Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mission Story #7

This one had slipped my mind. . .

It was Monday afternoon, and we'd finished serving lunch at St. Anthony's. Our team of seven was sent into the Mission District for a project entitled "Meet A Need." The team is given $20 and told to wander around, find somebody with a need, and use the $20 to meet it. Hence the name. (Oh: and you couldn't meet a need simply by giving somebody the money. That's a bad way to help people.)

So we wandered down the streets, trying to discern where God might be leading us. Diane, being Diane, chatted with a few ne'er-do-wells we passed; the teens, being teens, sort of clumped up and followed along.

At one point a lady passed us in a wheelchair, headed in the opposite direction. Diane, bringing up the rear, offered her an emphatic "How you doing today?" The woman seemed shocked and confused, staring at Diane like she was off her rocker. Diane made several more attempts at holding a conversation, but finally, deciding the woman was stoned out of her gourd, walked back toward our group. "Something fishy's going on there," she commented to me.

And she was right. At the same time she was attempting to talk to the woman, I noticed a young man decked out in full gang paraphernalia, yelling at somebody over his cell phone. I didn't catch the whole conversation, but caught such brief snatches as "What corner? You said you'd be at the corner!" and "We need to get this finished!" and "Where can I find you?" Then I watched him as he noticed Diane talking to the wheelchair lady, and let's just say you could tell he wasn't happy with what he saw. So he began walking swiftly toward them, just as Diane walked away.

So, the scenario, as I surmise it: he was attempting a drug deal, and using the wheelchair lady as his mule (I think that's the right word for it. . .). He was having a hard time connecting with his buyer, and was attempting to work out the deal over the phone, and suddenly noticed a strange woman talking to his drug-carrier. He was nervous already. I'm sure we unnerved him more.

Now, you might be saying "Dan, you're reading way too much into this." And I might have agreed, except for the fact that he stalked us for the next four blocks. Every time I turned around, he was on the other side of the street, pacing us exactly. When we stopped and I looked that way, he stopped and acted nonchalant. When we moved, he moved. And any number of times I caught him looking directly at us, only to look away when we made eye contact.

Eventually, I saw him yell something into his cell phone, whirl around, and run away. It was about the same time we found our need and met it (buying a tamale from a Honduran lady). And we didn't see him again.

I will say he looked dangerous. He had the look of a seasoned gang member who "knew his business." And he looked agitated. And the whole situation was just too weird for my taste. Who knows what he was thinking - that we were upsetting his deal? That maybe we were customers? Or maybe he couldn't figure us out, either, a bunch of tourists wandering the Mission District?

Anyway, it turned out well, God watched over us, and we all had a powerful time with the Honduran lady, with the Brazilian pastor we met 20 minutes later, and with Harrold, who we met in another hour.

Still, it's not always fun and games on the city streets.

1 comment:

Joey said...

damn rite its no fun and games. what? Did you think you can just walk out into the streets and make conversation with anybody specially when they look needy? you and your whole crew need to do your homework. this streets are filled with people dat don't give a damn about you... and your $20 buck, they'll come in handy believe me they will, and you still ned to be on your toes. there is no fun and games in the street. damn right!