tables (but not mine) he went to the counter asking the three dumbfounded teens about buying the pecans, then saying, “I just want to have enough to buy some food” when the manager came bursting around from the back and asked him to leave. But I was already on my feet.

Coming up from behind the man, I told the manager to wait, then turned to the man, “I don’t need any pecans because we have a tree in our backyard, but I’d like to buy you a meal.” Then I told the guy at the register to give him what he wanted. The man shook his head no, but I came back saying, “Please, let me buy you something. My husband is very rich and he’d want me to buy you something” so he nodded and said thank you and looked up to place his order, when the manager interrupted and said, “Hey, you don’t have to do that” in a mad frustrated tone.  But, I just smiled, “Oh, yes I do” then handed my debit card to the cashier, paid, then left while the man stood at the counter waiting for his tray of food.

Instead of leaving, I sensed I needed to just go back to my seat. I think I thought that I needed to make sure he did get his food or to be there should the manager ask him to leave. A few minutes later, the man was standing next to my table, with his tray in his hands, asking if he could sit down. Dozens of eyes were fixed on us, yet no one was speaking. So I pointed to the seat across and said, “Please do.” Clearly starving, he ate his meal in only a few bites, then stopped, with his eyes still down, and said, “Why did you do that? Why did you buy me this food?”

That’s when the Lord began to speak through me, “I’m here because God sent me. I was on my way to the revival meeting, but He told me to come here even though I wasn’t hungry. I’d just had dinner. But as soon as I heard you were trying to earn money for food, I knew WHY He had me come. God wanted me to help you get something to eat because He wants you to know just how much He loves you.”

Lifting his eyes he said with a sigh, “Okay, I’ll go to the revival meeting with you”  when I assured him, “That’s not why I bought your meal. There were no strings attached.” But this time he answered, “Well, I want to go... if you’ll take me.” So I did. We left as I watched the customers and fast food staff staring at us while we drove out of the parking lot.

As I said, parking is a nightmare any time of the day, and impossible if the service has started, but like everything else, He had a plan. As I turned the corner I saw a parking spot in the very front of the door. Funny, as I turned in I never noticed the sign “reserved” (not until later when I left). Together we walked up the stairs and as soon as we opened the door, you’d think I was walking next to the President of the United States or some movie star! Two ushers hurried over, all smiles, and each took his arm, leading him through the main doors. I was stunned because the service had started and everyone was actually being sent to the overflow auditorium—yet this man was given a seat almost in the very front on the aisle!

That’s when I felt someone take my elbow and escort me up the stairs. The head usher began barking at me, “What did you think you were doing Erin?!??! Do you know the kind of danger you were in? How could you put yourself at risk asking that man to get in your car?!?!?” (He’d seen me pull up.) I explained I knew I wasn’t at risk, that the Lord had sent me, and that I actually didn’t ask him, he asked me to take him, so what was I to say? Nevertheless, he made me promise never to do that again. Then he found me a sit in the balcony so I was able to see my friend run to the altar giving his life to the Lord.

It was month’s later when I thought I saw him, but wasn’t absolutely sure it was him until he smiled. He looked so different, but I recognized the tooth-missing smile he’d displayed after he met the Lord at the altar, a smile that said it all.

Cleaned, sobered and in his right mind. I heard later that before his meal at Whataburger, that led to taking him to the revival, he was known around the neighborhood as “mentally insane and dangerous.” My new friend became a volunteer who helped direct traffic, help set up or take down chairs, anything and everything he could to stay close to church and God.

I also heard that the church gave him a studio apartment a block away, and soon hired him to do landscaping and janitorial. Though I always wanted to talk to him again, I knew I played such a small, insignificant role, so to do so, could cause his gratitude to turn from where it should be, with the Lord, to me.

Again, we never know what key role we could be called to play in the life of someone desperate for the Lord—completely oblivious to His plan—yet should we simply follow His leading, we can be given a front row (or balcony) seat to witness the power of His love.