By Lauren Staley, One Mission Society Missionary Candidate
It was a classic day in Medellin. People were packed, shoulder to shoulder on the not-quite-wide-enough sidewalks. Men advertised their wares over loudspeakers in comical, overly-enthusiastic voices. For their wives’ sakes, I thought, I hope that’s not how they always sound. I didn’t attempt to suppress a chuckle as we passed one such merchant who was so invested in his live commercial that he hopped up and down, jostling the crowd around him.
Jeannine (longtime OMS missionary in Colombia) plowed through the torrent of humanity like a woman on a mission. I suppose that’s because she is. She always seems to zero in on that one person who needs an encouraging word or who is ready to hear the message of the Gospel.
She begins most relationships by telling you what your name means and relating that to the truth that you’re a precious creation of God. I’ll never get tired of seeing the sacred surprise on someone’s face when a stranger in the crowd stops to tell them that they’re loved, and that their life has purpose.
On this particular day, we were searching for a cart vendor who could replace the leather strap on Jeannine’s watch. On the way we stopped for buñuelos, which are steaming balls of cheesy dough. If navigating the crowd wasn’t already a challenge, doing so while protecting my backpack from pickpockets and eating a hot, buttery snack was nearly treacherous. But we arrived at the cart without mishap, and Jeannine proceeded to witness to the cart vendor and his wife, leading them in the prayer of faith as they mended her watch.
As the conversation began to draw to a close, I noticed a young man standing behind me. I assumed that he was waiting to have his watch fixed. We turned to go, and I found myself face to face with the man, whom I guessed to be about 24.
“Eres muy hermosa!” He said loudly. I blinked for several seconds before I realized that he was exclaiming over my beauty. Well, this is new, I thought.
“He’s throwing flowers at you.” Jeannine translated. Throwing flowers? I thought, looking around, bemused. I didn’t see any flowers.
“He’s flirting with you,” she said again.
“Oh, is he, now?” I smiled indulgently at the boy who was still laying it on thick in Spanish. He has no idea what he’s gotten himself into, I thought, my smile widening.
“What were you doing just now?” The young man asked, in Spanish.
“We were praying.” Jeannine answered, straightforwardly. “Would you like to pray too?”
“Me?” He scoffed, “I like women and I’m a fornicator. I can’t change, no matter how hard I try.”
“God will take care of that, if you let Him,” Jeannine countered. “He’ll straighten you out and give you abundant life. What’s your name?”
“Willie,” he answered.
“Willie – that means ‘Resolute Protector,’ she told him. He smiled at me as she continued to speak. She shared the Gospel with him and before long, our heads were bowed and the three of us were confessing Christ’s lordship in the middle of the bustling sidewalk.
“I’m very sad because I’ve just stolen a lot of money. I feel like I should return it. Why do I feel this way?” Willie asked, as soon as we had finished. He showed us the wad of cash in his wallet. From his polished appearance, I guessed that this was not the first time he had committed such a crime.
“That’s the Holy Spirit,” Jeannine said, putting her hand on his shoulder. “You’re under His conviction.” Willie’s eyes widened, and he zeroed in on what Jeannine was sharing. She told him about how the Holy Spirit could transform his life. He asked for a Bible. Instead, Jeannine gave him the number and address of a nearby pastor who would go with him to return the stolen money. He eagerly entered the information into his phone.
We prepared to leave. “Tu eres muy hermosa,” (You are very beautiful) he said again as we shook hands.
“Jeannine, I’ve got something to say to him. Will you tell him that any beauty that is in me comes directly from God?” I pointed to the heavens.
Jeannine translated my message, and he stood, smiling wordlessly as we disappeared into the crowd. I don’t think he was a man to easily be struck speechless. I laughed as we plowed back through the crowd, You flirted with the wrong chica, señor.
Or perhaps … perhaps he flirted with exactly the right girl. Jeannine sang a familiar tune as we walked on, “Another name written down in glory.” I found myself humming along.