It was one of those meetings—the kind where nothing seems to go right. I quickly realized I was underdressed because I was not wearing nylons or three layers of shirts. My PowerPoint presentation would not work properly, and the sound/tech person refused to believe me when I tried to tell him what was wrong and how to repair it. What had started off as a normal meeting had quickly turned into a disaster.
So there I was, sitting alone, again, in a church, waiting to share about South Africa. One person stood out to me, a guy sitting a row in front of me. He was the only person in the entire sanctuary who was wearing jeans and who did not fill out a card to put in the offering plate. I had no idea what the card was about, but I figured that if this guy did not fill it out, I would not fill it out either.
After the service I stood at my display table and talked to a couple of people. Everyone left church fairly quickly, so I began to pack up my prayer cards, curios, and pictures. As I was packing up, “cute-guy-in-jeans” came up to talk to me. We talked as I packed up the rest of my items, and he offered to carry my display board (which was a bit heavy) to my car. He was in the military and had been deployed in the Middle East, so our conversation centered on adjusting to life in another country and returning back home to people who do not understand what you have experienced. A rather deep conversation to have with someone I had just met, yet an easy topic for a missionary to discuss.
Thankful for the conversation and the help (which I did not always get), I smiled as he headed off to his truck. I knew that people, especially the pastor’s wife, were watching. Truth is, “cute-guy-in-jeans” was the only person who had been genuinely interested in me and my ministry that morning. As he left the parking lot, he stopped his truck by my car, called me over, and asked me if I had any plans for lunch. As a single, sometimes lonely, missionary, my heart wanted to say, “No, I don’t have any plans.” I really did have plans though. I was invited to lunch at the pastor’s house, which seemed like more of chore than anything else at that point. Nevertheless, I politely and apologetically declined.
I never handed him one of my prayer cards, nor do I remember his name. I barely remember his face, and I will probably never see him again. I wonder if he ever knew that he was the only redeeming factor from that meeting for me, the only positive memory I have from that trip.
Even now, whenever that meeting comes to mind, I feel challenged to be that kind of person. I want to be the one who encourages someone during a difficult day, the one who takes a risk in reaching out to a person, the one who is not afraid of what others think.