(This post is ridiculously long, read it when you have time.)
"God is the King. He's in charge of everything. And that's something that's really huge for us, that we've been learning as missionaries. And it's really good to be amazed by it. People- it's been my experience that people close to God are amazed a lot. Because - they know God, and God is amazing. And personally, for all of us, I think we've grown in our amazement."
Cat and I drove down to Indianapolis last Saturday. The morning was sunny and we laughed our way down 31, sticking close to a fellow driver whom we dubbed "Speedmeister" and catching up with each other for the first time in weeks. She told me about Montre, whom she was going to visit. He'd been a student of hers and was now seriously ill in Riley Children's Hospital. Cat, who has the biggest heart of anyone I know, had been down to visit him a few weeks earlier and wanted nothing more than to stay by Montre's bedside, hold his hand, and read him some books. Montre had a trach and couldn't speak so she had made up a board with pictures of the book covers so that he could just point to the book he wanted.
I was along for the ride. She told me quite honestly that she'd understand if I didn't want to spend a lot of time in the hospital room. Montre was pretty sick and it could be hard to see. So when the missionaries with whom we were staying offered to have me hang out with them for the afternoon, I felt OK saying yes. We dropped Cat off at Riley and went over to the near southside to go "missionarying."
So who are these missionaries? They are Mary, Molly, Nick, Jon, Rus, Abe, Dan, Tom, and Brian. (There are others too who were not there last weekend.) You can read their blogs to find out more about them, or just keep reading this story. They're living in Indianapolis, with not much furniture and not much food, but what they do have is faith ...
After dropping off Cat, we drove down West St. and I started to recognize things. I lived a summer in Indianapolis, five years ago, living/working at Holy Family Shelter (my first time working with the homeless). I knew we were driving toward the "target area" where the missionaries do their stuff, and when we drove east on Raymond and took a left on Meridian I started to feel lightheaded. My neighborhood, the run-down little place that I had loved for those eight weeks and ever since - this was where the Lord had sent my friends to spread the good news. Amazing.
We went out by twos. Nick and I started walking north on Meridian. We had a thirty-second chat with a woman who left us to catch a bus, and then we hit the jackpot. A tall young man with tattoos and long hair was walking toward us, and Nick went straight up to him. "Hi, I'm Nick, and this is Sheila, and we're missionaries. Have you ever heard God talk to you?" I thought he would walk away, or at best, argue us down and/or cuss us out. Instead we had a half-hour talk about how God might work in the neighborhood, and what friendship with God might look like. Amazing.
Nick went off with this guy to talk more and he dropped me off with Jon and Molly. They were finishing a conversation with an alcoholic whom they had just baptized in the Holy Spirit. Amazing. We walked up the street a ways and Jon went chasing after a teenage guy carrying some groceries home. Did Jon really just do that? There's no way that kid really wants to talk to him. Half an hour later Jon has told him about God calling together his people Israel and the ways that God is calling people together today. "I don't know what to think about all this," the kid says. "But I think I want to be part of it." Amazing.
As Jon is finishing with the kid, Rus joins us, and he and Molly and I walk a few doors down. We meet Laura, a Christian who can't always get out to church because of old injuries that limit her movement. "We think God has called us to this neighborhood," Rus says. "What would it looked like if everyone came out on their porches every morning and prayed for the neighborhood?" We chat about that for a while and Molly moves in to create a relationship. "We'd like to share a meal with you. We can bring dinner over here if you can't get out. Here's my cell phone number." So now we've made a friend. Amazing.
Jon rejoins Molly, I go with Rus, we walk over one street and talk to a married couple on their porch. We talk more about friendship and reconciliation. This one is hard - their marriage is in trouble - and I am tempted to walk away. They don't seem to be listening. But maybe one ear is open. Rus, in courage and love for these people we've just met, keeps talking. Amazing. Sadly, we leave without "success" exactly. But keep praying as we walk down the porch steps and onto the street.
The last chat of the day is largely just funny. This guy asks us what we think happens to the soul after death, and in my first real contribution of the day, I tell him we actually spend a lot more time thinking about life before death. He then asks us if we think that Earth is the only planet with life on it ... what?
We get into the car and go to pick up Jon and Molly at White Castle where they just bought food for these homeless guys and also prayed with them. We drive home hot and tired and thirsty and hungry and sunburnt and - amazed. At least, I am amazed. "So is every day like this?" I ask someone. "Yeah," they reply, "pretty much."
We drive to Riley, and Molly and I go up to get Cat for dinner. Montre is doing pretty badly so Cat decides to stay with him. We can't enter the room without "suiting up" in gloves and gown, so Molly and I pray over Montre from just outside the room.
Dinner after such a day is absolutely perfect and delicious. Ray & Robin Gonzalez, an awesome couple from the PoP branch down there, make us tri-tip and salad and garlic bread ... "Thank you God, for giving us food!" the missionaries frequently sing when sitting down to a meal. Did I mention they don't eat lunch? Our stomachs filled, we work on the spirit with song after song - praise songs, Johnny Cash, you name it - Nick on the guitar, Rus doing some kind of stomping percussion, all of us with voices raised. Life together, generations together, joy together. Amazing.
It's getting late and Cat has been at the hospital about ten straight hours. When we go to pick her up, we find that Montre is still not too good and that Cat never ate dinner. We take her home, feed her some leftovers, and all go exhausted to sleep.
The next day , after church, Cat goes back to the hospital and I again chicken out and stay at the house. Mid-afternoon I go to Riley to pick up Cat so we can drive home and be back in time for soccer. She walks out of Riley, gets into the car, and tells me Montre is dying. One of the nurses said he probably won't make it through the night.
Now I finally go in with Cat.
I spend a short while sitting in the corner chair, trying to be quiet and unobtrusive, as Cat stands quietly at Montre's bedside holding his hand. Montre has been given some sort of paralytic drug so we have no way of knowing whether he's in pain, or whether he knows we are there. Montre's uncle comes in, we leave him to have time alone with Montre, and we visit the McDonald's on the first floor of the hospital because Cat has again forgotten to eat. We finish and the missionaries arrive to visit Montre and pray with him. (They've been regular visitors for the past couple of weeks.) They decide to keep a vigil and have two of them there at all times, switching off every hour and a half. Amazing.
For about three hours - broken up when the nurses shoo us out so they can clean Montre up - Cat and Mary and I pray with Montre. Mary tells us that she thinks the Lord wants to heal Montre and that we should keep praying for healing. Have you ever stood by a dying child and prayed fervently for his healing? Amazing. I wavered between really thinking he'd be healed, and just quietly saying, "Lord, you gave sight to the blind. I don't understand, but heal this boy."
It's eight o'clock at night and I have to be at work tomorrow. Cat is staying - she just can't leave Montre - and I drive her car back to South Bend alone, thinking about these two days of amazement.
To let you know the end of Montre's story - he died on Wednesday. I could give you halfhearted attempts at explaining what the heck God was doing there, but I really don't have any such words. For me, right now, I am simply amazed.
All weekend I was frustrated trying to find another word to use, instead of saying "amazing" over and over. But sometimes, there just aren't any words for it. God is King. I don't understand all of his ways, but he is King. And he is amazing.