As the homeless man approached, we knew we’d found our ministry project.
“Ola!” I chirped, hoping to piece together enough Spanish to carry out our mission. “Como esta?”
“Ugh,” he grunted. His crusty eyes met mine as he managed a snaggletooth smile, “Quetzals?”
I sighed as I pondered his request for money. My friend Jeff and I had been charged with an assignment: take 40 Guatemalan quetzals and bless someone in the village. We decided against a simple handout, so we made this man an offer.
“Comida?” I asked, hoping the man would let us buy him some food. A couple of blocks away at the city park, vendors sold hot dogs and empanadas. What we lacked in language skills we figured could make up for with a cheerful act of kindness.
“Comida?” Jeff repeated, motioning toward the park.
“Ugh,” the man grunted again, nodding in agreement.
We ambled down the uneven cobblestone streets. “Mi nombre es Jeff,” my friend explained, “y mi amiga es Susanna.”
“Como te llamas?” I asked.
“Miguel,” he answered.
Our Spanish skills exhausted, Jeff and I continued down the street, smiling as our new amigo followed.
Approaching a convenience market, we decided to buy a bottle of water for Miguel. We watched as he fumbled with the cap. Jeff twisted it free, and we tried not to stare as this thirsty man guzzled the bottle’s contents.
“Quetzals?” Miguel inquired.
“No quetzals. Comida!” I countered.
I didn’t like where this conversation was headed. I could smell the alcohol on Miguel’s breath, but hoped the prospect of food would outweigh his desire for a drink.
“Quetzals?” Miguel persisted.
I looked at Jeff. “I don’t think he wants any food.”
“Miguel,” Jeff looked into his crusty eyes, “no quetzals. Te gusta la comida?”
Miguel turned to me. “Quetzals?”
“No quetzals, Miguel. Comida, pero no quetzals.”
Dejected, he turned and shuffled back down the street, my heart sinking with each step.
It seemed like such a simple assignment: find someone and bless them. We found one who was poor and downtrodden, one who needed a blessing, but who wouldn’t accept one.
I wonder how many times I’ve done that to God. Started to follow Him and accepted His “water,” but when the next gift wasn’t what I wanted…
Or what I thought I needed…
He knows us far better than we know ourselves…
~Romans 8:27a (MSG)
I’ll probably never see Miguel again, and I’ll never have another opportunity to bless him. But, the next time I sense God offering me a gift, even if it’s not what I want, I’ll try not to walk away.