“Behold, a sower went out to sow…” Matthew 13:3
Thousands of people buzzed around Queens NYC, drawn in by the concert earlier in the afternoon. A group from my church decided it would be a good time to go hand out tracts and witness. I had handed out more tracts than I could count (and many now littered the sidewalks), but few people showed interest, and even less stopped to talk.
“It feels so pointless.” I complained to a friend. “all this time and energy, and people just walk away. They don’t even care.”
She answered wisely. “We aren’t called to force people to listen to us, to become Christians, or even read what we hand out. God commissioned us to spread the Gospel, so that is what we are doing, right? Sowing seeds in the hearts of those that might be soft. It’s all we can do. That, and pray.”
Ouch. I stood corrected. “Yea, you are right I guess. I just wish someone would at least talk to us.”
It was getting dark, so we recruited our group and were ready to leave until a teenage girl walked up to us.
“My name is Rachelle,” she said as she hugged herself tighter, teeth chattering. It was a chilly night and Rachel wasn’t wearing much. A pair of shorts, and a dirty, white tank top with little stars all over it. “I’m homeless, ” she announced to our group. “and really cold. Do you have an extra jacket?”
One of the guys offered theirs and she gratefully accepted. She slipped it on and pulled the olive green shirt tightly across herself. It probably could have wrapped twice around her tiny frame.
“I was sitting up against that building,” she nodded in the general direction, “making this sign when I saw you guys.” The card board sign in her hands read Plz help- God bless!!
“But I was just sitting there, minding my own business when this guy walked up to me. He offered me fifty dollars if I would…” Her voice trailed off and she kicked a few rocks. “Of course, I told him no. That isn’t the way I make money. Surviving out here is hard, but yeah.”
She knew we were listening, so she took the opportunity. She talked, almost non stop for the next few minutes.
Looking down at her phone, she noticed the time, and said she had to go. Off she went, in the dirty white tank top and over-sized man’s shirt.
“Oh no!” I exclaimed to one of the guys nearby. “ I meant to give her my email address and phone number… you know, in case she ever needed someone to talk to.” Agreeing it was a good idea, we took off. She must have been walking fast, because it took us awhile to catch up with her.
“Hey Rachelle!” I hollered out to her. She turned around with a puzzled look on her face. I guess it probably did seem odd that we would chase after her. But after I explained what I wanted, she obliged me.
It was getting dark, but the neon light pouring out of the bars and restaurants nearby illuminated the city.
I took a tract from my pile, and knelt down beside the sidewalk to write. She did the same. I wrote my name email address and cellphone number in the small spot on the back of the tract that I suppose was there, just for that purpose.
She offered her phone number, which I gladly accepted. While I waited for her, I noticed a small scar on her right thigh. Then another. And many more that made parallel lines all up her leg.
My heart sped up a few beats; I wanted to address it, but didn’t know how.
Instinctively, I reached my hand out and gently brushed my hands over the scars.
“Do you mind if I ask you a question?” I asked “Can you tell me about these?”
She looked into my eyes, probably surprised at my boldness. “Oh. Those are about a week old.”
“Rachelle,” My eyes filled with tears, just short to brimming over. “What would you say if I told you I care?”
She broke down crying on my shoulder. I hugged her tight, wishing I could tell her everything would be alright, that she doesn’t have to hurt. But I knew I couldn’t say that.
“It is hard out here.” She wiped the tears away. “It helps me forget, even just for a minute. I want to change but it is hard.”
I knew I would probably never see Rachelle again. What little help or hope I could offer, I did. . Jesus cares. I care. You are special, loved, and precious. That kind of thing. It felt so cliché. Of course I know its true. But it feels way different when you telling it to a homeless, penniless, bedraggled girl on the streets of New York City.
What can I do for you, Rachelle? My heart bled. I want to take you to a safe place. You and all the other children and teens that are just like you. Struggling, lonely and hurting.
I could only hope that maybe she would read the tract. Maybe she would remember me. Maybe she would call or email.
Driving home that night, we were all exhausted. Some slept, others quietly chatted. I sat there, sobered by the encounter with Rachelle, and also overwhelmed by the masses of people. What in the world. This is crazy. I knew I shouldn’t think like that, but I did anyway. So we spend hours on our feet, hundreds of dollars in tracts, and not to mention emotional energy. For what? No one seemed even the least bit interested in what we had to say. We can’t make a difference. It’s ridiculous.
A still, small Voice whispered truth to my heart. “ … whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
The wise words from my friend earlier in the afternoon also came back to me. Of course. It is not about how many disciples I make, how many people can convert. My job is to sow the seed, and let God do the rest. Maybe I planted a seed in someone’s heart this evening and will never know about it. That’s ok – God does.
I want to follow up with Rachelle. Maybe, just maybe she will call.
She never did.
*names and places have been changed to protect privacy