I met Stanley in Atlanta when I was wandering around during my fifteen hour layover in Atlanta. You can read more in Part 1 and Part 2 of this story.
As we sat in McDonalds talking, I sensed that Stanley really needed someone to talk to. I listened a lot and really enjoyed learning about his life, his experiences, and he dreams. Some times I can feel overwhelmed when many words are spoken, but I fem lt very present and connected as Stanley shared. I would interject some comments here and there and there was a nice flow. I sensed that God had brought us together for a purpose, and getting to know his kind, joyful person seemed to be important.
I told Stanley that I wanted to pray with him before we parted ways. Smiling and enthusiastically he grabbed my hands. I liked his spontaneity and unabashed expression of gratitude for my suggestion. We both prayed, each for the other, and this seemed perfectly natural. Recalling this, I realized that no self-conscious thought passed through my mind as we held hands, closed our eyes and prayed together. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world.
Soon after we prayed, I sensed that it was time for me to be going, and he felt the same way. I always appreciate it when I am with someone and we both can come to agreement gracefully that it is time to part ways. Not that we could stay together that much longer–he needed to get home to spend time with his mother, and I didn’t want to be walking too late to the bus station. It was around 9:30PM.
You know, if I had known that I could have taken a ten o’clock bus to Memphis thus avoiding spending the night in the Atlanta Greyhound Bus Station and having a twelve hour lay over in Memphis, I would have changed my ticket and thus lost a few hours of precious time that I spent with Stanley. Did God arrange this divine encounter? What were the chances that first, I would meet Stanley. Then, meet him at a time that he was getting off and thus had time to visit. And that I had this outlandishly long lay over that the ticket agent later told me never should have been. I’d say the chances are about 1 in a million.
Stanley believed that God had arranged our meeting, and he said he felt very encouraged by our connection. I shared with him a few more resources like the Immanuel Approach which really caught his interest. I also told him about the book “Body Aches” which addresses the fact that many churches are suffering from past traumas which are keeping them from being all the God wants them to be. In so many ways we were on the same page–and perhaps I was just a few pages ahead of him so I could help him out just as others before me had helped me out.
Louise of Plow Creek shared the book, “Body Aches” with me. Jessie of the non-profit company Alive and Well shared with me about the Life Model and Jim Wilder. I came across the information about Immanuel Approach from reading “Intentional Christian Communities Handbook” by David Jantzen. It is so essential for people to be sharing their favorite resources with others through various mediums, and I feel extremely grateful to these people–three of whom I now have met! What a joy and privilege it was to have had meaningful, inspiring conversations with David Jantzen, Jessie Handy, and Karl Lehman (creator of the Immanuel Approach). Spending time in conversation with people helped me to be even more convinced that I am on the right track.
Stanley called me after he got home to check to see if I got to the station safely. Another kindness. He said he would call me at 6:30AM to make sure I didn’t fall asleep and thus miss my bus. “Call me if you need anything,” he said gaily.
Stanley told me shortly before we parted ways that he was really looking forward to receiving links to the posts I would write about him. Smiling with that big, generous grin of his, he drawls, “We are going to look back at this time when we were sitting together and remember that we prayed about my family finding a house and having some breakthroughs in other areas. Then you can write about that in your blog.”
I hope and pray that he will have the breakthroughs he dreams about. Stanley is a powerful witness for Jesus through his kindness and joy already. But when I think about how many lives he could touch with his story and his talents if he could be empowered to do so with the help of others he might encounter, I get excited. With tools, concepts, and resources such as the ones I shared with Stanley, I think he could have an even deeper walk with Jesus.
Oh, one thing I advised him to do was to really learn how to listen to God’s voice as he works together with his mother, brother and sister-in-law. I think really this is the essence of all that I am learning–how to have a loving, close, intimate, joyful relationship with God where we hear his voice and co-create with him the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.