Trek 2008 - Jesus on the Spot
Trek 2008 – Jesus on the Spot
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady
God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love — like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love. Eph 4:15-16 The Message
The world is full of lost people. It is so full that it is overwhelming. We see them in grief, with hard hearts, or simply wandering and wondering how their world got so turned upside down. The answer for all is the same – Jesus. There are many ways to tell people about Christ. When we allow Christ to take the lead, there is no telling the direction he’ll take our evangelistic efforts. I’ve started coming up with nicknames for the various techniques I’ve discovered effective while on the road.
Today, I came up with a new one. You’ve heard the expression, “Johnny on the Spot.” I’ve named this new evangelistic technique “Jesus on the Spot.” We are to be like Christ in everything and to tell the truth in love. Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry, and turned water into wine. He was also firm when people were mistreated. I’m Baptist so I’ll leave the wine thing alone but today, I had the opportunity to firmly represent Jesus and I took it.
My cell phone broke. That’s another story that I’ll let Belle tell when she is ready. The morning started in an AT&T store in Idaho. They didn’t have many customers so all four of the staff knew what I needed and why I was in Idaho. I branded myself a Christian early in the dialogue while everyone was still friendly.
I was there for hours. As time progressed, so did the difficulties. You can’t buy what they call an “upgrade” in Idaho if you bought your first phone in Jacksonville, Florida because you are “out of market.” The short explanation to a long and frustrating saga was that because I was in Idaho, I had to spend $550 on a phone that my plan allowed me to buy for $300 “back home.” After demonstrating what I consider superior negotiating skills, I sighed and handed them my credit card. I was not done with AT&T and still planned to get my money back but had no other options if I wanted to leave the store with the phone I needed.
I was starving and leaving in search of lunch when I heard yelling. I looked up to see an elderly man, on oxygen, using gnarled hands to prop himself up against the counter. It was a race to see what happened first – would he pass out, explode, or cry?
The sales clerk yelled, “That’s the way we do it here and it’s your only choice!”
The poor man yelled back, “But I can’t understand the instructions and my fingers can’t punch the keys fast enough to keep up. My wife just died and I don’t know how to do it.”
“I can’t help you,” the sales clerk huffed.
I rushed over to him, rested my arm gently on his shoulder, and said. “Maybe I can help. What are you trying to do?”
The sales clerk, who knew it was time for me to leave, glared as if to say, “Mind your own business.”
“I’m a missionary and my call from God is to help people. I’m going to help this man and you are going to help me help him. One day you will be his age and may need the same kind of help.”
She slammed a phone down on the counter. “I don’t know what he wants to do but he needs to use the customer service line.” She stormed away.
“Please don’t make me listen to all that mumbo jumbo,” the man begged. “I tried it at home. I can’t do it. I can’t keep paying these bills. I need help.”
“Whatever you want to do, we’ll do it together,” I offered. “What do you need?”
“I need these bills to stop coming. I can’t afford it,” he said. “I don’t know why the bills keep coming when I already paid for the phone.”
“Have you ever paid any bills before?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “I just made the money. My wife paid everything.”
I found out his name was Ira. I explained how cell phones and their bills worked. He didn’t understand the difference between buying the phone and buying the service. I explained that it was like his home phone, which he’d already cancelled. Another sales person arrived and I asked him about Ira’s bill and the monthly payment amount.
“I can’t tell you anything about his bill,” the man snapped.
I turned to Ira and said, “Ask what plan you have and what the monthly cost is.”
Before Ira could repeat the question the sales clerk asked Ira, “What is your social security number?” I glared and the sales clerk softened his tone.
“I don’t know,” Ira said.
“It’s probably in your wallet,” I suggested.
“It is,” Ira beamed, looking hopeful for the first time. “It’s been there since 1944.” He pulled out a faded plastic wallet insert containing a tattered social security card.
“I can’t get it out,” Ira said as he struggled with arthritic fingers. “Would you help me?”
“Sure thing.” I took his wallet and saw a military card. “Did you serve in a war?”
“Yes,” he said proudly. “Korea.”
“My daddy served in Korea. We,” I said, looking pointedly at the sales clerk, “appreciate your serving your country for us.” I got out his social security card and squinted to read the faded numbers. The sales clerk typed away and explained the plan. Ira didn’t understand a word he said so I explained it to Ira.
“Why do they want to take my phone?” Ira asked. “I bought it.” He’d been in the store the month before.
“He was confused last month,” the sales clerk explained. To his credit, he was beginning to show compassion. “We couldn’t figure out what he wanted to do.”
“I want the bills to stop coming,” demanded Ira. “I tried to call the number you gave me but I couldn’t figure out what they were saying.”
“Older people have trouble with automated phone lines,” I explained. “They sometimes can’t hear and don’t understand the terminology.”
“That’s right,” said Ira. “I can’t do it and the bills keep coming.”
When Ira finally understood that if he canceled his plan, he’d get to keep the phone that he knew he’d bought, he was able to articulate that he wanted to cancel his service but keep the phone in case he could afford to have a cell phone later. Together, we canceled his plan.
After some discussion, AT&T let him out of his contract and reduced his final bill. Ira and I carefully pealed money out of his torn and worn wallet to pay the balance. Ira had only $4 left in his wallet when we were done but he’d managed to stop the bills from coming and left with his phone.
As we left, I thanked the sales clerk for finally being helpful. “You will eventually be his age you know.”
Ira said, “Thank you.”
“It was my pleasure,” I said. “God sent me to you today. Do you need help getting to the car?”
“No,” he said. “I can manage.” I gave him a Pocket Full of Change Ministries card and left.
When I got to my van, I called Bob and sobbed out my story. My heart was broken that this confused, grieving, helpless, war veteran encountered such hostility and impatience. I had felt the determined power of Jesus directing me. I reviewed the experience and was amazed. I was furious but hadn’t said one word that I regretted or that wasn’t helpful. I rebuked the temptation to let my anger cause me to sin and because Christ was in me, I was able to do what was needed. They knew I was a Christian early on and I felt the responsibility to show them how Christ would react. They had acted as if Ira wasn’t my business but Ira was my business because the love of Christ rests in my heart.
After I left the store and shared my burden with Bob, I called the AT&T support line that Ira had so much trouble with. I didn’t whine or go into the long saga. I simply said I’d paid $550 for phone that my plan offered for $300. They agreed, apologized for the inconvenience, and credited $250 on my next phone bill.
“We’re sorry,” the helpful woman said. “The east and west coast are on different computer systems and that causes problems for the customer. Each store has their own policy for how to handle it.”
As I sit here crying over this story, my tears are more for the sales staff than for Ira. I can’t imagine the emptiness one would have to feel to be so callous. While I offered physical help to Ira, the Christian witness was to the one sales clerk who yelled and to everyone who was impatient and unhelpful.
How I long to always be “Jesus on the Spot” for those lost souls. How many times had I let anger at people acting the way lost people act prevent that? What would this world be like if one person could manage to always be “Jesus on the Spot?” They’d probably get crucified but they’d take a few people to heaven on their way.
Cheryle M. Touchton is the Director of Pocket Full of Change Ministries. For more information or to schedule a speaker for an event, go to www.pocketfullofchange.org or call Gail Golden at 904 316-5462.
This ministry exists because people like you are called to help fund the work of the kingdom. To help keep the Pocket Full of Quarters Lady on the road as a traveling missionary, send your tax deductible contribution to Pocket Full of Change Ministries, POB 51205, Jacksonville Beach, Florida 32240.
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