An Unforgettable Stranger
As a minister, I hate to hear the phone ring on Sunday morning. It almost always heralds bad news. Some Sunday School teacher won’t be there to teach, someone has had a heart attack, or there’s been a death in the congregation. So, I answered the phone that Sunday morning with trepidation.
I said, “hello,” and identified myself. The caller’s response was, “Hello, my name is Tom. I’m a missionary.”
“Oh, boy,” I thought, “This isn’t the first time I’ve heard that line from someone who wants to hit me up.” But, I asked, “What can I do for you, Tom?”
“I’m at the bus depot downtown and I’d like to attend Church this morning. Can you tell me the name and phone number of the nearest Church so I can call them and see if I can get a ride to their service?” Still highly skeptical, I gave him the name and number of the Church nearest the bus station and hung up.
Then the guilt set in. I could have done more. What if he really was a missionary? What if I had failed to help a person really needing and deserving my help? What if he couldn’t make contact with the other Church? In the end, my guilty conscience compelled me to call back to the bus depot, have Tom paged, and invite him to our services. We picked him up in time for Sunday School and what a blessing this stranger provided!
On the ride back to the Church building, he made a favorable impression. I invited him to address my adult Sunday School class regarding himself and his work.
He told how he established and managed a home for teenage boys near Mexico city. He recounted stories of conversions and told of young men saved from a life of crime on the streets. He talked of his own call to ministry and told of a near fatal illness that left him with a permanent limp and of a wife who abandoned him in his hour of need.
As Tom spoke of his trust in God and his gratitude for all God had enabled him to accomplish, his faith, love, and commitment were obvious to all. We gave him an offering and my wife invited him to have dinner with us. During and after diner, Tom inspired us with stories of his travels and his work.
In those days, Greyhound offered a pass allowing travelers to ride their buses anywhere they went for ninety days. The cost was only ninety dollars and Tom had taken advantage of the bargain to travel by bus through the United States raising funds for his boys’ home. Reluctantly, we drove him back to the bus station and left him to continue his journey.
I’ve crossed paths with Tom a couple times since then, but I will never forget the day a godly traveler provided such a blessing to my family and me.
Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. “ Now when I read that verse, I often remember Tom and how I almost passed up an opportunity to meet a man I shall never forget.
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