Divine Appointments…I pray for them every day as I drive my Camry down the streets of Seattle, waiting for my smart phone to ping announcing a person in need of a ride. A few weeks ago I was driving down I-5 heading toward Seattle when Gloria (an affectionate name I’ve given my cell phone) informed me I had a customer waiting for me on Hwy 99, west of Lynnwood.
Gloria’s temperamental and sometimes unreliable GPS system (which I have recently dubbed Don Quixote) led me to a run down motel. A sharply dressed young man shuffled out from the bowels of the lobby, dragging two black garbage bags stuffed with what I hoped wasn’t a couple weeks worth of dinner scraps. I pulled the lever to open the trunk to my car and got out. He moved slowly toward me with what seemed like the weight of the world thrust upon his hunched shoulders.
With a deep sigh, he slung a black leather duffle bag from around his neck and let it drop to the sidewalk. He was dressed in slacks and a form fitted, button down shirt revealing a physic I was envious of…yet when I opened the trunk he gazed at his belongings as though the thought of having to pick them up was beyond what he could bear. I quickly put his bags in the trunk and welcomed him to sit in the front passenger seat next to me.
He gingerly climbed in and let out another long sigh. I asked him if he was okay and he turned his head toward me. He looked exhausted.
“I don’t feel very well,” he said with a slight accent I couldn’t quite place.
I told him to close his eyes and relax while I drove him to his destination. In a few minutes, we arrived at a public storage facility. While I helped carry his things inside, he asked if I would be so kind as to wait for him. Shortly, the front door of the business opened and the young man began slowly dragging his belongings back toward the car. I met him half-way and once again put his bags in the trunk.
He slumped into the front seat and put his hands over his face. “They want $50 more than what I was quoted over the phone. I can’t afford that.”
“Listen,” I said. “I’ll take you free-of-charge anywhere you want to go…within reason of course.”
With his head still in his hands he replied, “My girlfriend kicked me out of her apartment and I don’t have anywhere else to go.”
“What about your family or friends?” I asked.
“They aren’t in a position to help me. I gave up my job and college to follow my girlfriend out here from Houston. I’ve only been here a few weeks and now I’m homeless. I never thought I’d be homeless living in America.”
Earlier that day in church, the sermon included the message of the Good Samaritan. In Luke 10:25-37 an “expert in the law” asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. It’s a rhetorical question because he already knows the answer and only wants to test Jesus: He says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.” When Jesus acknowledges that he answered correctly, the Jewish lawyer tries to justify himself by asking Jesus another question: “Who is my neighbor?”
Jesus then tells the story of a man who is mugged by robbers and left to die along the side of the road. A priest and a Levite, both highly respected religious leaders of the time, ignored the dying man by moving to the opposite side of the road while walking past him. Then a Samaritan came upon the injured Jew and took pity on him. He cleaned his wounds, put him on his donkey, brought him to an inn and paid for the innkeeper to take care of him.
Jesus asked the lawyer who he thought the neighbor was to the injured man. The expert in the law replied, “The man who showed mercy.”
Jesus then told the lawyer to, “Go and do likewise.”
As I sat silently with the heavy-hearted stranger beside me, the lawyer’s question echoed in my ears: “Who is my neighbor?”
God gently answered, “This young man is.”
A moment of panic welled up inside of me. “God, I don’t know him.”
“Show him mercy,” God replied.
“Karen won’t understand.” (It never hurts to try to pass the buck onto someone else.)
“Show him mercy.”
I turned to the dark-skinned stranger. “How long has it been since you’ve eaten?”
“Two days ago.”
At that moment, my heart melted. “I want you to come home with me. My wife will make you some dinner, you can spend the night and we can come up with a plan.”
His eyes brightened. “Really? Thank you,” he said. “Thank you.”
He slept all the way home while I fervently prayed he wasn’t a serial killer or a terrorist.
Karen stood on the deck to greet me when I pulled into our driveway. Her eyes grew wide as she saw the young stranger get out of the passenger side of the car. “We need to talk,” was my only words to her as I pulled the young man’s belongings from the trunk of the car.
While the young man got settled in the upstairs guest room, I explained the situation to Karen. She was surprised but agreed this was the right thing to do. When he joined us downstairs, we began to get to know him. For example…While preparing a ham dinner for our guest, we found out he was Muslim and politely told us he couldn’t eat pork. While momentarily awkward, this revelation actually allowed us to have an in depth conversation with him about our beliefs.
When it was time to go to bed, I grabbed a hammer and put it on my nightstand.
Karen looked at me like I was crazy. “What’s that for?”
“I’ve been praying that he’s not a serial killer…but you never know.” I pointed out to the kitchen. “Do you want me to get the butcher knife to keep under your pillow?”
“No!!!!” She replied.
The next morning I woke our guest up at 9:30. He told us that was the best nights sleep he’d had since arriving to Washington. We fixed him bacon for breakfast (Just Kidding) and had another fascinating conversation with him. He said he was born in the Congo during that countries civil war and escaped with some of his family to America when he was eight-years-old. He then told us that he talked to his girlfriend and she agreed to let him stay with her until he began his new job and could pay for a place to stay.
I dropped him off at his girlfriend’s apartment later on that morning. After saying our goodbyes, we hugged and he pulled out his bags from my trunk. While I drove away I thanked God for this divine appointment and prayed for others as I turned on my Lyft App to start another work day.
Right away I got a ping. I picked up two African-American women. The first woman seemed to have some sort of social impairment but we had a fun conversation before dropping her off at a home in Everett. The second woman was dressed for work. While driving her to the Everett train station she asked if I was a Christian. I told her I was, and asked why. She told me that she could tell by the conversation I had with her socially awkward friend. I then proceeded to tell her about my prayer every day for divine appointments and about my new friend from the Congo.
“I don’t believe it!” she exclaimed. “You just gave a ride to a young man from the Congo? I grew up in the Congo. What a coincidence.”
It’s no coincidence…It’s another divine appointment.