Thursday, April 14, 2016

"Please sir,. I am listening"

Over the next few weeks I'm going to be relating various ministry-related stories that happened on our recent trip to the Philippines. This is one of them.


Photo by Belle Alford

 Riding in a Jeepney is a unique experience, especially as an American.  I highly recommend it as a enriching experiential event indicative of the local culture. In other words; skip the opera, ride a Jeepney.
  A Jeepney is the public transportation of choice in Cagayn de Oro.  Picture a school bus with every possible safety feature removed (windows, doors, seatbelts) and painted with whatever paint was laying around. Weld purely decorative features to the  hood or to the sides (chrome horns that don't work seem to be a crowd favorite). Stick some English words on there that don't go together and whatever graphic strikes your fancy ( my personal favorite was the picture of the Lamborghini with the words 'Proud to Farm' underneath). Then take that garish bus and cram it with a constant flow of people. Fill every seat, stack people on the roof, hang people off the back and have the driver make change while in motion and yammering away with the riders about the local gossip and you might have some idea of what it's like to ride in a Jeepney.
  The strategy for preaching on Jeepney is simple. Wait till the Jeepney fills up, and preach. You will be thigh-to-thigh with the people you are preaching to, and your face will be inches away from theirs. The most amazing part is that they listen, and sometimes interact with you.
  My daughter and I had  deciphered the Jeepney system and we were more than a little proud of ourselves for being able to maneuver independently through the city.So I positioned myself behind the driver and once we had a decent load of people, I began to preach slowly and in English.
  Preaching slowly was not a problem. Preaching in English is not a problem. The problem is that, thought the riders are attentive, the commerce of the Jeepney continues and you will be handed money to give to the driver. The driver will make change without even looking and hand the change back to you for you to pass on down the line. People will be yelling at the driver to make sure he stops, and he will be yelling back.The trick is to maintain a thought while all this swirl of activity is going on inches away from you and demanding your involvement. I mean, as much as you may want to tune it all out, you need to make sure the lady at the end of the Jeepney gets her change back. Passing strangers money is part of the experience.
 So there I was, preaching by myself on the Jeepney for the first time, and participating in all that went on.  Somehow in all those transactions, I lost my train of thought. It happens. I also started to wonder if, in my  focus on the gospel, I had missed our stop. So I  stuttered and stammered and looked around a bit. Like I said, it happens. From the far end of the Jeepney, a woman said "Please sir, I am listening."
  I can handle a lot of things. I can handle apathy, and I can handle hostility. It's  a by-product of my ministry. Apparently what I can't handle, at least not that day, was somebody paying attention. I stared at this woman and my mind was blank. I stared at her for what was probably only a few seconds but felt much longer. She repeated herself.
 "Please sir, I am listening. But my building is very close. Tell me."
  I marshaled my brains and rallied to the cause. I explained to her one more time how Christ had died for her sins and how God commands all men to repent, believe the gospel, and be saved.  I probably did a lousy job; I usually do.  But soon her building was in view. Her last words to me were "Thank you for the information."
  I believe that most gospel witnesses are cumulative; most people don't receive Christ the first time they are told about Him, or even the second time.  I believe that only at the judgment seat of Christ will we really understand how His word will not return void. But that day, for about 14 cents American (7 pesos one way) , I got one more chance to look a fellow human being in the eyeball and tell them the only thing worth telling. To God be the glory.
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