She was sitting in the back row in the corner seat. It's a small church, so newcomers are easily recognizable. She's an African American with very dark skin. I feel inexplicably drawn to her and I want to go introduce myself, but she is in a deep discussion with her seatmate. After the opening hymns we were urged to "meet and greet" and I took the opportunity to turn and catch her eye and I made gestures to indicate I was going to work my way over to where she was sitting. She walked towards me and said, "I'll meet you halfway." She takes my hand in both of hers; they are very warm. I am riveted by her eyes which are also warm, deep and extremely captivating. Her name is TJ and "no" she doesn't live here she's just visiting. By this time the music has started up again and we must take our seats.
After the service I find I am "trapped" by people standing and chatting and I see her exit the sanctuary. When I finally make it out of my pew and downstairs where coffee and cookies await, I find she is there, pouring herself a cup of coffee. It is now that I notice that she has a very, very large backpack at her feet, it is almost as tall as she is. I again approach her and ask where she's from. What I learn astounds me. She is walking all over the country "telling people about Jesus." I ask her how long she's been doing this and she responds, "Five years". I ask if she's with an organization and she says, "No, God told me to do this, and so I am. He provides for me." I ask where she started and she says, "Arizona".
By this time Sunday school has started and I am torn between attending my class which is excellent--deep and thought-provoking (we are doing a Precepts type of study on Ephesians), and staying and talking to her. I go to class, hoping she will still be in the coffee room when we are done and I plan on asking her to have lunch with us. After class I open our classroom door and my heart sinks when I see that she has gone. I wonder where her next stop is. I wonder how she decides where to stop. I wonder where she will sleep tonight. And I marvel and the obvious peace and contentment that she exudes. Her faith has been tried, tested and proven. I wonder why she chose our church and I wonder why I didn't stay and talk to her. I can't shake the feeling that I have had an extraordinary encounter and I wonder whether I was too intent on study and not intent enough upon application.
Godspeed, TJ, you are in my thoughts and prayers tonight.