Thursday, October 19, 2017

Thirsty

Thirsty By Mishael Austin

Go Tell the World

The missionaries said it would be better if we didn’t sit all together in a clump. If we were spread out among the nationals, it would facilitate more interpersonal interactions. I was sitting in the same section with another member of our singing group, Brian. Halfway through the service, the stranger entered our section.
His lateness did not arouse my curiosity. I had been in Mexico long enough to know that Mexicans operate on a totally different time scale than do Americans. If something is going to start at 7 p.m., most of the people will not arrive until at least 7:30 p.m. What made me curious was the way he scanned the room, as if he was looking for something. He spotted the two Americans right away and motioned us over to him.
“Ustedes son Americanos?” he asked.
“Sí,” we replied.
A flood of Spanish words spewed from his lips then. I could only understand half of them. I imagine Brian understood even less. But we didn’t need knowledge of the Spanish language to understand his actions.
The man showed us some of his tattoos. As I leaned in, I noticed his strange odor. I couldn’t identify it, but for some reason, I sensed danger. He started pulling something out from a very deep pocket in his torn, dirty jeans, and I was immediately grateful that Brian, the martial arts/self-defense instructor, positioned himself between us.
I stood there, gaping at the young man with the earnest, half-crazed expression in his eyes, holding the aerosol can that had just been in his pocket. That was the odor that I didn’t recognize at first – some sort of spray chemical.
The Spanish words that I could understand filled me with an even greater sense of dread. His father killed his mother and was in prison for the murder. The young man had been hooked on drugs, which is why he held the aerosol can. It was his inhalant – his quick fix between the bigger hits. I only understood this because the young man held the can up to his nose and sniffed strongly. At this point, Brian said, “Go get David.”
David was one of the missionaries who was fluent in Spanish and would know better how to handle the situation. I ran off to find him, and he came over to talk to the young man.
Then the whole story came out. He had no money for anything except the spray can. He hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for several days. His name was Gabriel, and he stood outside listening to our singing for a long time. He came in to steal some money, but the music stopped him – the songs about Jesus and God and “Al Mundo Dios Amo.” And then he sought us out.
David gave him a religious tract and some money – a few pesos – for food. Who knows if he used it for food or drugs? But that didn’t really matter to any of us at the time. I gave him my bottled water. I hesitated at first. If I gave him my water, I would have none for myself for the rest of the evening, and I still had some singing to do. The thick, polluted air did nothing to help – and quite a bit to hurt – my vocal chords. Still, how could I deny this man water when he needed it so much more than I did? I had several bottles waiting for me back at the hotel. He didn’t know where his next drink of water was coming from.
He cupped his hands and held them out. That made me pause. I was going to just hand him the bottle and not even think another thing about it, but I started wondering if that was the right thing to do.
Brian was standing next to me, now that the immediate danger was over. “Just give him the bottle,” he encouraged.
So I handed Gabriel the bottle, he walked away, and I never saw him again. I returned to my seat, waiting for the pastor’s sermon to be over, weeping silently the entire time. I wept for Gabriel, and his need for food. And I wept for the other poverty-stricken people living in the city, who needed money for food more than they needed songs about Jesus. I wept at my own selfishness – for hesitating to give someone in need a drink of water because I was afraid I might get a little thirsty later.
Jesus’ words ran through my head: “I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink.” (Matthew 25:35, NIV). I said a prayer of thanks to God for opening up my heart so that a bit of His love, grace, and mercy could shine through me into the life of this stranger. God works through the most unworthy, unlikely people, and I will be forever grateful that He does!
Mishael Austin works as an editor in Louisville, KY. Ever since her first mission trip to Mexico City, evangelism has become her passion, specifically mission work with Hispanic people. She currently volunteers as an ESL teacher for the Hispanic workers at Churchill Downs and anxiously awaits the day God will call her to go on another mission trip.

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