Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: STAND UP FOR JESUS (don't write about the song) (04/09/15)
- TITLE: Vanessa
By Jack Taylor
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You wouldn’t usually mistake Vanessa for the Daniel type. At five foot five she seemed harmless. Yes, her emotions swung up and down at a speed faster than the local roller coaster and her smile could charm the rattles off a snake, but her Argentinian English pulled at you to try and hear what she was saying.
She had no sense of clear boundaries. I was standing by her in a Foodbank line-up and she turned to a perfect stranger, a young man a decade older than her, and said, “Hello, my name is Vanessa, how can I pray for you today?” I knew this guy was a declared atheist but this time his usual tirades were anchored behind wondering eyes.
She was a Latin princess in every sense of the word. She vibrated with energy and lived to love. Her shoulder length hair was naturally the shade of her sparkling coffee bean eyes. The tears that flowed from those eyes could fill a mug or two.
A few minutes after calming the atheist she put her arm on the back of a young Muslim mother and asked the same question. “How can I pray for you?” There was no offense taken. Her lack of guile kept the conversation going and before long she had phone numbers and requests to remember.
The clock wasn’t an invention Vanessa seemed familiar with. She was always with someone and despite her continuous commitments to scheduled events she would often show up at the end of them – having been helping someone else through a deep crisis.
I received a phone call from her at two-thirty in the morning. As usual, she was with seven of her transgendered friends down in a coffee shop downtown. She was laughing with them, listening to them, praying with them, inviting them to church. She wanted me to come down and lead a Bible study with them. I asked if we could do it earlier on another day. She handed her phone to one of her friends and I was pulled into a world I never dreamed of engaging with.
Vanessa wanted a husband with all the energy her heart could muster. She was in love with my intern and did nothing to hide her feelings. I told her that her missionary work for the next year meant that she had to focus on her outreach and control her desires so there would be no distraction.
Twice, I had to phone and create distance for suitors who wanted her to return their attempts at courting. She needed a protector and she needed someone who could absorb the gallons of love that spilled out all over the surfaces of wherever she went.
Vanessa loved Jesus. She’d been saved from a wild life as a teen and had been thrown like a branch into the blazing bonfires of revivalism in Argentina. She burned with a desire that everyone should know Jesus and she walked like a light into the darkest places without hesitation or fear.
Lesbians, gays, bi-sexuals, transgendered, prostitutes or party-animals who filled the downtown streets at mid-night were invitations for her to connect and love. The personal stories or actions of the individuals who shared with her only stimulated her to prayer and more love.
Vanessa never failed to leave me in wonder at how God could insert a little firebrand like her into the darkest places. Yes, it got discouraging for her at times when responses were limited. When she finally convinced one of her transgendered friends to risk showing up at a downtown church only to find out that the other young adults had little passion for reaching the fringe group in the city, she filled another few mugs of tears for her friend.
In the middle of everything her religious visa application expired and she had to leave back to her mother in Argentina. No amount of prayers, calls or tears to the authorities could change things. She was a Daniel standing up for Jesus but the lions were going to be left to wonder if there were no others in the city who cared this deeply.
“I’ll be back soon,” she called through her smile as she waved her way through the airport check in. And I count on that. As events come to an end I sometimes scan the room to see if she is bursting in with another apology on her lateness. One day soon she’ll be back. The city needs her.
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