Monday, March 29, 2010

"I need a title." "What did you write about?" "That I beat you in air hockey" "You wrote that?"

So Monday night is the music ministry’s Bible study night. I think I may have mentioned we’re studying James :-) and it’s been pretty awesome. I love spending time with these friends of mine reading James’ letter and figuring out what it means for us today. It is rewarding for me to see that my time spent preparing each lesson isn’t lost; to see that James’ message is making sense. But rewarding as it is to see other people grasp the ideas I spend time translating each week, it doesn’t compare to witnessing those people put those ideas into practice in real life.

Last week we decided to take a break from meeting in my apartment and doing the usual study. We met up at the church and then headed out to Guayaquil to hang out in the city for a couple hours. Fourteen of us climbed onto a bus on its way out of town and we made our way down the main street in El Recreo. A few stops down the street a woman got on the bus and made her way toward an empty seat. The bus driver, who I’m guessing missed the class on shifting during driving school, apparently had it out for her. Before she was able to get to an empty seat, the bus lurched forward with impressive force and then stopped suddenly and lurched forward again (as was the general pattern we had been experiencing thus far) and she went down hard. She hit her head on the back of a seat as she toppled over and landed on her left arm. Oh yeah…and she was not a little woman. The bus driver, who I highly doubt missed the scream she let out as she went down, was clearly more interested in perfecting his shifting technique which made it impossible for her to get up again.

This is where it gets awesome.

Almost immediately, Ismael jumps up out of his seat and runs to where she’s bawling and struggling to get up. He helps the woman up and into a seat, repeatedly defying inertia as the bus lurches down the road. At the same time José and Ivan jump out of their seats to help collect and return all the loose change that dropped out of her hand as she had fallen, and the rest of the band shouts for the bus driver to stop the bus. (He slowed down a little eventually, which I’m sure he thought merited some kind of medal.)

This poor woman, who is now covered in the kind of filth you can only find on the floor of a Panorama 81-line bus, is crying uncontrollably and in between sobs, you can almost make out what she’s saying. “sob I sob sob want… sob my sob sob husband…sob sob sob want sob go sob sob home…” poor thing. I give Ismael my water bottle to wash her hand which is bloody and appears broken, and then in what must have been a miracle from Heaven itself, through her sobs she speaks a sentence that rings out loud and clear all the way to the drivers’ seat. “I’m reporting this to the transit commission.” Hallelujah, the driver stopped in the middle of the road, put the bus in park, climbed over the divider and approached the woman with what I’m sure was his best attempt at “concern” and said, “Are you ok?” HA!

José called the woman’s husband for her and the driver offered to drive her back home. He stopped another bus on its way out of El Recreo for us to get on and be on our way. José, Ismael and Manuel stayed behind with the woman to make sure she got home ok and met us in Guayaquil a short while later.

I felt so proud of the band. Their reactions to help were immediate and unprompted, and, even though I heard various, unhelpful suggestions of making a citizen’s arrest shouted anonymously from the general direction of the band at the back of the bus…still, our faith was made into action through those who stood up to help.

That’s not all.

We took a stroll down the River-walk, stopped to buy ice cream cones, and enjoyed each others’ company for half an hour or so and ended up at the small food court at the end. Some people got something to eat and others spent some time shaming Ismael at a game of air hockey in the arcade.

After my victory, we walked over to the table where most of the band was eating dinner. As we got nearer I noticed there was an addition to the group. Sitting between Manuel and Jenniffer there was a girl about 10 or 11 years old with a giant plate of food in front of her. Based on the proximity of her face to the plate and the rate at which her spoon went back and forth between the two, I’m guessing she either hadn’t eaten in a while or didn’t expect to be eating again anytime soon…or maybe both. I asked José who she was and he says, “We don’t know….but she said she was hungry…so we all chipped in and bought her dinner. We figured that’s what James would say we should do.”

AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!! I almost cried on the spot! How awesome is that?! “We figured that’s what James would say we should do.” Oh man. It just makes my heart come alive. So…God is good. And God is working here in the lives of these friends of mine, shaping their faith—making it come alive.

Shake things up where you are. Make your faith into action.