Monday, February 16, 2015

Stepping out and Reaching out

This past Valentine's Day a couple of friends and I went to the city of Tyler, Tx to do some work that we had been wanting to do for quite some time already. The work I speak about is not necessarily manual labor but spiritual labor.

My friend Ruben and I had been talking about stepping out of our comfort zones and doing something not normal to us but that it should be. We had always wanted to grab our guitars and share some good music and the Gospel with random people somewhere. We chose Tyler just because it was close and well known to us and we had a location we thought would be perfect to interact and share our amateur guitar skills with. Just so you know we are not professional guitarists nor do we have the best singing voices but when God gives you even just one talent you better use it to the best of your ability. And so we did.

The location was at a local Mexican market; La Michoacana. If you know anything about this place it is located in a heavily Hispanic populated area and so typically there are many Hispanic people shopping, coming in and out and also standing in the corners looking and waiting for work. We ended up speding a good two hours with some men looking for work and we all shared a good time.

To be honest I did not want to tag along with my friend as much as I previously thought I did. I didn't know what to expect and what I was going to say or do once I got there. But that all changed when I stepped out of the car and all three of us walked up to what would be a blessed day for all of us.

I don't even know where to begin sharing this day actually. It wasn't some out-of-this-world experience but it certainly wasn't your typical day either. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot we could see about three different groups of men standing around and we went direclty to the ones closest to us. Like I said before, I didn't know what to expect and so I kind of took my time getting my guitar and the music sheets from the trunk. I guess you could say I was stalling because I was so unsure of how to begin a conversation or even approach them. That's where my friend Ruben comes in.

Ruben Mendoza has been my best friend since childhood and I can say that he has a heart that yearns for God even through hard times or when life knocks him down. He's not ashamed to tell you his struggles or weaknesses in his life. So he's the first one to approach the two men that were standing together. I could tell they were just a bit confused or maybe amused as to why we were there at all. The name of the two men we first approached were Francisco and Ernesto.

My friend Ruben started off with introducing himself and then myself and our third man- Gersa. We introduced ourselves to them and my friend Ruben is just so good with words sometimes that I'm glad I have him as a friend when it comes to situations like these. He went directly to the point as to why we were there: we wanted to share the love of Christ with them and anyone else who wanted to hear and to also play a bit of some music for them.

Francisco and Ernesto were two humble men who were probably around the 40's and they were so open to us and allowed us to sing some songs for them. As you know, we aren't the best of musicians or have the best singing voices but we were willing to do it, as scared or nervous as we were at the moment. We started off with our first song and afterwards we shared with them what the song meant to us. That was the first song. We then sang our second and third and also shared with them what each song meant to us and we shared a short part of our testimony and what God has been doing in our lives. There was one moment in which my friend Ruben was sharing his testimony and he got very emotional, which I don't blame him for. God has done some amazing things in his life and he knows he doesn't deserve any of it, just like anyone of us doesn't deserve the love of God and the infinite grace He gives us. I was amazed and touched by the sympathetic words of Francisco towards my friend Ruben. Francisco shared with Ruben that he was doing good in doing what he was at the moment which was sharing his testimony and sharing the Gospel and stepping out to do something like what we were doing. It was a blessing for us to hear him say that because we were being blessed by him with his words and encouragement.

After we sang a few songs I wanted to really get to know Francisco and Ernesto so I asked them where they were from originally. Francisco was from Mexico, I don't remember the state he was born in but he said he grew up in Juarez, Chihuaha. This city is bordered by El Paso, Tx. He migrated to California at the age of 18 back in 1988 and he lived there for about 23 or so years just working around the Southern part of Cali. He didn't explain very much about his time there just that he worked most of the time while he was there. He moved to Texas about three years ago and has been here since. He says he likes the tranquility of being in a smaller city and the opportunity to raise a family here. He has two children that are grown- one of 19 and the other 21. I'm not too sure where they are or what they do but he said they're doing good right now. He never got married though.
Francisco had nothing but positive and encouraging words to say to us. I couldn't help but think that he was doing more of an impact on my life than we were on his. He kept encouraging us and just thanking us for coming out.
Ernesto was the quiet one. He didn't say much even when we asked him where he was from which was Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico. I thought that was cool because I was also born in Tamaulipas in the city of Reynosa. There isn't anything good left in those cities as drug cartels and their wars are ongoing there from what I hear and they aren't safe at all. Ernesto didn't say much after that but the whole time we were there he was listening intently to everything that was being said and to the songs we brought that day.

The whole time we were there these men were standing out there because they were there to look for work. If you already know there are places where men like Francisco and Ernesto wait outside a know designated area and wait for someone to pull up and 'hire' a worker or workers to labor. I had always seen things like that in movies and also seen men standing out on the corners looking for work but I had never experienced the process or situation. While we were there we had only about a couple vehicles come up asking for one or two workers but what I thought was really cool and eye opening was the fact that while we were there Ernesto and Francisco never left us to go work. They had the opportunity to do so but they never did. I'm not sure why they never left, maybe it was because they were genuinely interested in what we had to say or maybe they were just enjoying a change in the day or week. Either way I was thankful that they stayed with us the whole time.

At one point we had a random vehicle, a Tahoe, pull up next to us. I thought at first that it was someone looking for some workers but the man inside asked us if we were hungry! I told the men with us that the man inside was asking if they were hungry and they seemed shy at first but when I told them that the guy in the Tahoe had brought some lunch bags with food and snacks inside them they were on it very quickly. I was just super thankful that this man would do something so kind and generous and it made me realize that not everyone is out seeking for blood. There are still folks who have love and kindness in their hearts like the man that rolled up. It turns out it was provided by a 'Noonday Methodist Church' in Tyler. So a big thank you to this church and may God continue to bless them by blessing others in the way they did that day.

When the lunch bags came in so did other men who were looking for work. They rallied around us and the lunch bags and they didn't come barging in just grabbing bags, they were kind and respectable and asked first if they were allowed to eat!! " Of course!", I told them. This wasn't my food and I didn't provide it so it seemed odd that they asked us if they could eat. This is where Sergio and Antonio come into the picture.

Sergio had this rebel/punk-rock/ druggie/skateboarder look to him. And he proudly stated that he was a druggie and like to smoke pot and he loved rock-n-roll music. He was a very opinionated person and told us what he thought of religion, church, his spiritual life and what he thought about God. He had a good point of view of God but he didn't think much of church or organized religion. We didn't get to talk to him much at all because as soon as we began to know each other a lady in a pick-up came looking for two workers and he ran off quickly and hopped into the back of the truck to go work. That was the last time we saw him.
Antonio was an older man who seemed to have a strong personality and a rough edge to him. He showed us his finger in which he had torn off part of his middle finger after moving furniture for one of the jobs he was hired for. They did take him to the hospital but he has no Social or insurance to his name so there was nothing they could do for him. He was provided with the basic medical care and was cleaned up and bandaged up but that was it. He probably needs stitches but he couldn't get that from the hospital. When we sang a few other songs he also had kind words to say to us and also encouraged us just like Francisco did. Before we had to leave I told him I would pray for him and his finger and that hopefully he could get it treated.

As we were nearing the end of our day there with them I still couldn't get the thought off my mind that they were blessing us more than we thought we would be blessing them. It was just a really cool experience to see that these men who might seem like they have nothing have so much to offer. More than I could ever have imagined upon arriving.

As we were leaving we said our goodbyes and we thanked them for listening to us and for being kind to us in allowing us to speak to them and hear us sing some songs of praise to them. Likewise they thanked us for coming to them. As I was loading up in the trunk and taking the leftover lunch bags to one of the other groups of men I was just thinking to myself how thankful this day was to me. I wanted to say one last goodbye to Francisco and Ernesto but as I turned around to waive they were gone. I looked left and right but I couldn't find them. My friends later told me that as soon as we were leaving (when I was loading up the trunk) a vehicle drove up looking for two workers. Francisco and Ernesto climbed inside and left.

To me it was like God had sent both of them to us, not us to them. God knows how much we each needed each other that day and He did his work timely and perfectly. They were like angels to me and I still think of them that way. We hope to see them again as we want to continue to do this and reach out to the men that seek work on the streets. God knows we need to do this and we want to do this as well.