Hey, I know what we can do today,” exclaimed my best friend, Kristy.
“Go for a hike and enjoy the sunshine?” I suggested hopefully.
“Nope. Let’s go downtown and practice presenting the gospel to people. It will help prepare us for our outreach in Tyonek next weekend.” (Tyonek is a small native Alaskan village near Anchorage).
“Yeah!” my three children shouted in unison, scrambling to be the first out the door. Yeah, right, I thought. Just the mention of the word evangelize makes me break out in a sweat. Besides, we weren’t going to have to talk to adults in Tyonek, just do vacation Bible school with a few kids.
“Um, I’ve got . . . stuff to do. You guys have fun,” I said.
Kristy glared at me. “What kind of example are you setting for your kids? C’mon, Shawn. It’s not that hard.”
“Yeah, Mom,” scolded Lindsay, my oldest. “You’ve always taught us that Jesus would give us the right words to say. It will be an adventure!”
But I’m allergic to adventure.
“Okay, I’ll go. Just don’t expect me to say anything. Evangelism is not my gift.”
We ended up at a beautifully landscaped park in downtown Anchorage. After a fruitless hour of trying to strike up conversations, I suggested calling it quits and going for an ice cream. The two older girls readily agreed, but Candyce, my youngest, hesitated.
“But we haven’t talked to anyone about Jesus yet, Mom. Didn’t we ask Him to send us someone?”
“Yes we did, Honey, but the people’s hearts don’t seem very open today. The Lord will have to lead us to the right person at the right time,” I explained.
That’s when we saw him. Dressed in faded jeans and a yellow sweatshirt and wearing a garish, multicolored afro wig, the slightly built man was passing out balloons and suckers to children playing in the park. Seeing my three girls, he skipped up to them and offered each a treat.
Hmmm, this guy doesn’t seem like he’s in such a rush. Okay, Lord. I feel we are supposed to talk to him, but I’m out of my comfort zone. Help me out here.
Unwrapping her sucker with gusto, 6-year-old Candyce popped it in her mouth, then remembered her manners. “Thanks! Hey, what’s your name? Why are you dressed like that?”
“My name is Rainbow Rambo,” he replied with a sweeping bow. Straightening his wig, he asked, “And who might you lovely ladies be?”
The girls hesitated a moment, but when I nodded, they introduced themselves to Rainbow.
“It’s awfully nice of you to spend a Saturday morning making people smile,” I told him.
“It’s more like therapy,” Rainbow confessed, his smile fading.
His real name was Daniel. He’d been through some hard times lately. He was being treated for depression. “The drugs help some,” he said, “but when I’m feeling really down, I put on this wig and come here and try to make people happy. I feel much better when I make others smile.”
So, Lord, we’ve got a depressed, unemployed clown here. I suppose he’s a good candidate for the gospel. Just give us Your words.
Before I could respond, Danielle, the middle daughter, announced that she was starving. To death. And only french fries at the McDonald’s across the street could prevent her sudden demise.
Looking at my watch, I realized it was lunchtime, and I was hungry, too. But shouldn’t we witness to Rainbow first?
“Mr. Rainbow, do you want to get some fries with us?” Danielle asked.
“Yeah, come with us!” her sisters agreed.
“Would you like to have lunch with us, Daniel?” I asked, although he clearly had no say in the matter.
“Sure,” he grinned, a bit of a sparkle appearing in his sad, brown eyes. “I haven’t eaten yet today.”
Kristy caught up with us at McDonald’s. We introduced her to Rainbow Rambo and shared a bit of his story. Without hesitation, she began to talk to him about Jesus. Rainbow put his hamburger down and glared at us.
“Oh, I get it. You guys don’t really care about me. I’m just another notch in your spiritual belts. I know all about your Jesus. I’ve been to church—dozens of them. All I know is that Jesus never did a thing for me. And as for you people who call yourselves Christians—well, when I needed help and friendship most, you Christians have always let me down.”
Pain and bitterness punctuated his every word. In Rainbow’s opinion, the only Christians he’d known had used and then abandoned him in his moment of need. He grew agitated as he described his painful experiences to us.
“What difference has Jesus ever made?” he asked, his voice rising. “What would change for me if your Jesus came to town today? Just what would He do?”
Suddenly, inspiration came.
“I think He would buy you a hamburger,” I said.
“Excuse me?” Even my kids were looking at me as if I’d lost my mind.
“I think Jesus would buy you a burger,” I replied. “He would know you were hungry and lonely. He would sit and listen to you. Best of all, Jesus would simply be your friend.” Rainbow looked puzzled, but he was listening. As were my children and Kristy.
I kept going. “Daniel, Jesus couldn’t be here in the flesh today, so He sent us. It was really His idea to invite you to lunch, not ours. He wants to hear your heart’s cry, so He uses our willing hearts to listen.”
Rainbow sat back in the booth, his brown eyes moist with tears. “Jesus told you to talk to me? Does He really care about me that much?”
“He cares more than you know, Daniel.”
We later left Daniel that golden summer day, alone at his table. Alone, but basking in the presence of his newfound Friend.
We never saw Daniel again, but we never forgot the wonder of seeing God work through our simple step of faith, revealing His loving heart to a hurting man—through a burger and fries.