My brothers and sisters, practice your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ by not favoring one person over another. For example, two men come to your worship service. One man is wearing gold rings and fine clothes; the other man, who is poor, is wearing shabby clothes. Suppose you give special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say to him, “Please have a seat.” But you say to the poor man, “Stand over there,” or “Sit on the floor at my feet.” Aren’t you discriminating against people and using a corrupt standard to make judgments?
Listen, my dear brothers and sisters! Didn’t God choose poor people in the world to become rich in faith and to receive the kingdom that he promised to those who love him? Yet, you show no respect to poor people. (James :2-1-6)
If you were to meet Jorge in a dark alley, chances are you would grab your pepper spray or concealed weapon and run for your life. His scowling face, pot-marked with years of hard living, cigarette, alcohol and drug damage, as scary as it is, belies his tender spirit.
He is my friend.
I met Jorge here in Mazatlan, Mexico, five years ago when I first joined a group that bi-weekly travels to the dump to feed the scroungers (their words, not mine). Jorge was our bus driver. I was terrified of him. We met again when I volunteered to help with a Bible study for youngsters who live in squalor in the outskirts of Mazatlan. Again, Jorge drove the van. Observing his love of children and dedication to spreading the gospel with his puppet ministry gave me a new vision of who this man is. As an accomplished guitarist, he also led (leads) the praise and worship at our church. It wasn’t long before I realized he is the heart and soul of the majority of ministries at La Vina Church.
For some reason, the two of us connected. Maybe it was because every year I take him clothes that Dave no longer needs or wants. Maybe it was because I have been pretty faithful in helping his ministries. Maybe it was because God just knew I needed to be smacked for being so judgmental when I first met him.
About twenty-five years ago, Jorge was a serious drug addict, derelict, alcoholic who played his guitar nightly in the brothels. (That’s not all he did when he was there.) From the minute he woke up until he crashed at night, Jorge was addicted. Year after year. Then came the evangelist’s tent revival. For five days, Fred Collum, himself a recovering addict, shared his testimony and gave a call for anyone who wanted to make Jesus the Lord of their lives to come forward.
Jorge showed up drunk on Fred’s last day, staggered up the aisle, barely able to stand, and then made an about-face, zigzagging his way out of the tent. A few weeks later, Jorge met Fred on the street and introduced himself as the drunk man who showed up at his final revival. Fred reached into his pocket to give Jorge some money but was stopped by Jorge’s words: “I don’t want your money. I want you to know that I was too ashamed to come to the front that night, but I went home, got on my knees and asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life. Since then, I have not had any cigarettes, alcohol or drugs.”
So began a friendship between the two men as together they started what now is the largest English-speaking church in Mazatlan and the one known throughout the state for its feeding centers and Bible ministries. Six days a week, Jorge drives a bus or van to a colonia to minister to the poorest of the poor. His life is all about blessing others. For me, my friend blesses me every time we are together.
But my biggest blessing? That Jorge never chose to judge me.