Meet Andre

Cincinnati

“Excuse me, sir. Buy the newspaper that creates jobs for people.”

He held in his hands a copy of the local Article 25 newspaper. Between his sandaled feet was a duffel bag containing more copies of the paper. To the other side of his right foot was a puddle of something I can only hope was a spilled drink.

He was a large, dark-skinned man sitting on a bench under a small tree. His scruffy, gray-haired face was adorned with red-tinted sunglasses and a matching baseball cap. I could discern only two teeth on his upper gum, but through that mouth came one of the fullest and most sincere smiles I have ever witnessed.

“It’s only one dollar.”

I don’t generally read newspapers. And I wasn’t feeling very financially generous at that moment.

We had just come from the car shop where we had gone for a routine oil change. While there, we discovered that the tires on our car were shot. They were dry-rotted and cracking and probably unsafe to drive home, let alone the 2,500 mile move across the country we are planning.

It was going to cost us $500 to replace four tires. This was after explaining our situation to the manager, who graciously applied every coupon he could find to bring the price down from the originally-quoted $600-something.

We were wandering the streets of downtown Cincinnati, looking for a coffee shop to kill some time while the tires were changed, and feeling a little discouraged about our loss of $500.

“Just a dollar?” I confirmed.

No, it wasn’t that I wanted to read the paper, nor was I feeling all that generous. I simply believe in Jesus’ command to give to everyone who asks of you.

“Thank you, sir, for loving people more than your money.”

I took the paper.

“Now who is this?”

He gestured to our three-and-a-half-month-old son, fast asleep in Tessa’s ring-sling.

“This is Qoheleth.”

“Ka-heth?”

“Qoheleth. It’s a Hebrew name.”

“Oh, are you Jewish?”

“No, we’re Christians. Qoheleth comes from the Bible.”

I briefly explained the meaning of the name.

“Ah, you’re Christians. Well then, I have a Scripture for you, and then I have some knowledge. Do you have one of those phones with the Bible you can pull up on it?”

I pulled my phone out of my pocket.

“Bring up Romans 1. Now in Romans 1, it says that the invisible things of God are clearly seen through his creation. Tell me, what is the significance of the stars?”

“Well, they showcase God’s glory.”

“Yes, but a star also led the wise men to Jesus. You see? God uses his creation to reveal himself.”

I smiled and nodded.

“Now I have some knowledge for you. I’m going to tell you about yourself. But I tell you what, I sure would love a sandwich from that shop right there. So I’m going to tell you about yourself, and if I’m right, would you buy me a sandwich?”

I assured him that I would buy him a sandwich regardless.

“Of course you will! Because you’re real Christians. Okay. You are all about transformation. God transformed himself into a man as Jesus. God transformed you from the old man to the new. And God is using you as an agent of transformation in this world. We are here to carry out his will.”

He continued.

“You don’t worry much about what you’ll need. You’re used to seeing God provide for you. Sometimes it’s like money just falls into your lap out of nowhere.”

He didn’t know about the unexpected check I had received in the mail just one week before. The one from a man I barely knew online and had never met in person. The one inscribed with the simple message, “God’s timing.” The one written out for $500.

“You are respected because even though you’re not always right, you always speak your mind. You don’t mess with the truth. You deal in absolutes. You want to be used by God to change this world.”

He went on to give a similar message to my wife.

“You see, this is just my day job.”

He referenced the newspapers between his feet.

“This is just a way to make some money to support my real occupation. I’m an evangelist. Can you tell?”

Again that sincere smile full of the love of God captured his face, and he let out a laugh.

“To the Christians, I encourage them. I try to push them closer to Christ and each other. To the lost, I try to show them Jesus. I may not be like most preachers—Bible thumping and all hell-fire and brimstone. I just point them to God through his creation.”

He pointed to the tree above him.

“Take this tree, for example. Right now it looks all green and alive. But when winter comes, the leaves will fall off, and it will seem dead. But once winter passes, the leaves will return, and it will come back to life. Do you know when that happens? Easter! That’s resurrection, baby! God put the resurrection itself into his creation. Now what scientist can really explain that? Or how many scientists have been able to make even a simple tree? Not one! So how can they say it all came about by chance?”

As we parted, I gave him $10 for a sandwich and shook his hand.

“I don’t think I caught your name.”

“My name is Andre, and you remember that name in your prayers! I love you guys.”

I don’t know how many people Andre has won for God or how many Christians he has encouraged. But those few minutes we spent with him yesterday were a blessing to me. I hope that reading this has been a blessing to you as well.

Will you join me in praying for Andre as he continues this great work to which God has called him?