In June 2013, I left our two young girls in Prince Edward Island on the Canada Atlantic District and headed as a delegate to the Nazarene Missions International (NMI) Convention in Indianapolis with my husband, Greg, (our Nazarene Youth International district president). I had the whole trip planned out in my mind and was very excited because I don't get to go on trips like this very often.
Throughout my frustrating travel (delays, overbooking, lost luggage, and so on), I kept saying to myself "You never know who you'll meet," thinking that there were going to be thousands of incredible Nazarenes at General Assembly 2013, and perhaps we would meet some significant people along the way. Little did I know God's plans were different than mine.
On Wednesday, June 19, I was leaving the restaurant after dinner and heading toward the convention center. I noticed a girl (probably around my age, late 20s) sitting on the ground with a little basket in front of her. She didn't resemble most homeless people that you usually see in large cities.
Leaning on a pillow that contained her belongings, she was wearing clean "normal" clothes and a ball cap. Before I reached her, I took out some change from my pocket that I wanted to give to her. Seeing people sitting on the sidewalks is quite rare in the small community of Charlottetown, PEI, where I live, so I wanted to make the most of this opportunity.
When giving money to strangers, you may have had the same thoughts I had: "What are they really going to spend their money on? Are they going to mug me for the rest of my belongings?" Then our minds race and perhaps we let fear and doubt sink into our hearts. My reason for wanting to give her some change was to give myself an excuse to start a conversation with her.
I approached her and said "Hi." She looked up at me and smiled. Then I said "I don't have much but I hope this will help." I asked her if she was from here, where she was going, and her name. She replied "Mara.*" She was a beautiful dark-haired girl, looking lost and without hope, seemingly searching for someone to show compassion to her.
I asked her a few more questions and told her I was from Canada. When I asked if she needed anything, she replied, "toothpaste." Unfortunately I wasn't carrying any toothpaste, but we talked a little more and then I said "I'll pray that you will find what you're looking for." She thanked me and told me good bye.
As I walked back toward the convention center I couldn't get her off my mind and wondered what else I could give her. Then I thought about the small Bible in my bag. I mentally debated for minuted, and worried as I looked at the clock and saw I had only 15 minutes before my first meeting. Then I thought, "I can offer what I do have, my God and my Bible. The meeting doesn't need me there in order to begin."
So I went back to find her. I was nervous, and sought God for the right words to come out of my mouth, as I am not usually the one to initiate talking with or witnessing to strangers. But I couldn't ignore this opportunity.
I sat down beside her and told her I couldn't stop thinking about her and wanted to offer what I had, my Bible. She then explained that she used to have a Bible filled with notes, how she depended on God, and used to attend church. She went on to explain how people were telling her to get back to reality, to not depend on religion, and wake up to the real world.
All I could say was "wow" with sadness in my voice. Then I asked her "Did you feel you were doing the right thing at the time?" She said "Yes." So I encouraged her not to forget what she once had because she was doing the right thing then. Briefly, I shared how I lived my life depending on God in this world. I offered her the Bible again and she declined, politely. Before I left, I asked if I could pray with her.
Gently, she declined again then said "But you could pray for me as you go."
"I promise I will."
We said our goodbyes and off I went to the meeting. I smiled, not feeling defeated, but perhaps brokenhearted. My heart was torn because this girl shared of once having had a strong faith. I prayed that she would find faith in God again. I thought of a lot of things I could or should have said, but wondered if God was testing my obedience and also wanted to remind Mara that he was still there for her. I have left her in God's hands and I know he's watching over her.
During the rest of my visit in Indianapolis, I made a point to talk with some others on the streets, and seek God's view of this city. There was a lot I didn't get to experience there. I didn't meet any famous people or someone significant in the world's eyes, but I think God showed me what my heart needed to see.
Before leaving home I said, "I'll never know who I'm going to meet." Little did I know it was going to be someone really important beside a lonely garbage can (pictured here). Thank you, Mara, for showing me the love of God and for being significant in his eyes. My prayer is that you will experience him once again.
*Not her real name.
Reanne Krauss, a district licensed minister from the east coast of Canada, was a delegate to the recent NMI Convention in Indianapolis during General Assembly 2013 for the Church of the Nazarene.