Typically, I don’t answer unrecognizable numbers on my phone, but caller ID revealed the call was from Washington DC. Considering I had just received a request earlier that day to speak at a conference in DC, I thought perhaps they were calling again, so I answered.
Me: “Hello, this is Susan Crook.”
Man (in broken English): “Yes, this is the IRS calling with very important information. You have a critically delinquent tax debt. It is a felony. If you don’t pay $6,000 by the end of the day today, you will go to jail.”
Me: “No kidding. Wow. That’s really scary. What should I do?!?” I cracked myself up as I placed him on speaker and continued to work on my computer.
Man: “You will be arrested today. Please allow me to read you the legal document.” I continued working, contemplating how I would “zap” him in the end as he read on ... and on ... and on. I could barely understand him as he persisted with his lengthy legal scare tactic. What a jerk. I semi-prayed, “Lord, let me at him. Give me the words to put him in his place. Urrrr! (Yes, I growled.)
Man: “Okay, so to keep you from being arrested today, you will pay with your credit card, right? I will connect you with the manager now to arrange for your $6,000 payment.”
Me: “Sure,” I quipped! (Boy, was this guy going to hear a divinely orchestrated word or two from me!)
But, then I (heard myself) say, “Wait... first, do you mind if I ask you a quick question?”
Man: “Oh, yes, please go ahead.”
Me: “Does it bother you at all that you’re scamming people when you call them like this?”
(I anticipated the notorious, abrupt - click!)
Long pause – I wondered if he had hung up, but then I heard...
Man: “Yes, it does. I actually don’t feel good about it at all.”
Me (rather shocked): “Then why do you do this? It’s wrong.”
Man (very quiet voice): “I know.”
Me: “You can’t continue. You have to stop. It’s not right. You see, I’m a Christian. It’s very clear in the Bible that this type of behavior is wrong.” (Ever wonder why on earth you just said something that made absolutely no logical sense in a conversation, but you prayed – then these strange and bizarre words start forming?)
Man: “I’m a Christian, too. I live in India in a small village with my mom and sisters. We have no money, no jobs. I do not know what else to do.”
Me: “But, this isn’t the solution. You have to trust that if you do the right thing, God will provide – somehow, some way. It may not seem even remotely possible that there’s another solution right now, but God has already got a plan in place. He’s just waiting for you to trust Him - and believe He will provide a solution for you. And you might get really hungry. That’s when you say, ‘God, I’m soooo hungry, but I’d rather be hungry than lie - and cheat - and go against Your will. You know I’m hungry and you can provide what we need, but until then, I promise I’ll stay true to you.’ God can and will do a miracle in your life.”
I asked his name. (I won’t repeat his real name. I’ll use ‘Abdul.’)
Me: “Abdul, you need to make today your last day. You need to get out of there.” I asked if he had a Bible.
Abdul: “Oh, yes. I read very much of the Bible.”
Me: “Here’s what I want you to do. First, memorize Jeremiah 29:11. Next, read the book of Joshua - in the Old Testament. Joshua had difficult circumstances, yet he was strong and courageous. He believed God could do anything. God blessed Joshua for being faithful. God blesses our faith, too. Sure, you’ll receive a paycheck for this job, but that’s it. You won’t receive God’s blessings. The paycheck is all you’ll get, but God has greater blessings planned than a paycheck! You’ve got to trust Him, though. He. Can. Do. Miracles! Abdul, I’ve gone through very difficult circumstances in my life, as well. It wasn’t until I truly let God be in charge and to trust His plan completely – even when it didn’t make sense - that He brought me out of the pit and toward the life He has planned for me. I had to do my part first, though. He waited patiently for me, and He’s waiting patiently for you. He loves you sooo much, Abdul. He wants to help you. He will help you! But you have to do your part. You have to be strong and courageous.”
It was quiet for a long moment. I waited.
Abdul: “You know how you said that I should make today my last day?”
Abdul: “Well, today is actually my first day here.”
Me: “Then, Abdul, make your first day – your last day.”
Abdul: “I will. I’m going to leave.”
Me: “May I pray with you?”
Abdul: “I would like that very much.”
And so we prayed together. He thanked me profusely for helping him to “not do the wrong thing and to remind him to trust God only.” Before we said goodbye, he assured me he would go to his pastor to pray and work together toward the plan God will indeed - place in his heart.
I have to admit, I struggled with wanting to send Abdul money and food - and everything else he needs. However, I knew it just wasn’t possible due to the circumstances. I’ve prayed for Abdul quite a bit in the last few days and God has given me assurance that He will take care of Abdul and his family. That’s where my trust has to come in, as well.
To be honest, I get pretty fed up with those pesky scammer calls, but what a blessing that call ended up being – to me. That night, my husband, Dale, said, “I bet one day in Heaven, Abdul is going to walk up to you and say - thanks for helping me make the right decision that day. It changed my life.”
We all need people who will help us when we’re going down a wrong path, making bad choices, convincing (fooling) ourselves that it’ll be fine. Sometimes we encourage others at the other end of the phone line - on the other side of the world. And sometimes, we need to encourage others right in our own backyard; at work, school, church, or possibly (get ready) in the grocery store check-out line (yes, even when she’s cranky).
Who is God asking you to show a little bit of encouragement (and mercy) to today? Who can we help redirect - by showing patience and love in a difficult situation? It’s not always easy. Thank goodness Abdul’s legal document was a long read. God needed a little extra time to work on my heart before I pounced.
Paul told us in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” He also said in Ephesians 4:2, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
So, I'm thinking love is the key. Who can you love and encourage today? We can make a difference. It's an honor - and a blessing. God wants to use us in everything we do - even in the most unexpected situations.
Be a blessing for someone today. Maybe - it's your "call."