Shiny Red Fire Trucks
The Bronx was burning fast. Fire truck sirens were a constant reminder of the destruction that was taking place in my beloved city. Burned out buildings and store fronts were the evidence of the turmoil that had gripped the lives of its inhabitants. We were at war; the faces of the soldiers were familiar. They were my brothers and fathers and sisters and mothers. The enemy was on the offensive and we were retreating fast.
Fear put on a fresh face during those turbulent times while growing up in the ‘70s Bronx. Gangs and violence became a new way of life.
In the midst of this chaos, my mother was trying to raise 7 children. In my 10 year old eyes, peace was the last thing on my young mind. Little did I know that my Mom was relentlessly on her knees, staking a claim to the peace that God promised if she kept her mind on Him. She had only one other choice – to despair. She could easily have given in to hopelessness but she chose to trust in her Lord for the safety of her clan.
On our local street there was a notorious gang called the Savage Skulls. They were responsible for setting many of the fires that burned the homes and stores in the neighborhood. Whenever my Mom would hang clothes outside to dry, they would throw urine-filled water balloons at her. My Mom was a warrior, who on many occasions had to defend her castle with tooth and nail from the gang as they tried to break into our home. Her fierce determined look on her face resembled what I could only imagine that of a pacing lioness on the prowl. And yet she continued to pray and trust God for peace.
She prayed as she sent us to school. She prayed while we went to the grocery store. She prayed while we slept. She prayed every time she heard those blasted fire truck and police sirens, she prayed. Although prayer was helping to keep my Mom sane, she knew that she had to do something drastic. So she did what she always did – she prayed.
Then one day, a thought came to her – feed my sheep. At first she didn’t understand what this meant. “What do you mean, Lord, feed my sheep?” she questioned the Lord. And He would tell her again, “feed my sheep”. To which she responded, “But they’re not even Christians, they don’t believe in You”. The Lord would simply and patiently say, “Feed my sheep”. My mother thought about it for a while and decided that she would obey.
She began to prepare and plan what she would say to the gang members that always seemed to be gathered outside of our window. But the words just didn’t come to her. She went before the Lord again and cried out to Him. “If You want me to feed Your sheep, then give me the words”, she cried out in frustration. I can imagine the Lord smiling at her naiveté. He told her again, “feed my sheep”. Then the light bulb went off. “Oh, FEED my sheep”, and she began to laugh and cry at the same time.
My Mom ran into the kitchen, pulled out her pots and began to prepare the most savory dish she was capable of. She made succulent roasted pork with its golden crispy skin. Rice and beans would escort the roasted pork. This was a meal fit for a king, (or a Savage Skull). My Mom then opened the front door and the window and let the aromas of her kitchen pervade the outdoors. And she waited. Before she had a chance to kneel and pray that she had been obedient, there was a rap at the window.
There standing at the window was a young lady named Faye. She was the president of the girls’ section of the Savage Skulls. She was reputed to be a cold, calculating warrior. If you saw Faye walking down the street, it would be wise of you to cross to the other side of the street. You just didn’t want your paths to cross. She was that feared. And here she was, standing at our window. My mother looked at Faye and Faye stared back. Fire truck sirens could be heard in the distance. She had a look in her eyes that revealed her vulnerability and hunger.
She quietly spoke one simple sentence, “I am hungry”. My mother, with the compassion of her Lord told her, “I’ll be right back”. My mother came back with a heaping plate of hot food and a cold drink. Faye’s eyes were as big as fire truck tires. She, as graciously as she could, accepted the plate of food. It took her all but thirty seconds to wolf down the steaming meal. She rinsed out the plate in the open fire hydrant and quietly knocked on the window again and politely said “thank you” then left.
This happened again and again. She would quietly knock and my Mom would feed her. They began to develop a friendship. My Mom would feed her belly with the fare and feed her heart with kindness and on some days Faye would let my Mom feed her spirit with the words of Jesus. They were becoming friends.
Faye began to knock on the window, not just for a warm meal, but to warn my Mom of impending danger. She would tell my Mom to run and pick us up from school before the rumbles would begin. Faye had become our personal bodyguard. She would walk us to school and sometimes even pick us up. And God forbid if anyone pick on us in school. They had Faye to contend with.
Little by little Mom, through her Lord Jesus Christ, had broken through the tough exterior of this street soldier. Because of my Mom’s obedience to the nudging of the Holy Spirit, my Mom had found peace in the war zone. God had used Faye to bring this about.
A few years later we moved out of the neighborhood. Faye had also left. My Mom lost touch with her. She continued to pray for her, though. Through her faith, my Mom believes that she will see Faye one day, here on earth or in the next life.
My Mom always believed that she could face rainy days because her trust was in the Rain Maker. Even today, whenever she hears the sirens of a fire truck, she thinks of Faye and offers up a small prayer.