My friend Courtney and I were driving around town the other day in a minivan plastered with Echo Ranch Bible Camp decals, visiting local churches and schools to hang up posters for summer camp. As we drove through one particular neighborhood, we came up on a lady walking, who desperately waved at us to stop. We were a little apprehensive, but Courtney pulled the van to a stop and rolled down her window. The woman was dressed in baggy clothes and looked like a wreck. Her face was blotchy and tears were streaming down her cheeks. Her demeanor said she was probably on drugs. In a raspy voice, she pleaded, "I'm really sick and I can't walk far. Can I use your phone?"
Courtney dialed in the number for her and handed over her iPhone. After a brief conversation, the lady returned the phone and, still crying, asked if we could give her a ride.
And there's where faith becomes real, y'all. There's where the love of Jesus means something... something besides crosses and Sunday school and Bible verses and camp posters.
So we let this hurting stranger climb into the back seat of our minivan, with her sniffling and coughing, her tears, and her cigarette smell. She told us where she needed to go, which turned out to be just on the other side of the highway. The short ride there was silent, other than quiet introductions. We asked her name and told her ours. Then we were there, in a dump of a trailer park that reminded me more of a third-world country than rich America. I jumped out of the passenger seat to open the sliding van door for her from the outside. As she got out, mumbling a thank you, I blurted, "Can I give you a hug?"
Probably not the wisest choice. She was dirty, she was sick, and she smelled bad. Who knows where she'd been? But I felt like I had to do something, say something, before she disappeared. Somehow I wanted to infuse life and love and Jesus into her life. So I opened my arms and asked to give her a hug.
She gave me a self-conscious half smile, then said, "I don't want to get you sick" and walked away. And that was it.
I hope and pray that somehow she saw Jesus, that in some way she felt loved, and that one day she might look back and see, not two women picking up a hitchhiker, but Jesus meeting her needs through those two uncertain girls in a minivan.