For the last month and a half I have been trying to get healthy. I’ve been eating smaller portions and healthier food, taking vitamins and probiotics, and stretching and doing yoga daily. I’m especially fond of the hilarious Adriene of “Yoga with Adriene.” Her motto is “Find What Feels Good.” Now, as a Christian, I know that saying cannot be applied to everything. Many things that “feel good” in the moment are not good for us in eternity, but it works for yoga and stretching. It basically means, don’t over-extend.
In life, I am learning, however, that it’s important to not only find what feels good, it’s important to find what fills us. Over the weekend I had the pleasure of meeting Costas*, a man from Haiti who lives near a park where I was attending an event. Our conversation started when he mistakenly told me “Happy Thanksgiving” and I corrected him, saying, “I think you mean happy Easter.” This led to a long conversation about assignments from God. Though, on first glance, Costas seemed like a disheveled wanderer, it turned out he was a man literally on a mission from God. All the trials and tribulations of his past had brought him to a place, geographically, financially, and spiritually, where he could serve the very place where it all began. He allowed God to take the pain of yesterday and turn it into the joy of the present.
After escaping his home country, Costas entered a world that was new to him. The language was new. The culture was new. Everything was new. In this place of deep need and emptiness, much like Job of the scripture, he encountered people on assignment for God, people of many different cultures and religions who had made the humble decision to serve refugees. As a recipient of such generosity and kindness, he thrived in his new home. He created a life for himself, even purchased the house he once shared with 11 other refugees.
His story could have ended there with a big fat “Happily Ever After,” but it didn’t. Instead God called him back to where all the pain began, where the running began, where the terror began. It must have been as profound for him as it was for me listening to it because he made a point of saying, “God often sends you back to where it all began.” He gave examples like that of Moses who had to go back to Egypt to set the Israelites free. Costas, in the last 15 years, decades after escaping Haiti, decided to go back to build a school where there was no education and serve thousands of people in rural Haiti.
His story really resonated with me. For the first 25 years of life I lived within 30 miles of where I was born. At 25 years old I decided to move to the Bay Area for 3 years until I finished school. Now 10 years later I am still here, and constantly wondering why. I love Oakland. I love my church, the food, the culture, but I often miss home. Maybe God took me from home to learn something to take back home someday. Perhaps there’s something I will find here that I would have never found at home, and when I return I will bring with me something someone needs.
So maybe there is something I could gain from this conversation with Costas that I could use years from now when I return home, but what I can I take from it today? Later that day, after talking with him, I felt so energized. I’m sure it was partially due to the Holy Spirit’s involvement in our exchange, but it was something more than that. I realized afterward that I am energized by one-on-one conversations with people. I walk away feeling like I have gained insight, learned more about culture, the similarities and differences. I feel as though the words spoken to me are the most precious gift.
Through this conversation with a complete stranger God reminded me that I need to have these individual conversations in order to be filled, energized. I recognize now why I sometimes feel unfulfilled in my workplace where there’s little time for individual exchanges or deep conversation, where the majority of my day is spent conversing with a computer screen.
Perhaps Costas had a point. It may not have been Thanksgiving, but Sunday was truly a day to be thankful.
*name changed for privacy