Trip story time:
We’d been in our destination city for only about 3 hours when 3 of us decided to go for an exploration walk before heading to our hotel for a good night’s sleep. 5 minutes into our walk a teenage boy walked straight up to me and said: “Hi. My name is J. I like to speak English. Do you speak English?” Surprised, I responded: “Hi, J. Yes. We do speak English.” J: “Where are you from?” … The conversation went on from there. I’ve never heard ANYONE speak English faster than J was! He revealed to us that he had run away from home and was “starving to death.” So, since we were standing right in front of McDonalds… we went inside and bought him dinner. He ordered an entire tray of food: two chicken sandwiches, chicken wings, two large fries, a chocolate pie, a coke, and a hot chocolate. I thought surely he was planning to save some for later or take some to a friend, or maybe he thought we were hungry! No. He was HUNGRY and he ate it ALL as we sat and talked.
We really wanted to figure out what this dude was about. Is he scamming us? Is he genuinely living on the streets as a runaway? And either way… how can we share with him the hope that we have in Jesus? So the guy in our group of 3 (Michael) asks some questions and we find out a little bit more about him running away from home. I ask questions about his family. The kid seems legit. Michael asks him what he wants out of life. He says he wants success: a good job with lots of money and the ability to travel abroad, like us. We want to teach him that money and “success” are not keys to happiness, but rather a relationship with Jesus is. Somehow we start talking about the lottery, hoping to explain that many people who win the lottery in America are far less happy and fulfilled afterwards than they were before. But as soon as J hears the word lottery he freaks out. “NO! That is bad. You should not do lottery. It is not 100%. It is not good. It is not a gift from Jesus. You should not do it! It is not 100%!”
The 3 of us all look at each other with a “Did he just say what I think he said?” look on our faces. We tell him we agree and do not think the lottery is a good way for people to use their money and Michael explains what we were trying to say and then turns the conversation by saying: “But J… You just mentioned Jesus. What do you know about Him?” At this point J tells us the story of Jesus from creation to resurrection. WHAT? We ask him where he learned this. He says: “An english teacher told me.” I could have burst into tears at that point. We ask him, “Do you believe this is the truth?” He says, “Yes. It is true!” We ask him if he had asked Jesus to be his Savior and the Ruler of his life… if he had made the CHOICE to follow Jesus. J said: “No. I don’t know how to do that!” We asked if we could tell him and he gladly said yes (as he stuffed more fries into his mouth).
After a long discussion about the gospel and it’s implications in our lives and the necessity of us each making a personal choice to believe, repent, and follow after Jesus… Michael asked him if he wanted to make that choice. He thought for a minute or two with his head down and his mouth full. Eventually, he looked up and said: “I think I could swing that!” We laughed. “You can SWING that? Did you learn that in a movie, J?” He smiled and said yes.
After a few more minutes of making sure he understood… J prayed, in his own words, confessing his need for Jesus as his Savior and asking him to be the ruler of his life.
Goodness gracious. (That phrase has never made more sense to me!) Did that just happen? We talk a while longer. J decides he needs to return to his home and apologize to his family for stealing their money and running away. We ask him what it would take to get him home. He tells us there’s a train and it’s not too expensive but he was out of money. We told him to meet us the next day at 1pm so we could give him a gift and see if we could get him home.
He spent the night in McDonalds. We met him at 1 the next day, as planned. We talked through the decision he had made the night before. We had been warned by some locals that it might be a scam so before buying him a train ticket, we wanted to do our best to test his genuineness and we prayed for discernment. All of us agreed, the Holy Spirit is working here… scam or no scam… this kids life just changed in a genuine way. So we went for the long walk to the train station. We bought him a ticket and then got some lunch.
At lunch we opened up the Bible we brought for him. Michael asked him to read Mark 5. He read it and translated it into English for us to make sure he was understanding it properly. It’s the story of a man who Jesus healed. After healing him, Jesus said to the man: “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” We asked J: “How do you think that this story applies to your life?” He said: “I must go home and tell my family about what Jesus has done for me.”
He gets it! And we knew… If this is the BEGINNING of our trip… God was certainly going to blow our minds over and over… in a big way!
More to come.