Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”-Luke 14:12-14
I walked with Igor to the subway station closest to our house. We walked and talked along the way like two ordinary friends. No one would have guessed that Igor was sleeping in the streets just a few months ago. Before parting our ways, he thanked me for the hundredth time for our hospitality. Then he gave me a big warm hug. I walked home feeling grateful for the things God was doing in our lives.
It has been a while since I wrote about Igor. In my previous entry, I wrote about his move to a government-sponsored halfway house called, “Hope for Autonomy”. He is still living there with his girlfriend, Ana Paula. However, many things have changed. The changes are not confined to these two. They have started a chain reaction.
In the beginning of this year, Igor found a job. The thing that made of all us extra proud of him was that he found this job on his own. Initially, Igor was passive about his job search. He was timid and afraid of rejection. Then something changed and made him take a more active posture. I am not sure what changed his attitude towards the job hunt. Maybe it was the fear of returning to the streets. He spent the final weeks of December going around small businesses looking for short-term employment. Finally, someone gave him a chance and ironically it was a small business located about hundred meters away from where Igor used to sleep in the streets. The company delivers mineral water to businesses and residences in the area. It is hard work. Igor has to load about ten five gallon containers in a trolley and push them to their respective destinations. There are no motorized vehicles or anything to facilitate the delivery. Everything is done through pure muscle strength. Most days he walks about three to five miles with this heavy load. It is his first job and he has just completed one month. In his first week of work, we casually walked passed his workplace and saw Igor soaking wet with his own sweat. It was 100° F (40° Celsius). He waved at us and continued his work without saying anything. We understood. He did not want to be distracted and we walked on by.
The salary is not that great. He does not make enough for him to find a place to rent but spiritually the job is doing wonders for Igor. The other teenagers are impressed when they see Igor walking around delivering the containers of water. They see a possibility for a change as well. Some have asked for our help with documents so that they can apply for jobs. One teenager asked us if we would accompany him in his job search just to give him the confidence he lacks. They are sick of the streets and criminal life. They want to have a honest job even if it doesn’t pay much. This new desire came about by seeing one of their own working.
We managed to get hold of Igor on his lunch break and we asked him about his work. He was honest and told us that it was tough but he acknowledges that it is a good start. Mary offered to continue the English lessons with him if he desired. He told us honestly that when he goes home from work he just wants to rest and sleep. Then we offered him to come to our apartment once a week to have a small meal and just relax there before going home. He accepted our invitation.
It is very hard for the children or the teens to accept an invitation to anyone’s house. For them, it was stepping out of their comfort zone. We were prepared for Igor to be feel a little inhibited on his first visit here. However, we were pleasantly surprised. He appeared to be relaxed and comfortable in our home. He was curious about our books and asked about the kind of books we read. He told us about a particular book that he wanted to read and I told him that I would find it for him.
We casually talked about working life. I mentioned the importance of having a plan or project for our lives and how this would help us not to be discouraged when things are tough. He listened intently. Our conversation slowly drifted to the Bible. He was very curious about God and faith and I proposed that we read the Bible together on Wednesdays. He agreed and he said that he wanted to continue with the English lessons as well.
His second visit took place this week. He was more relaxed this time. He shared about his work and conversations with fellow workers. He was more open and communicative than before. We did a brief English lesson and then read a small section of the gospel of Matthew. It was not a passive Bible study, the kind where I talk and everyone listens. Igor contributed his thoughts and he shared from his experience on how he understood God was working in his life. We ended the Bible study with the understanding that all of us have something to learn from each other. We were all humbled as well as edified by the active presence of God in our lives.
For me personally, it was amazing to see the progress of our relationship with Igor. When we met him for the first time, he had just gotten out of Juvenile detention center. He was sniffing paint thinner and robbing. Now, he is reading the Bible together in our apartment. Life is unpredictable. We don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring us. We don’t what is in store for Igor. The future does not belong to us. God has given us the present moment. At this moment, Igor is open to receive the eternal things from God and we are happy that we are part of it.
Links to previous posts on Igor: