Today I was humbled by the beauty of humble faithfulness.
I was up at NIH visiting Patrick Kelly (he is so cheered by your prayers and visits!). As I got ready to leave the hospital, I walked up to the big desk just inside the entrance from the parking garage, to see if I could get my parking validated. The same gentleman was working there who had been there on my previous visits.
“Are you the patient’s family?” he asked.
“No, I’m his pastor.” (I’ll admit that I was hoping the “pastor” card would get me free parking where “friend” might not have.)
His eyes lit up and he smiled. “You’re a pastor? That’s wonderful!” He then proceeded to tell me, in accented English that I sometimes found hard to understand, how he reads his Bible every day. And then he asked, “Please, can you tell me what verse it is that says ‘you are no longer in bondage but are free’? I’ve been thinking about that verse but I don’t know where it is.”
I’ll admit this is one of my least favorite parts of the “I’m a pastor” conversation. I always fail the Bible quiz. “It’s Paul, right?” I fumble. “Here, let me see…” I reached for my purse as he reached for his desk. He produced a Bible; I produced my iPhone. (I’m sorry to say that Google often knows the Bible better than I do.) We talked and laughed as we compared verses, he looking in his Bible (an Amharic version; he’s Ethiopian) and I looking on my phone. We got a nice overview of freedom-related verses in the New Testament, but when I ultimately failed to come up with what he was looking for, he very graciously told me not to worry about it.
As I sheepishly put my phone away, he said, “You know, I have worked here for 20 years. A lot of people come here to this desk. And they are dealing with a lot of very hard things. And so I pray every day, I say, ‘God, please give me just the right word to say to them. Just the right word.'”
My eyes filled with tears. Here is a man who sits at a desk day in and day out, doing what most would consider the menial task of stamping parking tickets. But for him it is a ministry. He knows that God has put him in this place to love and pray and care for all of the many hurting people who walk through the doors of the NIH hospital. Such a faithful act of service. I left feeling so grateful that so many people who pass through those doors are being silently ministered to so faithfully every single day.
I’m looking forward to visiting Patrick again, and I hope that when I do, this gentleman is working at the desk again. I’m going to be searching my Bible between now and then. I want to be able to find him his verse.