As a missionary kid, I’ve heard many people talk about my parent’s work like they are specially endowed super heroes sent by God to carry out tasks that no one else could do. And as much as I’ve always thought my dad had some super hero in him, I don’t believe that missionaries are quite as special as they’re made out to be.
You don’t have to cross any national boarders or sit in a grass hut to be an instrument of God for the benefit of others. But if you don’t recognize the opportunity and take the risk of talking to strangers you might just pass up the chance to be an “ambassador of Christ” (2 Cor 5:20) to someone in need.
This was made clear to me back in college. In the same era of my life when God was sending me angels and even homeless angels, he made me an ambassador of his love to others.
I met Ashlee when she scared the crap out of me by pounding on my car window as I pulled in to park at my apartments. It was mid afternoon and I had come home from my college classes, but I hadn’t even had time to turn my engine off before she was at my window, black-mascara tears streaming down her beach-tanned face. I rolled down my window to see what she needed, but it took a moment for me to make out her words between her sobs. Eventually I got that her boyfriend had dumped her here and she didn’t have a way to get home. “Can you give me a ride?” she said, “Just to my sister’s house, it’s up near Monkey Junction.”
“Sure,” I said. How could I have said no? The woman was clearly desperate for help.
She got in the car and composed herself–wiping her face and calming her breathing until she could talk. Then she began to tell me what had happened, breaking off to let me know where to turn.
You see, her boyfriend had been driving her around in his truck when she finally decided to break the news to him that her daughter’s father was getting out of prison in a few days–just in time for her daughter’s 6th birthday. Her boyfriend, who was high on crack at the time, didn’t take the news too well. He got real nervous and agitated in the car and finally stopped at my apartment complex to throw her out of the car and drive off.
“So… you’re daughter’s father is in prison?” I said.
He had been convicted of possession and  sale of drugs and locked up for the entirety of his daughter’s life. “This party is the first time he’ll get to see her!” Ashlee said.
“Oh, how nice,” was all I could think to say. This whole conversation–the whole event–was far out of my comfort zone.
We arrived at her sister’s house and she got out of the car, but asked me to stay until she was inside. I watched her knock on the front door, the front windows, the side windows, and then yell at the house, “I know you’re home! Answer the door!”
If they were home, they didn’t answer the door. Defeated, she got back in my car and asked in a shy voice if I would take her to her own house in the next town over–about 30 minutes away. I agreed and we set off.
On the way, we got to know each other a bit. she thanked me a hundred times for helping her and invited me to the beach with her sometime (Something she obviously enjoyed a lot). “You should come to my baby’s birthday,” she said. “You can meet her dad. We need friends like you. None of my friends would have ever picked up some stranger in a parking lot.”
“That sounds nice,” I said, not really sure what to think, but trying my best to be polite. She gave me all of the information for the part and wrote down her phone number for me before I dropped her off at her house, just a block or two from the beach. It was a typical beach-house–not the vacation type, but the kind that sit on stilts  behind the hotels, ignored by all.
About a week later, I went to the store and bought a gift for Ashlee’s daughter: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

My favorite children’s book

I wrapped it in green paper and headed off to Ashlee’s house for the party. Cigarette smoke billowed out of the front door, hurting my smile just a little bit, but Ashlee wouldn’t let me escape the cloud. She grabbed me warmly and pulled me in to introduce me to her family, taking the present from me and putting it in a pile of pink gifts near the girls, also dressed in pink.
“That’s my mom over there, and this is my baby’s daddy,” she said, pulling me close to a group of men sitting around the table with beers and cigarettes. A rather intimidating man in the middle of the group nodded his head at me. I smiled and held out my hand to shake at the same time that he held out his fist for a fist bump. That was the first time anyone had done that.
Somewhere deep inside me I knew how to fist bump. But the whole situation–strange house, strange people, this scary-looking man fresh out of prison, the smoke–frazzled me and kept me from thinking clearly. So in an embarrassing moment of thoughtlessness, I grabbed his closed fist and shook it vigorously, saying “Nice to meet you!” with the best smile I could offer.
The man’s face contorted into a look of shock and confusion.
I left the party soon after that, feeling like I had failed enough for one day. The daughter seemed to have no interest in my book, which was severely lacking in pink or lace. The father, I was sure, had written me off as an idiot or a bimbo. And I wasn’t sure I could manage to breathe much longer in the cloud of smoke that sat like a heavy fog in the house.
But one thing made me feel good about the whole thing. Ashlee counted me as a friend. After only an hour with her over a week’s time, she considered me a friend. And that made everything worth it.


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