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      God-Given Appointments

      A Hispanic woman and her three small children set out on a long journey to a city forty miles away.  They had one large suitcase with rollers which contained all their belongings.  They didn’t have a car or a cell phone.  They simply had their suitcase and their tiny legs.  She had just enough money to pay a taxi to get to them to the city.  She couldn’t call a taxi though without a cell phone, so they set out on their journey walking along an old railroad track that had been converted to a recreational path where bikers, runners, and walkers could be found in multitudes especially on beautiful, sunny days.  Secretly, the woman hoped she would find someone who could help.

      Shortly after beginning the journey, she saw a woman on a bicycle approaching from the other direction.  As the bicyclist came closer, the Hispanic woman began waving her arms in an effort to get her to stop.  It was not hard to miss the waving arms and the three small children, but the woman on the bicycle stared straight ahead and even appeared to speed up as she passed the Hispanic woman and her three kids.

      Not giving up, the family continued down the trail.  A third of a mile later, the woman noticed a runner coming towards them.  He was drenched in sweat, but he was going slow enough that woman felt more confident that she could get his attention.  She waved her arms, and the runner slowed to a stop.  He removed one of his earphones which was connected to the smart phone which he held in his hand.  In her broken English, the woman proceeded to ask the man for some help calling a taxi.  The man was clearly perturbed – “How dare this woman interrupt his workout?”  He made up some dumb excuse as to why he couldn’t help her.  Then he put his earphone in and ran off in the other direction.

      The woman was starting to get a little concerned.  She still had a long way to go, and no one seemed interested or available to help her.  The small family walked slowly down the trail toward the city.  After walking a mile or so, they came to a small park.  This was a good place for the family to take a break.  The kids made their way to the small playground in the park while the woman found a nearby park bench where she sat down and began to pray.  She needed to find help soon or she would be forced to find cover in the woods along the trail for the night.

      After a few minutes of prayer, she opened her eyes and looked up to check on her kids.  They were still busy playing on the playground.  Just past the playground, she noticed an older man resting next to his old ten speed bicycle.  The man looked a little disheveled with tattered clothes and a face that hadn’t been shaved for several days.  Tied to his bike were a sleeping bag and a black garbage back filled with who knows what. This was clearly not the person you’d expect to provide any assistance.

      The Hispanic woman decided it was time to get moving again.  She rolled the suitcase over to the playground equipment, and she began gathering her children.  The old man stood up and walked toward the woman.  Unsure how to respond, the woman froze and looked away.  As the man drew closer, he removed his weathered hat, and he spoke softly, “Can I help you?”  Startled, the woman looked down.  Could this man really help?  Could she trust him?  Remembering her prayer just minutes ago, she explained her situation to the man.  The man smiled, and he told her he could help.  After a few more exchanges, the man asked the woman to stay in the park for fifteen more minutes.  He explained that he would be right back.  With few other options, the woman agreed and told the children to head back to the playground.  The man got on his bicycle and rode away.  Should the woman stay and trust this old man, or should she take her kids and walk on down the trail?  She wrestled through with this question as she waited for the man to return.  About fifteen minutes later, a yellow mini-van with the letters T – A – X – I prominently displayed on the sides and roof of the vehicle pulled into the park.  The old man stepped out of the driver’s side, and he invited the young family into the taxi as he opened the side doors.  He loaded the suitcase into the back, and they were on the way to the city.

      This story has haunted me for a couple of months.  I was the runner in this story, and this happened to me early in July before I went to Guatemala.  I’m not sure what happened with this woman and her small children, but I trust they are okay.  I kick myself, because I could have done something to help this woman and her children.  I had a smart phone.  I could have looked up the number to a taxi service and called on her behalf.  I didn’t have any money on me at the time, but I could have run home, grabbed my wallet, and returned to give her money to help pay for the taxi service.  But I didn’t.  It was inconvenient at the time.  I was late for something that probably didn’t matter that much, and I was in the middle of a long workout.  I’m willing to travel to Guatemala to help those in need, but I miss out on opportunities like this right in my own area.  When will I learn that these types of interruptions may actually be God-given appointments?  The words of our mouth have to be more.  If they don’t turn into actions, we are simply blabbering.  I don’t want to be a “blabberer.”  I want my faith to be real.  I want it to be shown by my actions.  I want to have a mission mindset right where I live and work.  I can’t change the past, but I can look toward the future.  May God keep my eyes open for these opportunities, and may I keep my hands ready to serve others right where I am.

      Which person do you identify with in the story?

      Have you had any “God-given appointments” recently?  How did you respond?