Many years ago on a Wednesday night that started out much like every other Wednesday night something happened that has had a impact of my life. It’s something I do not want to forget and I want to live this lesson I learned that night forever.
There is nothing harder or more challenging than getting multiple children ready for church. It is hard for any parent, but when the 4 kids involved happen to be mine it makes it so much worse. Shoes are never found and if they are they don’t actually match. Belts disappear and so do all the socks. One this night Bubee was out of town so I had no help with the kids, who at the time were 3, 4 ,8 and 9 years old. Prayers were prayed tears were shed threats went worth and some how we managed to get out the door and into the van. On this night I was actually going a little early to work on a project in a Sunday School room.
We normally brought our neighbor girl with us but on this night she was at her parents business so I would have to stop there to get her. I, of course, passed up the business most likely because I was trying to make some kid be quiet, buckle up, or stop hitting a sibling.. the choices are endless just pick one.
As I was searching for a place to turn around I saw a man walking on the side of the road. It was clear he did not live in our little town and had been walking for some time. As soon as I saw him, I felt compelled to invite him to church. I started to think of all the reasons that was unsafe or a bad idea. I turned around and headed to pick up the kid I missed.. but of course I had to drive right past this traveler. Again, as I passed I felt the need to invite him to church. I went and picked the child up and headed to church once again passing this man. By this time I am miserable.
I knew it was the right thing to do to invite him. I knew God was telling me to do it. I also knew I was alone with 5 kids who were 9 and under in my van. I do not consider myself overly outgoing. I am not comfortable talking to strangers. Surely some one else would see him and invite him? the church was on his way. Maybe he would just wonder in? That could happen, right?
I pulled into the parking lot, and I knew I had to talk to him. There was no way around it. I just had to do it or I would forever regret it. It was very hot that day. I think it was August. I knew he had to be thirsty. I sat in my van and waited for him to walk by. When he did the kids and I went up to him and asked if he would like some water. He followed us into the fellowship hall. I fixed him a glass of water and gave him some left over sunday school cookies. He seemed very grateful. I learned his name was Joe and he was on his way to St. Louis, Missouri. I did not ask why, and he did not volunteer any other information. I told him we would be having service soon, and I would love for him to stay for it. He agreed and at this time I took him next door and passed him off to my Pastor, Brother Emerson.
Joe had been walking for a long time. When you walk in summer in Louisiana you sweat. When you dont shower as it clear Joe had not.. you smell. You smell really really bad. As I was working on my project I could not help but wonder how Joe would be recieved. He was a stranger and a very smelly one. As time for service neared I went back to the main building to check on my new friend. I walked in just in time to see Bro Robby Smitz shaking Joe’s hand like he was the greatest thing ever, welcoming him and finally giving him the biggest hug ever. He showed such love and compassion to Joe.
Joe stayed the whole service. I would like to tell you he saw the truth, repented, dove in the baptistery, and followed scriptural salvation, but no. As service ended he quietly left. My Pastor mentioned he wanted to give Joe some money to help him, but did not get the chance. Joe did not ask for money. He did not ask for anything and what I did give him, water and cookies, he was very grateful for.
A couple of weeks later one of the men from my church was out of state and noticed a traveler on the side of the road. He saw it was our Joe and pulled over. He was able to take Joe further on his journey, and even though Joe did not ask for it, he gave him some cash.
I do not know where Joe is today. I do not know why he was walking down a highway in a little country town past my little church. What I do know is God told me to invite him in. There has not been a day since then that I have not thought about Joe and prayed for him. I have to believe that Joe is living for God now. regardless, I did what was required of me.
We all will have our Joe’s. We will all meet that person who may not fit into what we think is ideal. This person will force us to get out of comfort zone and be the church God intended us to be. Your Joe may not look pretty, or smell wonderful. He may even look scary and totally different from everyone in your church. He may have a past full of sin and the heartache and repercussions that come from sin. You might not even like your Joe. But that doesn’t matter. What matters, the only thing that ever really matters when we meet our Joes is that we obey Jesus and do what he tells us to do. We need to see our Joes as God sees Joe.. a precious soul created in his image and much loved by him. We need to see Joe as a future soul winner, a future preacher, as our dear brother.
My prayer is that when ever a Joe comes into my life and your life we will listen to Jesus. When you find your Joe and you will find Joe.. Do not turn him away. Do not dismiss him. Do not let fear hinder you.. Just obey Jesus and be the church for Joe.
One of these days I will finally make it to Heaven. When that happens I have no doubt I will run into a man name Joe. I hope you also meet your Joe in Heaven.