There are always faces you remember in the camps, for various reasons: you prayed with them to receive Christ, you witnessed their heart softening to the gospel, they sought you out for prayer, they talked to you about their faith, they invited you into their homes to share food with them, etc. This year, I remember a little boy's face because of an apple, cereal, and a shy smile.
We were packing up the van at the end of the night when a boy of about 8 years old caught my attention. He was sitting on a neighboring truck just watching our progress. I decided to take the time I was wasting and talk to him instead. Before I even got past the introductory questions he handed me a bag of puffed wheat cereal from DIF (pronounced "deef": the social services branch of Mexican gov't) and told me that I could have it. There was no explanation, only a shy smile that curled the edges of his mouth.
I started sharing with him about God's love, how special he was, and how life with God means you can talk with Him about anything. José shared with me that his parents were separated and that he lives with his mom in Sinaloa (where we were) while his dad is in Mexicali (the capital of Baja). I told him about how God is the perfect dad and how that is only possible because God is the creator of the universe. Yet in my little faith, explaining God's perfection as a father seemed like such a small thing in the sea of words José's thinks or hears about his dad.
As I was at a loss for words, José hopped off the truck and ran away, yelling over his shoulder that he was "coming right back!" Minutes later he returned, climbed up on the truck, and handed me an apple. Something compelled this precious little boy to share his food with me again. And something caused his smile to get a little bigger as he shared. I may have even caught the glimmer of a white, little tooth.
I asked José what he know about Jesus since he had already finished my prior story with the statement that Christ rose from the dead. He shrugged this time, smiled, and asked about my work with the team. He was curious about loading the van, how we fit all of it in there, and what we do every night. I was eager to return to a conversation about God. I felt I needed to cram as much in as I could. But José was content to sit and talk about our ministry.
I looked down at my clipboard to gather my thoughts at one point and saw the cereal and apple waiting for me. They reminded me that I wasn't operating in my own time table or within my own plans. This was God's little José, God's night in the camps, and God's conversation to lead. So we talked about the van, our project's home base, and how far we had to drive. And I left feeling like I hadn't accomplished much. I hadn't told José how to receive Jesus, I hadn't even asked him if he believed in Jesus. But, right before he ran home, I did see a few teeth in José's full fledged smile when I thanked him for sharing with me and told him he was very special. And for that reason, no matter what God's plans are for his life, I will always remember his face.