one leper in ten
When John Wimber, late leader of the Vineyard, decided to pray for healing (because Jesus in scripture tells us to), he had to keep reminding himself to "teach the scriptures, not his experience". Because as he led his church into unfamiliar territory, no one was healed, many got sicker, and half of his people left. But one day, the story goes, after praying for a woman who was terribly sick in bed, he turned to her husband to give his well-rehearsed speech on how God doesn't always heal, and was completely surprised when the woman got up and got dressed--she had been totally restored to health.
It's with the same shock and amazement that I hung up the phone today after a conversation with a struggling woman that our church had helped get into a room. What was so shocking? For the four years I've been on staff at my church we have struggled to help the poor. We've tried to practice biblical compassion and generosity, but like Jesus who looks back over his ministry and bemoans the fact that in many places where he did miracles people hadn't changed, I look back on four years of giving money to the poor, think of all the times the recipients of our money promised to come to church and told us how this was going to help them turn a corner and not a single one has come back. That's not entirely true: many come back for more money. I'm no fool: I know that there are a lot of needs on the street and that our one-time gifts don't mean the end of trouble for the poor. It just seems that we become a money store, not a church full of people trying to help. But today was different.
This woman, just out of jail (after serving 15 years of a 30 year sentence), called the office. I hesitated to pick up the phone, imagining that I would have to give my practiced speech on how we really can only help with big gifts once and that we just didn't have any more money to give her ... I'm not proud of it, but I assumed she was just going to list a bunch more needs.
I picked up the phone and was instantly shamed. All she wanted to say was thank you. And she'd gone out of her way to say it.
She said how thankful she was to get our check and she was in her room and how great it was and how thankful she was and ... just thank you. That's all. Thank you. That's all she wanted to say. But that wasn't the end of our talk ... we talked for a long time, because I didn't want the conversation to end-- she was like the leper in the bible story: ten are healed by Jesus, but only one comes back to say thank you.
She didn't talk about her needs (she has plenty), just all the ways that God was meeting them, one by one, and that she wasn't worried. At one point I was listening to her and she started to sound like some of the grand faithful women in our church, reverent, mature. Beautiful.
I can't begin to describe the sense of privilege I feel to have gotten this call.