I recently went on a vacation. I've always taken vacations, but this was was important not only for my health but also for the health of the ministry. By going away, I allow lay leaders to step up and exercise their own leadership of our events. This time, we managed to execute half our events without my presence. Next time it will be closer to 100%! While away, here is a true story of what happened to me on the first day of vacation!
I arrived in Antiqua late in the evening. I was delivered right to my little hotel. It was not amazing but it would certainly do. I was, however, hungry. So I went outside in search of food. I didn't have any local currency yet but had a handful of small US bills. I found the equivalent of KFC, called Pollo Comapanero! "The flavor has arrived!" was the slogan. It was a Sunday night, and there were lots and lots of local youth in the very large eating area. They were youth groups from some of the churches. You could tell the sponsors from the kids. They were having a good time. I watched all this until my smoking-hot chicken arrived. It was very tasty in deed!
When I left, it was about 11:00 at night. I exited into what would have been the market area during the day. There was a taxi stand nearby and a few merchants still putting away their wares for the night. I crossed the street to a big median, with plants and benches. Up came someone who said, "Hello, friend!" They actually address an unknown person as "Hola, amigo" so that wasn't so strange.
The person was a young man. His English was perfect. He staggered a bit so I knew he had been drinking. He came too close, so I knew he was drunk. I could smell that too-sweet alcohol smell that comes from frequent drinking.
"What's your name?" he asked. I told him. "Where do you come from?" I responded. He was too touchy and too close for my comfort, but I gaged that he wasn't a harm... just too friendly. I asked him how he learned such wonderful English. "I am a tour guide at the volcano," he said. (The same volcano that exploded 3 days later, BTW.) "How do you like to have fun?" he asked. I answered that I was simply on vacation.
He awkwardly found a way to ask me if I wanted to do drugs together. I declined. Then he sheepishly asked me if I wanted to have sex, saying, "I've never been with a man before, but I will if you pay me." I pointed to my ring and said, "Married. No thanks." I asked him, "Do you have a house to live in?" He said, "No. I sleep in the park." To change the subject, he asked, "What do you do in Texas?"
I told him. His reaction was stark and immediate. As if someone had cut the strings to a puppet, he collapsed to the ground. He sat there and looked up at me. "You're a pastor?" "Sort of," I replied. Then he said, with great pain, "I need a 'papa' to kick me in the [butt] for all the bad things I've done."
I stared at him for a moment, and said a silent prayer. Then I asked God, "Really? On my vacation? Is this how it's going to be?" And then I decided.
I sat down with the young man. I asked him how old he was. 28. I asked him if he believed in God. Yes. I asked him if he knew Jesus. I don't think so. I explained the Gospel to him. I listened as he confessed many things he has done. I listened to his confusion and agony over why life would be so meaningless to him and so hard for him. I consoled him that this was a normal and even good question, provided he will look into the Bible for an answer. He doubted it would help, but promised to try. I prayed with him for wisdom and revelation and to come to know Jesus personally. I asked him to try to understand that wisdom doesn't come in a bottle, in a pipe, or a needle. It comes from getting to know the one who made you, who knows you all the way, who loves you because of and in spite of who you are. And when he understands that, he will know peace. Life might not be easier, but he will know peace. He said he surely hopes so. And with that, I left him.
I pray he was safe from the volcano. I pray he does read the Bible again. I pray he does come to know his maker personally. And I pray he knows the peace beyond understanding.