Monday, September 5, 2011

The Man on the Bicycle

You’ve probably heard the saying, “the third time is a charm”. For me, I have a general rule of thumb that whenever something is brought to my attention three times, I sense God might be trying to tell me something and I pause to pray about it.

So that’s why, just days before leaving for my mission’s trip to Africa, when I saw the same man three times within two days, I had to ask the Lord, “Why?” Why do I keep seeing this stranger? This man was the thinnest man I had ever seen. Each time I saw him he was riding his bicycle in almost 100 degree heat, intent on collecting cans from alongside the road and placing them in the wagon hitched to the back of his bike. He was obviously working very hard just for pennies.

That third occurrence was mid-morning, and already a scorcher. I quickly swerved around him, determined to put distance between us. But then I remembered my “third time” rule. Since I was running a little late to meet a prayer warrior friend for coffee (who was going to pray for me to “grow closer to God while in Africa and be used by Him to bless others”), I decided to just pray for the man on the bike to be protected and blessed, and keep driving.

Usually I feel better after praying – as if a burden has been lifted, but not this time. This time the burden actually increased.


I knew what that meant. But what could I do? Even though many generous people had helped offset the cost of my mission’s trip, my husband and I had still raided our savings account to pay for last minute supplies, shots, and inoculations. I needed my money to carry out God’s mission in Africa, didn’t? Couldn’t He lay it on the heart of another Christian who didn’t have all these expenses, to help this man out?

And then, deep in my heart I heard, “So, you’ll trust and obey Me to go part-way around the world to minister to others, but you won’t trust and obey Me for this one who I’ve placed before you three times.”

Oh, why do I have to keep learning the same lesson over and over? When will I get it that God owns it all, that I am simply a steward of His money? And when will I truly let go of money and stuff and trust God to take care of my needs, everyday, no matter where I am?

The man on the bicycle was obviously a proud man. He humbly accepted my assistance and expressed appreciation for prayer, yet made it clear he needed to get back to work.

When I returned to my air-conditioned car, it was with mixed emotions. Was this God’s way of preparing my heart for Africa? Was He teaching me (again) to put the needs of others first? To spontaneously give to and pray for others; especially those who have so much less than I do? (And I didn’t know it then, but owning a bicycle in some parts of Africa would denote wealth. Even the poorest among us can be considered rich by others.) We have so much to be thankful for.

Oh, and if you're local and you’ve seen the man on the bicycle, too… his name is Robert.

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me,” (Matthew 25: 40).


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