By Allyn Schuyler
Special to The PREVIEW
I always thought I was a reasonably “watchful” person concerning people in need. I strive to put others before myself. I try to be obedient to the Holy Spirit when He prompts me to be of service to someone. I keep a prayer journal where I regularly intercede for the needs of others. I’m watchful … aren’t I?
Then I met Bert. My son and I joined a group of others from our church on a short-term mission trip to Mexico. We raised money to build a small house for a needy family who lived next to the city dump in a cardboard box. It was to be a quick trip — two days to drive, one day to build the simple structure, one day to pass out food in the nearby poverty-stricken area, and two days home. Not a lot of time for anything other than our tightly scheduled activities.
I couldn’t wait to meet our team leader, Bert, who signed every one of his advance preparation emails with “Isn’t God Good?!”
A financial planner, he spent at least one weekend a month in Mexico giving his time and energy to coordinate building projects and food deliveries. Everyone of those weekends was just as hard — a long, hot drive followed by grueling physical work, then a push past exhaustion to give some more. And Bert was not a young man. In fact, he was recuperating from pneumonia the week of our mission.
Upon our arrival in Mexico, I saw an example of a Christian being truly “watchful.” While we packed up food boxes, Bert made time for the people who had gathered around us, waiting.
“Are you hungry?” he’d ask, “Do you have a place to sleep?”
He didn’t just look upon these people with pity, he got right to the heart of the matter. After he made sure their basic needs were met, he would always ask, “Conoces a mi Jesus?” Do you know my Jesus?
During the course of those few short days, Bert ministered to everyone he came in contact with. He invited the vendors on the beach to join us for dinner and sat on the porch with them to talk about Christ. He witnessed to the security guards on strike that wouldn’t let us past the guard gate. If we had a few minutes to eat or shop, it was not unusual to find Bert carrying on a conversation with a local — taking every opportunity to pass out some of “his Jesus’ love.”
While we were watching our purses, Bert was watching out for people. The Holy Spirit seemed to give him discernment on who to talk to and who to be wary of. Bert carried an endless supply of bills in his wallet to give away — and when they ran out, he gave up his jacket and sleeping bag.
When we ran out of food to distribute from the back of his truck, he passed out the water coolers, blankets, tools and other useful items he kept stored there. Bert gave away everything not nailed down. On the return trip, we stopped at a gas station and he drove away with two travelers in his truck. Later, we found out that he had shared the gospel with them but “didn’t think they had accepted Christ yet.” Who knows, though, what happened with those seeds he planted.
That week, Bert showed me how to be truly watchful for people in need. Back in my small, safe village in Colorado, families don’t live in cardboard boxes. Our children aren’t starving and we may not have any homeless people at all. But I can always be alert for ways to reach out — need and pain come in so many different forms.
I wonder how many opportunities that God puts in my path every day.
2 Thessalonians 3:13: “But as for you, brothers and sisters, do not grow weary of doing good.”