Thursday, May 10, 2012

Picking Up Strangers After Dark

What do you do?  Seriously.  What do you do? 

I had just finished a marathon meeting at our church - talking about mission work.  Talking, literally, for hours, about how to help reach those in need around the world.  Hours.  Of talk. 

It's very dark.  It's 11:30 at night (our meeting talking about helping people started at 6:00 p.m.).  As I approach a very poorly lit intersection in a heavily wooded area, I see a young man waving his arms - clearly needing help.  Car hood is lifted.  Car windows are broken out and covered with plastic sheeting.  Car has been used hard and beaten up. 

What would you do?  Let me tell you, the conversations running through my head were really going crazy!
"If you stop, he might have a gun"
"If you don't stop, aren't you forgetting the lesson of the Good Samaritan?"
"I have a family at home, what about the gun he (must have) tucked into his pants?  He'll make me drive to the house and will hold us hostage."
"Didn't you just spend hours talking about the theory of helping people?  What if this is God's way of reminding you there are people to be helped just around the corner?"
"Man up!  Stop and see if you can help - just don't roll the window down very far (as if a partially opened window will stop a bullet (from the gun that must be hidden in his waistband!)."
Then, the clearest conversation of all came into my mind:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. ”  Matthew 25:31-46

So I stopped.  I rolled down the window - all the way.  Got out of my car. 

What happened?

He needed help.  Car broken down.  Dark part of the road.  He said he was scared because you never know what kind of a person might stop at that time of night.  He is African-American, from Detroit, with felony convictions.  One person had stopped and promised to return but had not.  Most people sped away from him. 

As we talked, it was clear he had a troubled past.  Said that Oklahoma actually was offering him hope for a future.  He is a cook at an area golf course and so he moved into a drab motel along the interstate, close to work because he could walk if he needed to (this wasn't the first time his car had broken down). 

A couple of things he said really hit home hard.

Really got me thinking.

He said it is really hard to be in his situation.  His housing cost $205 per week.  He makes about $500 per week if he works every day.  He is falling farther behind every day.  How many of the people around us are "working poor?"  Here is a guy that is not lacking in desire to work - even moving closer to his workplace to walk if he had to be able keep his job.  He is not lazy, he is not slacking.  Yet, it seems he keeps taking some "hits to the head."  He, in the few minutes I was with him, seemed to epitomize the "hand-up not hand-out" idealism.  He wants to work, change his life, become a self-sustaining person and yet the differential between his earning ability (right now) and the basic cost of living is a very fine margin.  For him, there is no room for any more mistakes. 

What a terrifying way to live.  And he told me of many of the others who live in the same place with similar stories.

Then, he asked what made me stop to help.

What made me stop?  The voice that came through most clearly was that of Jesus asking what I did for someone in need.  So I told him.

I told him that he looked like a young man who needed some care.  That I had just finished a meeting at my church - and he asked another question:  "can you tell me about your church? I'm new here and I know I need a church to help keep me walking the right path."

So I did.

We talked about how he got into trouble (drugs/women - not necessarily in that order), what he was doing to trying to stay out of trouble and how, with his history and current circumstances - trouble seems easy to get into.  It's a very tough life for a young may trying to come back from bad decisions.

In the meeting at church that I was coming from, we talked about how to help introduce people around the world to the loving word of God, to the saving grace of Jesus Christ and to a life of hope.  How much would we spend in this part of the world or that?  How many people would go here or there.

God opened the door for me to all of those things by picking up a stranger after dark.  It cost nothing and could provide him with everything. 

Sometimes, to make an impact, we have to roll our windows all the way down and make the offer to help. 


  1. Thanks for sharing this story and reminding us to think of those around us in this manner.

  2. Great story, John. Thanks for sharing...and inspiring.