Don’t Quench the Holy Spirit. Follow His Prompts.
The moment was like one of those Mission Impossible movies: Your mission, should you choose to accept, is….
But let me start at the beginning.
It was the middle of March, 2020, a couple weeks before lockdowns or mask mandates, and stores were running out of food. I was in danger of running out of soy sauce, which was completely unacceptable for a missionary kid from the Philippines.
Between automotive detailing jobs, I stopped by my local Asian market. The tension was palpable, more so than in regular stores because the local Asian community had naturally tapped into the COVID-19 fear before everyone else.
The pallets of rice by the door were almost gone, and the shop owner’s wife, Mrs. Lee, scurried from customer to customer, trying to keep up with an unceasing demand. Normally, Mr. Lee would have been around, but I hadn’t seen him in months.
When I went to check out, a lady chatted with Mrs. Lee at the register. The phone rang. She answered and exchanged a torrent of Chinese that went back and forth, as she got increasingly exasperated.
Finally, she hung up and returned to the register where her frustration came gushing out. Everyone it seemed was calling, demanding to know how much rice she had and when she would have more. People wouldn’t even let her call them back, but sat on the phone expecting her to count and recount the bags of rice, and of course she had no way of knowing when the shipment would come in.
It got awkward. I felt bad for the lady at the register—who decided she better buy some rice too—and Mrs. Lee kept looking at me, probably because I’ve been a customer for the last seven years.
Finally, I got through the checkout, trying to express sympathy all the while. Clearly tension was building for everyone as the pandemic started, but still the outburst was unusual, being that most Asians, Mrs. Lee included, are generally reserved in public.
I left and drove to my next job, where my mission came in.
There have been many moments in my life when I have sensed God giving me an assignment. This was one of those moments. I knew that the next day, Saturday—my day off—I was supposed to go back to Lee’s store and volunteer to help.
I know, crazy, right? Just as the pandemic was setting in, I was supposed to go offer to help in a Chinese store. Yet I knew with certainty that this was a divine commission.
I called my wife, explained the situation, and asked her to hold me accountable, because I would inevitably lose my conviction or nerve and question what I knew, opting instead for comfortable inaction.
While I wish I could say that I arose and went about my morning with all the grace and tranquility of an experienced Christian, that would be a lie. Truth be told, I was tense. I’m certain that I yelled at my children, and my wife eventually said, “Hurry and go.”
I mumbled that I wasn’t stalling—I was—before I left the house and drove the twenty minutes to Lee’s store, where I awkwardly stood around until Mrs. Lee had a minute to talk. Then I explained how I saw she was so busy yesterday and that I was here to help.
In typical Asian fashion she answered, “No. It’s okay. My son is here to help today.”
I talked to her for a little while, gave her a hug (gasp, how dare I), left her my business card, told her to call if she needed help, and went home, all the while feeling befuddled. What was that all about? Was I in fact crazy? Yet I was sure that I did what God said.
The next time I saw Mrs. Lee, she was extra friendly, but that was it.
Eight months later, just this past Sunday, I was in the store for like the twelfth time since my awkward offer of assistance. I was talking to the newly hired Asian woman with an Australian accent, who had previously told me that Mr. Lee, whom I still had yet to see, was sick.
I was inquiring after Mr. Lee, and after a pause, she said in her thick mismatched accent, “Mr. Lee has cancer, and it’s not going well. He won’t be back. Mrs. Lee is with him.”
I was stunned and left the store in a bit of a daze, both saddened and hopeful.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:19 Paul exhorts, “Do not quench the Spirit.”
It’s this Holy Spirit who teaches us, both leading us away from sinful actions and also guiding and directing us to acts of faith, great or small. It’s being faithful in the small things—regardless of how crazy they make us feel—that prepares us for greater acts of faith.
I don’t know where this narrative with Mr. and Mrs. Lee will lead in the days, weeks, or months to come. However, there is something I do know: I’m glad that I didn’t resist that little nudge eight months ago telling me to step out of my comfort zone and show some kindness. I had no idea that Mr. Lee had cancer or that Mrs. Lee was dealing with far more than running a business in a pandemic, yet God knew and cared for her enough to send me to offer some help and a hug.
I’m glad I listened.