Well, my story starts kind of that way, too.
This is the explanation as to why I have been quiet (which is not really like me to be) for so many days.
It was late on Friday night, during the last hours of quiet in the neighborhood before we are descended upon by the party goers who park their cars in our neighborhood and walk to the Fast Eddies night club that is at the end of our street and key our cars and trash our yards and paint gang related graffiti on our street signs and fences and pass out on our porches. I was sitting in my chair, and Jimmy was in his, when we heard a knock at the door. This was not a soft, gentle, I-know-you-and-I-know-you-have-sleeping-kids-that-I-don't-want-to-wake-up kind of knock, but rather an oh-man-you-really-need-to-open-the-door kind of knock.
I flipped on the porch light, but since we have one of those new energy saving bulbs in the socket and since it was cold outside and those bulbs take a while to warm up anyway, I couldn't see a thing out the window.
Who is it, Jimmy?
How should I know?
So, I ease the door open and see....
nothing. No one.
Then, a little back from the stoop is a face from the past....the maybe 5 year ago past.
It was a guy that I used to work with at Target. A guy from Ghana named Raymond something. Nice enough guy, I guess, but what is he doing here?
I..I'm sorry it's so late...it's just that I need a place to stay for the
(Lord) when did we see you a stranger and invite you in...
Please, Raymond, you can stay.
And so, we have had a house guest.
When Elizabeth and Jo woke up on Saturday morning, I called them into our room before they went down to their cereal bowls.
There is a man downstairs. He will be staying with us. His name is Mr. Raymond.
Because he needed a place to sleep, and because Jesus wants us to share whatever we have, whether we have a lot to share or just one tiny corner of a crowded house for a stranger in the night to lay his head.
Jo stayed upstairs for a while but Elizabeth and I went downstairs to eat and get ready for her soccer game.
Then there were little footsteps coming down the stairs and my little Jo peeked her head around the stairwell.
Hi there! What's your name?
Joey. She crept closer and hugged my legs.
Who gave you that name?
She points to me.
How old are you?
3. With 3 little fingers held forward.
Now, to all of you who do not know my Jo too well, this would seem like a natural exchange and conversation, but for those of you who know my Jo, you know that this is close to miraculous. Jo is not an outgoing child, and any small thing (like, for example, a strange African man in her living room early Saturday morning) will set her off into fits of crying, clinging, hiding and other signs of distress.
I had warned Raymond of this the night before. Don't take it personally. I just don't know how our middle child will react to seeing you. She may scream bloody murder, as she often does when she goes to preschool or church or her grandfather, who lives with us, tries to take her somewhere in the car... but really, it's nothing personal.
But, surprisingly enough, Jo has really taken to 'Mr. Raymon'. She will sit and talk with him and play with him and she loves to rub his head and feel his spiky hair. In the morning, when Raymond goes off to work, Jo will ask where he is and when he is coming home. She invited him to church and he came with us on Sunday morning, and she invited him to Wednesday Bible study, but he didn't make it because he stayed late at work, and Jo asked for him. Where's Mr. Raymon? Is Mr. Raymon here yet, Mommy. Is Mr. Raymon coming? Can he sit by me?
(At first, it was funny because she kept asking, 'what's that guy's name again? Mr. Reindeer?')
And then, Wednesday night, after the kids were in bed, Raymond called to me to talk to me and told me a story that touched my heart. Leaning forward in his chair with his fingers nervously twining together, shivering with emotion induced chills, he told me his story. It is not my story to share, but it is a story of hard questions with no answers and tears and fears that are indescribable and inconsolable. And his eyes showed fear and sadness and we prayed together and put this difficult situation in the hands of God, because He is the only one who can handle situations like these.
Raymond will be leaving us today. Last night was his last night here. He will be moving on to the next phase of reuniting with his family.
I do not know if we will ever see him again this side of eternity, but I am certain of 2 things:
We will see him again on the other side
while we may have ministered to Raymond's needs here on this earth, he also ministered to us in his steadfast and faithful following of God even in this dark and troubled time in his life.
We will continue to keep Raymond and his family in our prayers and we praise God that He gave us this opportunity to receive one of our brothers into our house and into our lives if even for just a short while.
'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'