I did not write the following account. It was emailed to me in Spanish over a year ago from a former Argentine ministerial student in my Evangelism 101 class in Bible School. It refers to an incident that happened over 30 years ago. I had not intended to publish it, but finally decided to translate it into English to share it with you.
(Please note: Everyone in Argentina knows me as Hermano Rafael.)
Dear Hermano Rafael:
I don’t know if you will remember this incident. It happened so many years ago.
We were parked on a corner near the entrance to Isla Maciel. (You will remember that this was a zone that consists of emergency shacks covering a huge area that did not have a good reputation… drunkards, drug addicts and prostitutes... no?)
We were carrying our guitars and you had your accordion. We were new at this… inexperienced youth, but with a desire to serve the Lord. You were wearing a checkered sport jacket with large red and white squares that made you visible from 4 blocks away. We respected your spiritual investiture, but (with due respect) not your choice of clothing… ha. We were thinking that the people that lived here would grab you, jacket and all (and us with you) and hang us on a tree. But no…
We stopped singing stored our instruments in the car and you started walking on a narrow pathway leading us into the heart of the mass of shacks. The truth is we were terrified. The area we were entering was not pretty, nor the faces either. But your face and soul were shining… and we followed you. That’s the way it was… nothing bad could happen to us because we were working for God and you were our example in this.
Suddenly you stopped in front of a liquor bar. It was made of corrugated metal, windows with no glass and a door frame with no door… and just like that you walked inside. Evidently you were crazy! We could see nothing inside so we just stood outside paralyzed waiting to see what would happen. After a while you came out with your arm around a man that was sobbing with tears flowing and you presented him to us as our new brother. He had on a jacket with jeans and strapped on his side a .38 revolver, but this was insignificant. He was our new brother with scars on his face… scars that between tears, sobs, hugs and love… our brother was beginning a new life.
Our new friend would never have known that there existed another kind of life… if it had not been for a crazy north-American evangelist dressed in a red and white checkered jacket named Rafael… OUR PROFESSOR OF EVANGELISM.
Clarification: This area of Isla Maciel where we entered is called Villa Tranquila (meaning Tranquil Villa) which had to be someone’s sarcastic joke since there are somewhere between 15,000 to 25,000 squatters crammed into a single mass, with raw sewage running in ditches and where, I am told, murders still happen almost every week.
I remember that jacket. It was classy. The red was more of a maroon and the white like a silver gray. I liked it… but looking back it was probably not a good choice of attire for the area where I was ministering. Ha!
Hermano Rafael (Or just Ralph)