It was an ordinary evening- the caboose after a seemingly monotonous day's train. I had dinner with my parents and my dad suggested taking a walk in the neighborhood afterward...so out the door we went and down the street. My dad finished walking as we rounded the corner back to our house after a short bit, but my mom and I kept going...not realizing a divine appointment lay ahead of us just a few yards...one in an unexpected package. Her name- Christina.
I can't recall exactly what my morning prayers were this day, but I have a faint memory of asking God to bring people across my path whom I might be able to serve and love.
She came walking up with phone and some wiry gadgets in hand, and my defenses were up. Who was this inner city looking girl with her white t-shirt and jeans heading toward us? In my parents' neighborhood, we know all the neighbors, we know faces, we know names.
She was selling things that afternoon- magazines and the like. Door to door in the heat, tirelessly selling her "story"- trying to pull on the heart-strings of those answering the bell. It's doubtful she had success-not here anyway. They bus them in from out of town and use these kids- promising the moon... It's a form of modern-day slave labor if you ask me- empty promises in the end. No moon, no money, no magical life...only miles and miles from home, shoe soles worn from walking and eyes weary from facing strangers' rejections day after day, door after door.
Her black face with eyes like diamonds and a smile gentle and kind...yet roughened by the hours alone, weeks of no sales, and lonely spirit...she just wanted to know where the closest gas station might be so she would have somewhere safe to stay, waiting for her "field director" to pick her up, because he wouldn't come till after dark... We assured her the neighborhood is safe-probably safer than walking the main roads with zooming cars and no curbs. So she waited at the entrance. Time ticked. We circled around and saw her. Waiting, white t-shirt barely glowing from car-light's reflection in the night sky. We checked on her. Went back and she was still there, so we brought her food and drink.
She waited, we waited. We couldn't leave this 24 year old alone and afraid on the curb. Would they come for her? We chatted as we stood, and my mom was adamant-talking to her with stern love as a mother would her own child, encouraging her to lose the job and find something bigger God has for her life. Christina has two kids, and her own mom who loves her, and adopted siblings who are doing well. She opened up about her life and her spirit softened more and more. She told us of her youthful rebellion that landed her as a single mom with hardly two pennies. She knew this wasn't the best job, but she felt ashamed to go back to New York and face everyone.
I felt compelled to ask her what her dreams are. Her desires. What makes her tick? What has God planted inside of her heart that drives her, and just needs to be re-awakened? She loves English. Wants to be an author, or at the very least an English teacher. This girl wants to go back to school to accomplish these beautiful dreams. Oh dear Christina. On the corner of the curb, as night pressed on into deeper darkness, a solitary light was flickering inside of her, and I could feel the Holy Spirit moving, angels about. We laid hands on her shoulders, and she put her arms around us. The three of us women alone beneath the night sky, cars passing on the main road, and we lifted her in prayer to heaven, huddled in Jesus' name. She received it with gratitude and a shining dream was being rediscovered from underneath the brokenness, the fear, the shame. We made her promise to leave her job the next day. She said all day long she'd been praying for answers- where to go, what to do. "The devil's just been playin with my mind- I shoulda never left home. I need to go home. God has somethin else for me. This is an answer to my prayers."
So we kept waiting with her, talking, laughing, encouraging...my one goal to spark something and help her come back to her heart. Come back to the future and the hope prepared for her. Come back to the dignity and great worth she has as a person created by God. Here stands a young mom, just a child herself, afraid on a street corner of a "white-person's" neighborhood. Betwixt the fear and the hope lies a soul created for greatness, only needing to be unlocked so that she might walk into her beautiful destiny. A destiny prepared for her before the foundations of the world by a God who radically loves her and knows her by name. Christina. His daughter whom He loves so much He gave His life for her on the rugged cross, to liberate her from chains of sin and poverty and fear into the freedom of righteousness and fulfillment and faith- a full life. A life lived out of the wellspring of the heart.
I've been reminded recently of this truth in Chip Dodd's powerful writing,The Voice of the Heart, "But if you risk acknowledging and understanding the substance of your heart, you begin to see your life change and grow and become full...One road well traveled as it is, keeps us in the existence of survival...The other leads to full life-a road along the heights that is rough going, yet joyous and full...the way of the heart."
Finally her ride came. We hugged her, not once, but twice. A stranger became a sister in that hour. The man who screeched his big white van up to us was yelling out the window, sarcastically at us "Don't shoot me, don't shoot me!" My mom scolded him, as a good mother does to protect one of her young, "Don't you leave this beautiful young woman out alone like that! It's wrong!" He yelled back some rude words and zoomed his vehicle around, whipped out of the neighborhood.
Tears welled in my eyes and I prayed, "Lord Jesus, protect her, protect her." I feared for her, at the mercy of those men in that van. What obstacles may come tomorrow to keep her from getting home? My mom had given her just a little cash to help leave town and make the trip home. How will the enemy try to keep her in these chains? Lord God, liberate her and guide her by your light! Provide miracles along the way. Please help her fight for her dreams, to take a step of faith and risk and follow her heart, because the deep desires there are pools of purpose which You have filled...
"...Hope-the belief and trust-that another will meet you in your reaching out. Hope thwarted leads to despair...No matter what has happened to you in your life, you still have the capacity to reach out in hope to another...Hope grants us the ability to go on. Hope is the spiritual and emotional energy that makes us get up and turn the next corner to see if the answers might be there." -Chip Dodd.
Divine appointment. Dreams stirred to the surface of the soul. Hope remembered. Entertaining a stranger. A dark street corner with the light of Jesus illuminating the way.
I shall forget not this night. I shall forget not this Christina.