i was already doing a couple things wrong. i was driving on my way back to the church after a meeting that had gone much later than i was expecting. it was now 11:30 at night. we had decided that we would all usually try to make it home before 11 most nights, simply because it just isn't safe to be out too late. a short walk from the lot to the front door awaited me, though i would also have to take the time to slide shut the parking gate and lock up since i would be the last one home.
as i drove along the highway the fear began to grow in me. everyone else is going to be asleep already. i started to imagine a mugging scenario. i had my bag with my computer with me. should i take my credit cards out of my wallet? i felt my toes wiggling. i was wearing flip-flops, not the best for running to be sure. we had also talked about not walking around in sandals too much as a safety precaution. i thought about how i could slide them off and run barefoot. too much broken glass around. i just hoped they would let me live if i handed over all my stuff. dying right now would be sort of inconvenient.
maybe the fear wasn't quite that strong, but i really considered driving to my mom's house and crashing the night there. i could just come back in the morning. stop being silly; you'll be fine. besides, i had to lock up the gate or else it would be open all night. a car could get stolen. or people would keep dumping more in our already overflowing dumpster. i drove on, saying a few prayers as i got closer and the streets became smaller and emptier.
i didn't see anyone walking around as i pulled into the parking lot. i threw my bag over my shoulder and got the key out for the gate padlock. as i came to the opening i saw someone walking down the sidewalk towards me. they were holding a bag of some sort. as i started to pull the sliding gate i gave a peak and saw that it was a woman, probably just a little older than me. she was not far away now. i stuck the padlock on and turned around.
"hi," she said.
"how you doing," i responded with a smile.
as she passed me my fears were relieved and i turned to walk toward the front door. she continued on but had a slight hesitation in her next step. then she stopped and turned back.
"would you pray for me?" she asked. "my mom just had another heart attack and she's back in the hospital."
"yeah, for sure. what's your name?"
"and pray for my sister too, she's twelve and her uncle has started messing with her and i just can't do nothin about it." we both shook our heads for a moment.
"absolutely i will pray. and what's your name?"
"A--, and my mom's B-- and my daughter's S--. A--, B--, S--."
i repeated the names and wished her a good night. then she kept on walking.
after i was inside i smiled at the irony of the experience. perhaps God was smiling too. my fears were so preoccupied with myself. and i remembered why i was there in the first place.
maybe it was just because i was walking out of the church parking lot. maybe it was because i was one of the white kids and the word is getting out that we are living in this church now. but for whatever reason this woman knew that she could ask me to pray for her. not really for her, but for those closest to her who are hurting. there was a gravity in the way she asked too, in the way she stood. in the quiet anonymity of the dark there were no walls. through the streetlight's soft accents i could see the depth in her in that brief moment--a rare and sincere candor with no pride nor shame in it. i can't even express in words the significance and meaning this meeting had for me. it was a divine encounter. a kairiotic moment.
sometimes i tell people i will pray for them and then i forget about it. i will not forget about A--. and how great is it that this is exactly what we've come here to do, to pray, to talk to people, to relate, to love? she didn't ask for money, for food. no, for prayer. and pray we will.
maybe we need to think about being out and about late at night more often :).