The Reluctant Witness

It had rained hard every day. Thank goodness the rains didn’t begin each day until about four in the afternoon. While the mountainous roads were too steep for there to be any standing water, the mud never seemed to dry. We had been in Honduras only three days, yet we had seen enough poverty to last three lifetimes. 

This was my second mission trip to this beautiful yet impoverished nation. Our mission was simple: to show people the love of Christ with the free gift of the most basic of physical needs — shelter and food. We had come to build two cinder block houses and to deliver bags of food and soap to those who had nothing. Each twenty-pound bag of food contained rice, cornmeal, salt, sugar, and beans. Yet, incredibly, it could feed a family of four for two weeks. We in America are so wasteful.

Already, over 400 bags had been distributed. Each time we delivered a bag of food to a household, we made sure that they knew that the food and soap were gifts from God, not from us. Because they were. Like the fish and the loaves from the young boy’s catch, Jesus would bless and multiply these meager portions to feed His flock.

Each time we asked if the head of the household, usually an unmarried woman, was a Christian. Most of the time the response we got was the same as we would expect in the American South, “yeah, sure.” Even though the response was in Spanish, which I did not understand, the noncommittal tone was unmistakable.

Each time after delivering the food and soap we asked if it would be okay if we prayed with them. They always said yes. I don’t know if they thought it was a condition of the gift, but they never took any chances. Before praying we asked if there was anything special they needed us to pray for. It was a ridiculous question. Their needs were obvious. Nonetheless, on occasion, they would relate some need that was not so obvious, like cancer, or diabetes, or a crippled, deformed, or blind child who was hiding in the shadows.

Each time we prayed, we would make it a point to thank God for the food that feeds the body and compare it to the Word of God which feeds the soul. Then we would thank God for the soap which cleans the body and draw the analogy to the blood of Christ which cleanses us of our sins.

The village we were in was the hometown of my interpreter. His name was Ricardo. The village was, as we are fond of saying here in the States, “dirt poor.” Even though in America we are quick to use that expression, we don’t have a clue what it means. It was coined by our ancestors. They knew what “dirt poor” was. It was when your floor consisted of dirt. Not wood; not carpet; not tile; not even concrete. No plumbing; no electricity. Dirt. Yet Ricardo was very proud of his village. It dawned on me that he knew no difference. Every house here had a dirt floor. Everyone was dirt poor.

We were going to a house chosen by Ricardo that obviously needed the gifts. It was on the outskirts of the village. It was the home of a poor widow who had no other means of income. Her husband had died years ago. She had no means of financial aid. When you are dirt poor, you don’t have a savings account. You don’t have any account at all. This country had no Social Security. No one sells life insurance to these peasants. Even if they did, no one could afford it. Thus, there is no safety net. She was dependent upon the mercy of her neighbors. Fortunately, one of her neighbors was Ricardo.

On the way, we passed by a house that looked relatively prosperous, if you could possibly use such a word to describe poverty. 

Ricardo told us that three unmarried women lived in this house with their illegitimate children. He also told us that they were looked down upon by the village for the loose women that they were. Ricardo asked if we would like to leave one of the bags with them. I said, “well let’s see how things go, and maybe we’ll have some leftover on the way back.”

I walked by the house without giving it a second thought. After all, the need all around us was far more than we could ever meet. These women seemed more prosperous than the rest of the community; and why not? They enjoyed the fruits of a business with a proven history of prosperity. 

When we arrived at the designated house on the outskirts of the village, the elderly widow that met us was truly a joy to behold. We shared the gift of food and soap with her and enjoyed the camaraderie between her and Ricardo. As we prepared to leave, a remarkable thing happened: she prayed for us. Imagine that — she prayed for us. We felt good about ourselves.

On our way back, we had an extra bag leftover. As we passed back by “that” house, Ricardo once again asked, almost as an afterthought, if we should leave the extra bag of food with them. Ricardo was much less judgmental than I. Though reluctant, I relented, mostly because I was the one carrying the bag, and saw an easy way to lessen my load. 

As with every house, I let the interpreter call out to the inhabitants within. It was the Honduran equivalent of a doorbell. A young woman answered the door carrying an infant son on her hip. I estimated her to be about 25 years old. She stood about five foot two; average height for this part of the world. 

I couldn’t help it, but I immediately noticed that the woman had flour on her hands. She’d been making bread. Suddenly, I felt God’s grip. Perhaps it was the remembrance of Christ’s words, at the last supper, as He took the bread and broke it, saying, “Take, eat, for this is my body which is given for you.” Or perhaps it was Christ’s words to Satan that, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” But most likely, it was just God who grabbed me, ‘cause I was there.

Regardless of the reason, I immediately felt God’s power fill me. No longer was it my words being spoken; they were His. I don’t even remember what I said. I don’t think it mattered. The words were not that important. Ya see God’s Spirit was moving. Nothing could stop it. Not even me, in my sinful, self-centered, self, could hinder the message of Christ. As the Apostle Paul once said, “If I don’t speak, the stones themselves will cry out.”

As I told her of God’s uncompromising, yet nonjudgmental love for her, and heard Ricardo translate my words from English to Spanish, I watched as the tears began to stream down her face.

God had just granted me an unbelievable privilege. Unbeknownst to me, He had arranged a divine appointment, and regardless of my best efforts to avoid it, through my prejudice, callousness, and laziness, and especially through my reluctant, half-ass attitude, He had been gracious enough to overlook all my shortcomings, and allow me to participate in, and witness, the birth of a new Christian.

You see, He didn’t need me to do this. This was a gift. Just as He had given the free gift of abundant and eternal life to this young woman, He had also given me a special gift. He had given me the gift of being a witness to one of His greatest miracles – raising one who was dead in her sins, to life in Christ. 

I had always thought the only meaning of the phrase, “witnessing for Christ,” meant that I must tell others about Jesus, and about my conversion to Christianity. God, my Daddy, my Brother, my Friend, in His graciousness, taught me a deeper meaning of the phrase. He taught me the honor of simply walking beside Him and being a witness to what He can do.

Itchy Sin

Sin is like an itch. You know you ought not scratch it, but sometimes, you just can’t help it. When you do, scratching feels so good. But the more you scratch, the more you itch — until one day, you look forward to the itch because you like the scratch. At that time, it becomes more about the scratch and less about the itch. The itch has become a part of you. You’ve scratched so much that you’ve become the itch.

Bringing Down the Roof

“Y’all know it’s hopeless,” said Joe.

“Joe, maybe you’ve given up, but we haven’t. I tell you, dude, this guy can do miracles.”

“Yeah, right,” said Joe.

“No, I mean it,” said Jason. “I know this guy named Benjy. He had leprosy. It was bad, man, real bad. Took him ’way from his family and everything. I used to see him digging in the garbage for food. Looked terrible. Then last week I saw him here in town. He was completely healed. I mean completely healed. He looked just like you or me.”

“Looked just like me, huh?” asked Joe. “Paralyzed, and laid out on a bed, and couldn’t get out?”

“You know what I mean, dude,” said Jason.

“I ain’t going,” said Joe.

“Well, you ain’t got no choice. We’re gonna do it anyway, and yo’ cripple ass can’t stop us,” Jason said with a grin.

Just then, Sam, Levi, and David walked through the door. “How’s our boy doing?” asked Sam.

“Aw, he’s bitchin and moanin like always,” Jason said.

“Of course he is,” said Sam.

“Look, fellas, I appreciate your help, but it’s no use,” said Joe.

David walked over to the stretcher where Joe lay. “Joe, we just got back from over there. Let me tell you, everybody and his mamma’s over there. And if I’m lyin, I’m dyin—people’re gettin healed from all kinds of shit right and left. I really think this guy can heal you.”

“It’s been three years since the accident. I’ve been prayed over by every priest and his brother. It’s no use,” said Joe.

“Well, dude, I believe this guy can heal you, and we’re going anyway,” said Jason. “Sam and Levi, y’all grab the stretcher at his feet. Dave, you and I will take his head. Let’s go.”

Jason heard the crowd long before they got close enough to see it. When they rounded the corner, it was much larger than he had imagined. There had to be over two hundred people surrounding the house.

As they approached a man at the outside edge of the crowd, Jason said, “Hey, that guy Jesus inside?”

“Yep,” said the man. “Good luck trying to get in to see him.” The man turned his head and spat on the ground with obvious disgust. “Apparently, you gotta be a bigwig to get a front-row seat,” he said.

“Well,” said Jason, “we sure as hell ain’t bigwigs. Guess we’ll just wait out here with all y’all till they get done.”

They set the stretcher down and waited outside with the others for over two hours. The sun was brutal. During that time, they couldn’t hear or see what was happening inside. Apparently, Jesus was in some deep discussion with the bigwigs about theology—at least that’s what someone told them.

Finally, Joe spoke up. “Jason, let’s go. There ain’t nothing gonna happen here anyway, man.”

Jason looked down at his friend. Joe looked bad. Joe smelled bad. Because he was paralyzed, he couldn’t control his bladder or his bowels. Joe was in a very bad way.

“Screw it, dude,” said Jason. “We gotta do something, even if it’s wrong.”

“Like what?” Sam asked.

A broad grin spread across Jason’s face. “I got an idea,” he said.

“Oh shit.” David groaned. “Why do I feel like you’re ’bout to say, ‘Hold my beer an’ watch this’?”

Jason looked at him and grinned. “Well, I ain’t got no beer. But you do know me pretty well, dude.” Jason gave David a high-five. “Here’s what we do,” said Jason. “We’re gonna git up on the roof, make a hole, and drop our boy down right in front of the man.”

They all looked at Jason like he had two noses.

“You’re out of your freakin mind!” said Levi. “You think if we tear the dude’s roof off he’s gonna heal our friend?”

“Boys, we’re out of time,” said Jason. “More importantly, Joe’s out of time. Look, I don’t know if this dude can help Joe, but I believe he might. What have we got to lose?”

“So, how’re we gonna do this?” David asked.

“Here’s what we’re gonna do. Levi, run back to the house and get a rope. While you’re doing that, the rest of us are gonna take the stairs up to the roof. We’ll pull the tiles off the roof and use the rope to slip ole Joe right down in front of the man. Then we fix the roof.” Jason flipped his arms up. “Simple.”

“That ain’t simple—it’s more like crazy and stupid,” David remarked. “But I like it.”

The commotion on the roof drew everybody’s attention, but before anyone had time to do anything about it, Jason and his friends had busted through. As they lowered their friend, Jason observed the man who commanded everyone’s attention. He had to be the one they called Jesus. He was surrounded by the high priests, and all the other community bigwigs were seated around him.

Jason feared that Jesus would be mad at them for bustin through the roof. But as the boys lowered Joe, Jason could clearly see the broad smile spreading across Jesus’s face. Everyone in the room below grew quiet. Jason didn’t have to strain very much to hear what Jesus said.

“What’s your name?” asked Jesus


Jesus looked up at Jason and the others on the roof. “Your friends must love you very much, Joe. They’ve gone to a lot of trouble.” Jesus looked back at Joe. “Well, cheer up, son. Your sins are forgiven.”

A collective gasp rose from the crowd below. It was obvious that Jesus had just pissed everybody off. It was also obvious that Jesus had known what effect his words would have on these pompous pricks, thought Jason.

Jesus turned from Joe and regarded those around him. “Why do y’all keep on doubting? I know y’all are thinking I’m blaspheming. Who can forgive sins but God alone? Let me ask y’all a question. What would be easier for me to say to a man who is paralyzed? ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or, ‘Get up and walk’?”

Jason watched as Jesus paused, giving everyone in the room time to try and figure out what he’d just said. After what seemed like an eternity, Jesus said, “Well, I want y’all to know that the Son of Man has authority on Earth to forgive sins.”

Jesus turned back to Joe. “Joe, get up and walk. Go home, and you can take that raggedy stretcher with you.”

Jason watched as Joe got up and put his stretcher on his shoulder. Jason could just barely see the tears of gratitude streaming down Joe’s face through his own.

When all the boys got back to Joe’s house, David said, “You know, I’m not sure what just happened. I know it was a miracle, but why’d he say all that stuff about the forgiveness of sins?”

Do you think he was trying to tell me that because I was a bad guy, that’s why I got paralyzed?” asked Joe.

“Naw, I don’t think that was it,” Jason said. “I think he was trying to tell us something about him. If you think about it, he called himself the Son of Man, whatever the hell that means, and then he asked a rhetorical question.”

“A what?” asked David.

“A question he already knew the answer to, dumbass. He said, ‘What’s easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or “Get up and walk”?’”

“Now that I think about it,” said Joe, “it’d be easier to say your sins are forgiven. That way, no one can call you a liar ’cause no one can tell if your sins have been forgiven or not. Words alone are cheap. On the other hand, you’re really putting your ass on the line when you tell somebody that everyone knows is paralyzed to get up and walk, go home, and take his raggedy stretcher with him.”

“That’s exactly what I was thinking, dude,” said Jason.

This historical fictional account is taken from Mathew 9:1–8; Mark 2:1–12; and Luke 5:17–26.

I’m Dirty

As he walked down the road, he couldn’t feel his feet. Benjy hadn’t felt his feet for several months now. Like his hands, the feeling had gradually, almost imperceptibly, vanished. As a result, anytime he cut his feet or his hands, he didn’t realize it. The cut invariably became infected. Even if he could control the threat of infection, eventually his toes and fingers would rot and fall off. He’d seen it happen to others.

His body was rotting away. It was one of the insidious, slowly consuming symptoms of this wretched disease called leprosy. Like the scaly white patches of skin covering his body and face, the disease was obvious and repulsive.

But that wasn’t the worst of it; leprosy was contagious. As a result, he had been compelled by law to leave his wife and two kids; though he’d left voluntarily. They were all he had in the world. He loved them too much to put them at risk. He had no choice. Strict laws were enforced to ensure that he, one of the “dirty” ones, would have no contact with “clean” people. He couldn’t eat or associate with them. He couldn’t draw water from any well. He was required by law to warn people of his approach by yelling “I’m dirty” before he approached so they could run. The only sustenance he got was from the garbage. He was dying from hunger.

To add insult to injury, everyone believed that the reason he had this wretched disease was he had committed some great sin. Somehow he was to blame for being so sick. Benjy himself had come to believe that must be true.

Benjy knew it was a race to see what would kill him first: hunger, infection, or the rot. Probably he would just die from loneliness. He didn’t care. Death was preferable to this miserable existence. Rabid dogs were treated better. At least they were put out of their misery quickly. Not him. His suffering was prolonged. It was as if people took some sort of comfort in his suffering; perhaps it allowed them to feel good about themselves.

He’d lost everything: family, friends, home. He had nothing, and he considered himself as less than nothing.

He’d heard of a stranger who roamed from town to town, teaching and healing. What more did he have to lose? This man was his last hope.

Benjy hobbled toward the crowd. Both men and women were seated on the ground, circled around the man standing and talking in the center. That must be him, thought Benjy. As he took another crippled step forward, Benjy did as the law required. “I’m dirty,” he tried to yell. It came out as a weak cry, almost a whisper.

Nonetheless, one of the men heard him and turned around. “What the hell?” he exclaimed as he turned and saw Benjy. The man stood up. “Git yo’ ass ’way from here, boy!”

Others saw Benjy and immediately jumped to their feet. Some men and women in the crowd began running, screaming, “He’s dirty! He’s dirty!” Others picked up rocks and threw them at Benjy. Several men stood shoulder to shoulder, forming a barrier between Benjy and the man who had been speaking.

“You heard him!” yelled one of the men standing in line as he hurled yet another rock at Benjy.

“Don’t come any closer!” another shouted.

Benjy, pelted with rocks, fell face down on the ground. He heard someone say, “Teach, don’t go any closer. I’ve seen people infected like him. The disease this boy’s got is just like a hungry monster. If you get any closer, it will leap on you, andl eat you alive.”

Suddenly, the rocks stopped hitting him, and everything got quiet. Benjy dared to look up. Standing before him was the man who had been speaking to the crowd. Benjy lowered his face to the ground, “Mister, please—if you’re willing, you can make me so I ain’t dirty no more. You’re my last chance. I believe if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Benjy raised his head again and saw a tear fall from the man’s face. The man squatted next to Benjy; he reached with his hand and placed it on Benjy’s head. “Son,” he said, “I am willing. Be clean,” Benjy could see a hint of a smile spread across the man’s face.

Benjy was suddenly flooded with overpowering warmth that started at the top of his head where Jesus had touched him and flowed all the way down his body, through his arms and legs. It was like being bathed in refreshing, clean warm water.

Benjy inherently understood this strange power—it was love. Pure love. A love like he had never felt before. A love he did not deserve, that he did not merit. He was one of the dirty ones. This strange man would have been within his rights to flee from him. Yet, somehow, this stranger had loved him so much that he dared not only to touch him but to love him, and in so doing he had healed him.

Benjy could once again feel his hands and feet. The numbness was gone. As he looked at his hands, he watched the scales fall away. He brought his hands up to his face and felt the scales on his cheeks, nose, and ears loosen and fall to the ground; he felt new, healthy skin underneath. It was like he was a brand new creation. Benjy burst into tears of joy and bent again to the ground, kissing the feet of this man he’d never met before who had dared to touch him and to somehow heal him with his love.

“Get up, Benjy—that is your name, isn’t it?” the man said.

Benjy rose to his feet. “Yessir, and you’re the man they call Jesus, aren’t you?”

“I am. Now, Benjy, here is what I want you to do. Don’t tell anybody ’bout how you got healed. I want you to follow the law, and go do what you are supposed to do right now. Find a priest who knew you as a leper, who knew just how dirty you were, and show him that you ain’t dirty no more. You’re clean. Ha, in fact, you’re real clean.” The smile on Jesus’s face spread. “And I want you to make the offerings the law says you gotta make to testify to the priests, and to everybody else, that you are indeed clean, and that you give God the credit. You got that?”

“Yessir. Thank you, sir.”

As Peter watched the man leave, he turned to John. “Do you believe what we just saw?”

“I’m trying to, said John.

“This man is something,” Peter remarked. “With him as our leader, no telling what we might accomplish. But I’m concerned that he would so readily expose himself to such danger. Nobody touches anybody who’s as dirty as that boy was.”

John was quiet for a moment; then he turned and said to Pete, “Maybe we’re all dirty.”

This historical fictional account is taken from Mathew 8:1–4; Mark 1:40–45; and Luke 5:12–16.