He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.-Luke 16:10
Today was not a good day. No one got hurt, sick or was ill-treated. Nothing happened that discouraged us. There just simply no one in the streets. Well, there were lots of homeless adults but not one of our children or teens were in the streets. We sat and waited for them for three hours and no one showed up. I tried to fill our time with reading the Bible and Mary attempted to draw something. We thought that we should do something at least. We wanted to feel like we were not wasting our time. There was an internal pressure within us to make every moment count. However, it did not work. Waiting and doing absolutely nothing made us feel a little restless and aimless. There is no cure for this. We just have to face it head on and deal with it.
It was different yesterday. We wished today was just like yesterday.
The children and teens were waiting for us at the steps when we arrived yesterday. We almost did not even have time to say our customary prayers before work. They were happy and eager to see us. Some of them came to us and asked us to do some activity with them. Ruan whom we haven’t seen for weeks was there and he sat next to us and told us all about his new pet. It was a puppy that someone had given to them. Then Caio came over. We have seen Caio around in the past few days but he is always on the move. He hardly stops to talk. However, yesterday was different. He sat down next to me and just started talking. He had read something about Holy Communion and wanted to talk about it. We asked about Bruno and then almost magically he just showed out of nowhere. He had a bunch of English words that he wanted Mary to translate. There were teens who wanted first aid to be done. Many wanted to tell us something interesting that happened to them. Some had questions about God and life in general. There were so many children and teens wanting our attention that our heads begin to spin in a good way. We felt like we were accomplishing something. It was a good feeling.
Caio asked me to read from John 6 about the sacrament of the Body and Blood. He had read something about the Lord’s supper stating that the Catholics confused the biblical text on John 6. Caio had read that the Holy Communion was really an invention of the Catholic Church. Even though he is from an evangelical background that doesn’t believe in the sacraments, he felt that the Holy Communion was something spiritual and mystical and not a mere doctrinal invention of the church. Together we read John 6:56 from my Bible,
He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him.
He said that whenever he read these words, he felt in his spirit that the communion is something more than a mere ritual or remembrance. He thinks that participating in the Communion somehow connects him with Christ in a real way. The best I could do at this point was to listen to his reflections. He wasn’t asking any questions so I wasn’t expected to give any answers. He wanted me to just listen. He said that he went to a church where the communion was done in a haphazard manner and he did not stay till the end. He felt that it was disrespectful. Whenever he goes to church, he goes for the reverence. He needs this sense of reverence that is lacking in his life. Then he remained silent. I did not try to fill this empty space in our interactions with useless opinions. I sat in silence with him. After a while he smiled and asked if we could play a game.
At this point, Alex walked up to us and told us that an elderly man had fallen and hurt himself badly. We asked what happened. He just said that old people tend to fall and we need to help them. He had tried to console the man but there were too many people around. As he was saying this, an ambulance passed us. It most likely carried the old man within. Bruno was also asking questions about the Bible and faith as well and Mary was trying to answer his questions in between playing a game of Uno. Bruno likes the comfort of playing a game while asking some serious questions. All in all it was a great day. We did not get the chance to speak with all the children and teens and we ended staying longer than we usually do. However, today was different. We might be going home at our usual time.
“Nothing is wasted in God’s economy.” An Anglican priest once shared these words of wisdom with me. Maybe it is a quote from someone famous; I don’t know. These words were spoken after he spent his time listening to me. They were his words to my soul. I was sharing a difficult moment in my parish ministry where I felt that I was doing and achieving absolutely nothing. I was doubtful about my ministry and I wasn’t sure if the congregation were benefitting from the things I did. Somewhere his simple words found a permanent home my heart. He encouraged me to focus on the gospel and not to worry if anything I did appeared to be fruitless. The same church where I felt useless is one of the churches where I can truly say that I had a successful ministry. It never grew leaps and bounds but I learned to become one with the church. We started out being worlds apart. It was a rural church in a small city in the Northeast of Brazil where they never had a foreign presence for centuries and I was a full-bred big city foreigner who loves big city culture. Superficially, it looked like a perfect recipe for a disaster. I decided to continue to wait even I felt useless. I learned to trust God to “waste” my time. This was actually the missing element that was needed for us to grow into being One; the willingness to “waste” my time.
Sitting at the steps and waiting is difficult. We feel obligated to be always doing something to justify our existence but God does not need us to do this. He created us. This is alone justifies our existence. We exist because God wants us to be. The salvation of the children and teens is not dependent on us. God loves these little ones and He will reach out to them regardless of whether we are there or not. He does not need us to save these little ones. He gives us the privilege to participate in His work. It is a gift from God for us just sit there and wait like the Good Father sat and waited for His prodigal son to return home. God calls us to wait with him for these children and teens. If we don’t do it, then He will call someone us to do it. God wouldn’t lose anything but we would have lost something precious in our lives. Therefore, it is a good thing to just sit and wait because it is participating in what God does all the time. It is an essential part of being a representative of God’s love.
I still wish everyday was like yesterday. This is just wishful thinking. Besides, I won’t appreciate and value the talks and openness of the children and teens if I don’t have days like today. Waiting and doing absolutely nothing makes me treasure the moments when something happens. The children on their part are happy finding us sitting on the steps waiting just for them. On a different occasion, we overheard Gabriel, one of the younger teens, divulging to another that we had spent hours waiting and looking for them. He was clearly impressed. It means something for people in general when they find someone just waiting and willing to “waste time” doing nothing until they come.
I know that we are going to have more days like yesterday but they are not going to happen without days like today. If we are not willing to wait, then nothing will happen. It is not easy but it is definitely not wasted time. Valuable and precious things happen to those who are willing to wait.