Who would think a flat tire would help someone come to know more about the church?
One morning, as I was leaving for work, a message flashed across the car’s screen: Low Tire Pressure. I looked and, sure enough, my front driver’s side tire was totally flat and I saw a pretty nice-sized bolt sticking out of the tread.
So, after my husband pumped the tire back up with his air compressor, I headed to the nearest tire garage. It was early, so I and three guys had to stand in line for about 30 minutes. Biding my time, second in line and the only female, I was awkwardly silent around shop talk. Two of the guys were in conversation and I overhead one older gentleman mention he was traveling from Pennsylvania. There was my opening—my parents retired there.
“So, where in Pennsylvania are you from?” I asked.
“Oh, my cousin lives near there. My folks live in the Poconos.” He nodded and began talking about Pittsburgh.
It was apparent we had made a connection, as the two of us shared stories of the Keystone State. Then I asked what brought him to the area and he shared that, though originally from Flint, he was in the Irish Hills area for a funeral of a friend, and that he, too, had a flat tire to replace before he headed back home.
Listening and Learning
During our conversation, I found out he had worked as an executive for GM in Flint during its heyday. He talked about the good-old days, his education, and that he and his wife had raised their children there. During this visit, he traveled to Flint and sadly described how bad things had become since the auto industry pulled out. You could see it in his eyes: His hometown… so much had changed from back in the day.
By this time, the business doors were opened, and we had moved into the small lobby. After getting signed in, he wasn’t too far from where I was sitting. So, I struck up the conversation again, mentioning Franklin Avenue Mission and how the Church was helping. He saw my shirt with District logo and “People of Hope” and asked where I worked. I told him where and that was how I knew about this mission outreach working towards improving the lives of the people and subsequently the city. I told him about the many Lutheran congregations, adults and youth, that came together weekend after weekend last summer to clean up the neighborhood on Franklin Avenue. I shared how a few in the community looked through window shades at first, how some came out on the porch, and then how some actually began to help in the clean-up. I shared how those who came to help didn’t stop with just a few acts of kindness and that now a building on that very street was a mission outpost.
Just the Church
By then, I could tell he was still interested. So before I continued I said a quick prayer, that if God wanted to use this moment for His purposes I was His. I went on with what I knew was happening at the mission: loving and caring for individuals, families, and children; meals being served in diner-like style, table cloths, and waiters; water being supplied for the long run, and more. Then I shared what I liked best about it all, what Pastor Bradley Yops had said to me earlier this year: “We don’t go out telling anyone who we are, or have big flashy signs; we just get to the work. If they ask, we tell them ‘we are the Church.’ If they ask ‘what church’ we say ‘just the church’.” When I told him this, he seemed a little surprised at first, then smiled and said a little skeptically, “the church you say?” I nodded and smiled back.
By that time, my tire was fixed and I got up to pay. As I was leaving, he reached out, touched my arm and said, “It’s really great what your church is doing in Flint, tell them I said thanks!”
I can only guess what this man had weighing on his heart that day by his observation and our conversation. I’m not even sure what God had in mind for this brief encounter. But I know that He did something by the change in this man’s demeanor. Just maybe, when I left, this gentleman had a much better understanding that we, the church, are not about judgement or condemnation. Nor do we turn our backs on those in need. But that we reach out and serve with God’s love in our hearts.
Two flat tires. A little conversation. A potential change in perspective. God works in wondrous ways.
Photo (c) SC Shots Studio SRL/iStock