Stranger Danger

I feel like I might have told this story before, but instead of admitting to having a poor memory, I’m just going to say this is what we, in the blogging world, refer to as “repurposed content”. Allow me to do some repurposing.


If you’ve been following this blog for any significant amount of time, you’re aware I spent a majority of my working life in Wyoming as a server. My boss, Julie, was a powerhouse mentor and taught me so much about life – and I guarantee you she has no idea I consider her such an influence. She was just the real deal. The kitchen staff taught me how to take myself a little less seriously and be confident in my abilities. Yes, the kitchen staff. They weren’t teachers; most of them were on work-release. But they embraced life, and while we didn’t share the same choices or passions, we shared an enthusiasm for actively pursuing all we held important.


When I wore that apron, I became not just a server, but a friend. When diners would come in, they weren’t just hungry people. They were customers. Well, most of them. Let’s be honest, there were some real doozies of tables, but there were some really special people who walked in those doors. There was one family who came each summer from Kentucky, and would request me by name to wait on them. I was their adopted family in their home-away-from-home. There were the regulars who shared jokes and trials throughout the week. There were friends who would come in for a burger and conversation. Few people were strangers by the time their meal was done.


The first year Brent and I were married, I called him from work one night to ask a very risky, out-there question. This is that story.


One Saturday evening, I was waiting on a table of three college guys. I remember one was named Pat, and one was named Eric. This was many moons ago, and I forget the name of the third guy. Jared? Alex? I suppose now I have to fess up to the poor memory thing. They were from somewhere in South Dakota (I think?) and on a poor-man’s tour of the states, trying to take in the sights before heading back to school from break. It was either very late fall, or early winter, and it was cold outside. Not the most ideal time for travel, but they were having fun with their journey anyway.


At some point in serving their meal, I asked them where in town they were staying. To my shock and horror, they told me they had planned to sleep in their car in the WalMart parking lot. I’ve never been great at hiding how I feel, and when they saw the look on my face, Pat grew a little concerned and asked, “What….will someone hurt us if we sleep there?” Probably not. But it was cold. And they were three guys. Sleeping in a car was just wrong. In the cold. In a parking lot (where I had quite an experience). I told them I had to make a phone call, and I would be right back.


I walked over to the cashier’s counter and used the phone to call my husband. I started out with, “Please don’t think I’m crazy.” You know it’s gonna be a good phone call when your wife leads off with those words.


Y’all, as those guys were telling me their plans to sleep in a parking lot, I was overcome with a physical burden. A literal weight rested upon my shoulders, and this inaudible voice told me, “You know what to do.” I didn’t. I didn’t want to know. These were strangers. Male strangers. They outnumbered me, and even with my husband, we were still outnumbered. “You know what to do.”


I told my husband I felt like the Lord was impressing upon me it was our responsibility to house these men for the night. In our two-bedroom apartment. With no way to defend ourselves should they turn out to be murdering psychopaths who were actually running from the law, and not on an innocent sight-seeing venture.


My husband, God bless him, said, “If you feel like this is what the Lord is telling you to do, I am in no position to stop you. I don’t like it…at all…but I trust you.”


Heart Mountain: One of my favorite landmarks in Wyoming…home.


I walked back to the table and looking each of them in the eye, offered them the opportunity to stay with us that night. One of them responded with, “I don’t know….are you like a murdering psychopath?” I took it as a positive sign we were both scared of that possibility of the other. That meant it wasn’t likely anyone was going to die that night. I told them to talk it over, but that I had really felt like the Lord was prompting me to invite them. And we had heat. And they could spread out. And I would make pancakes for breakfast.


After work, those three guys piled in to their car and followed me home. They came in, we got them situated with bedding, and Pat called his dad. Brent overheard him saying, “I’m going to have to tell you the whole story later. But we’re staying in a stranger’s apartment right now. It’s crazy. But it’s good.”


The next morning, all of us woke up (no one was murdered in the night), and I followed through on my promise of pancakes. We got ready for the day, and they followed us to church. I’m not sure how the invitation even came about, but they went with us to church. During church, the preacher invited us to turn to the book of Acts. Pat grabbed a Bible, started thumbing through, then turned to us and asked in a whisper, “Is this in alphabetical order or something?” I reached over and turned the pages to the appropriate place for him.


Afterwards, we all had lunch together (I’m pretty sure my parents treated us – yes, they even met my parents) and they were on their way.


I’ve never seen nor heard from them since. That said, I think of and pray for them often. Quite often. I pray Pat questioned why the Bible wasn’t in alphabetical order enough to crack it open and read it for content rather than categorization. I pray they were touched by the church service that morning. I pray when they recount the events of their trip, they think “why would someone open their home to three complete strangers?” and the answer would lead them to Jesus. I pray they liked the pancakes. I pray, all these years later, that one night led them to a new life in forgiveness and freedom.


I pray, also, that I would continue to be open and trusting to the Lord’s calling of hospitality. It is so important that we open our homes and our hearts to shower others with love and fellowship. Real fellowship. Not just coffee, or play dates, but intimate times of sharing and authentic community. Hospitality.


I don’t recommend just inviting anyone and everyone into your home and putting yourself at risk of harm. I am suggesting, however, you trust God and His plans for who He places in your path and upon your heart. Those three strangers have no idea the lasting impact they left on this lady.


And seriously, let’s give a hand for my husband, who trusts the Lord leads his wife to do crazy things, and supports me in those wild ventures…

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