It was the summer of 1999 and it seemed like a series of challenging circumstances were converging around my life and that of my family. Bameri and I had been married for two-and-a-half years and our daughter Beth was about 18 months old, full of joy, but also frequently ill. I remember us visiting the family paediatrician almost every week for several months, a bubbly and cheerful Bengali lady who displayed genuine compassion towards our daughter and us and who gradually became a friend as well. That year was also difficult due to the unforeseen breaking of relationships with many who were distressed and upset with some decisions that we had made, people we loved, folks we never wanted to hurt in any way.
In addition to a few other things that were going on then, it was also a time when my colleagues at work and I were on our fifth month of not being paid due to a financial crisis our university centre was unnecessarily having to go through, a situation that could have been avoided had it not been for poor leadership and mismanagement. My wife and I had been putting up a brave fight at home, limiting, reducing, cutting wider corners, praying, at times weeping together. The house rent was high, the graph of medical expenses was becoming steeper, the monthly bills never failed to show up when it was time and the savings were getting depleted. We shared about our situation with very few people, folks who did not have enough themselves but who loved us and prayed for us with great sincerity. One of them was our friend Guha, who would spend evenings with us, drinking simple tea together, telling stories, poking fun at each other, and at times simply crying along with us with real tears and wordless prayers.
One evening, walking home with a another friend Joe, after a midweek small-group Bible-study in a rather unimpressive part of town, an area marked by dirty automobile workshops, lines of hardware stores and dilapidated tea stalls, I was inwardly concerned about our family situation although outwardly to him, I acted as though everything was normal. Joe had no idea about what Bameri and I were going through but suddenly, diverting from the topic of a conversation we were having, he looked and me and said: “Almond, you are broke, right?” No way Joe, no way, I am okay, was how I remember I responded to him.
But Joe didn’t ask the second time. He simply said, “I know you’re broke bro. God told me in a dream last night .”
Awkwardly, I admitted so to him. I briefly told him about the months of struggle although I did not reveal to him that except for a few kilos of rice, there was no more food at home.
Right then and there, Joe said that he would buy food for us. Not listening to my weak objections, he grabbed my hand and almost literally dragged me to the evening market nearby, and started buying fish and vegetables for my family. As he was doing that, I was having conflicting thoughts and feelings as I knew Joe himself had been struggling financially. I knew that he was practically living on the margins of poverty himself and here he was, selflessly and sacrificially blessing his brother, his fellow sojourner, and he did it with great joy!
That night, we had a delicious meal at home, prepared in gratitude, mingled with tears and joy and hope, knowing that God would always provide, no matter what. Today, two decades later, I continue to be humbled, not only by his provision but by his extravagance, his fatherlike concern for my needs, despite my occasional disobedience and tendency to run away from intimacy with him, his compassion towards my brokenness, his singleminded commitment to my success despite my inclination towards waywardness, the ocean of his forgiveness whenever my heart cries out to him for having befriended the sharks that almost decimate my relationship with him.
It has been years since I met Joe. I don’t know where he is today. I know there was a time he had been in and out of jobs, had travelled to other states of India for work, and struggled with his own weaknesses like every other Christ-follower who is honest enough to admit so. But I have not seen him in a while. I would like to. I will never forget how he acted in compassion towards my family and I, concluding that we needed help after God revealed to him in a dream that we were broke.
Photo credit: Jon Tyson @ https://unsplash.com/photos/oVCB8hJjDHU