Beyond The Pale

Thoughts on Kingdom, Grace, Culture, and Church

Beyond The Pale - Thoughts on Kingdom, Grace, Culture, and Church

Christianity Without Hooks 2: A Story of AIDS

fishhook-cartoon1_0Evangelical Christianity has all kinds of hooks designed to catch people into the faith.  We

* organize special meetings

* bring in exciting speakers 

* create multimedia shows

* provide free food (pizza for the youth)

* offer our time and our compassion

all with the hope of having that one moment , that one special encounter, where we can share Jesus and ask if they would then like to receive him as their Lord and Savior.

I know…because I was one of those people.

Until I met Tony…

Tony

Tony was my “buddy”.

In 1996 myself and a few others from Island City Church (the church I pastored in Hong Kong’s nightclub district) volunteered with the non-profit AIDS Concern which was helping those living with AIDS in the city.  After a 3 week training period in the organization’s “buddy program” I was asked if I would be interested in meeting and “buddying” with a new client named Tony.

Now being a buddy meant just what it sounds like; you become friends and hang out.  Regrettably as the person’s health gives way to the illness I was to be there to help with daily living challenges as best I could and to comfort and console as able.

But of course my reason for doing all of this was to share Jesus with Tony.

I agreed to meet him for a drink at a pub in Jordan.  When I entered the pub Tony quickly realized who I was and bounded up to me with an enthusiastic outstretched hand.  He was a short, athletic Hong Kong Chinese man with a tight shirt designed to accentuate his muscular torso. 

He was the picture of physical health…

“This guy has AIDS?” I thought to myself.

We got to know each other a bit over a drink and Tony entertained me with a dozen funny table tricks people who spend far too much time in a pub tend to learn.

AIDS

Over the next few weeks I visited Tony somewhat frequently.  He was a movie buff as was I and he had one of those big projection screen TVs people had before flat screens.  Watching a movie on that huge TV in his little 550 sq. foot apartment was quite an experience believe me.

But here’s the thing…

I was starting to get frustrated by Tony’s dismissal of my clever, and oh so sly, methods of trying to work Jesus into our conversations. 

Once when watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade I attempted to use the film’s religious themes to question Tony about Jesus.  The usual kind and gracious Tony looked at me and replied curtly, “Steve, I believe in God…but I don’t want to talk about it.”

Slapped by the Holy Spirit

It was after that last conversation I told Tammy I wasn’t going to visit Tony as much.

“He’s not interested in hearing about Jesus so I need to look at where I’m putting my time and effort.  Didn’t Jesus say if one town didn’t receive you, move on to the next one?” (The Bible can be used out of context to support any lousy self serving agenda or attitude there is)

I didn’t cut off Tony altogether (that wouldn’t have been Christian of me) but I did make excuses of why I couldn’t see him as often

Then it happened!

After a phone call where I made a feeble excuse to Tony as to why why I couldn’t see him that week the Holy Spirit spoke to me.  Not audibly mind you…but an impression so strong it stopped me in my tracks.

“Are you going to treat Tony as a “notch in your belt” to be “saved” or are you going to love him and be his friend whether he wants to hear about me or not?”

Nothing like getting a little “sense” slapped by the Holy Spirit!

Who was I kidding?  I did like Tony and genuinely wanted to help him but if I’m honest there was the little self interest as well.  As a pastor I was hoping to share the “testimony” of “saving” a gay man before he died of AIDS.  When Tony failed to respond in the appropriate way in the time table I had set, I was ready to move on.

God forgive me!

I took the Holy Spirit’s hint that day and it started me on a path to a much more authentic Christian faith.

From that point my friendship with Tony changed…at least from my side.  I was no longer looking for ways to “bring Jesus up”; in fact I didn’t.  I just spent time with Tony and our friendship grew.

Jesus & Tony

If you know anyone who has died of AIDS you know how horrible it is.  Tony would get sick, I would visit him in the hospital, he would get better and all our hopes would get up…but the health that came back was never quite at the same level as before.

A slow degeneration occurs…

Tony lost weight, the once muscled torso disappeared, and his eyesight began to fail him.  My visits to him now included getting groceries and making sure he made it to the bathroom and back without falling.

Then the call came! 

Tony had been admitted to a hospice in the city.  I went to see him and was shocked when I entered the room.  He was completely emaciated weighing less than 100 pounds.  Curled up in his bed I had to tell him it was me as he was all but blind now.

We talked and laughed like we always did.  Tony had almost no energy but he still had a “snarky” sense of humor. Then I felt that impression I had felt weeks before;

“Tell Tony about me”

I hadn’t mentioned Jesus to Tony in months, now I fumbled with what to say. 

“Tony, can I tell you a story about Jesus?”

Tony to my surprise whispered “yes”.

thief1

Then a story hit me.  “You know”, I began, “when Jesus was dying on the cross, there were a couple other guys crucified with him.  One of them at that moment realized who Jesus was.  That death for him that day was going to be just a passing into something much better.  He called out to Jesus and asked him if he could remember him when he came into his Kingdom.

Jesus responded to the man, ‘This day you will be with me in Paradise’.”

I then asked Tony if he would like Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom.  Tony felt for my hand and whispered, “yes”.  Then with tears in his eyes he said, “please Jesus remember me when I come into your Kingdom,”

I held him.

Five days later Jesus remembered Tony as he entered his Kingdom

This is a story of how Tony helped save Steve!

Category: Uncategorized
  • Bob says:

    Absolutely beautiful. That’s all I can say

    December 5, 2013 at 7:53 am
  • Steve says:

    Bob, it was an encounter that impacted me greatly…

    December 9, 2013 at 8:40 am

Leave a Reply