Our first adventure in Belle Glade happened before we could even see the town. To get our attention, God used one of the most powerful forces in the known universe: a dozen bored teenage boys seeking amusement.
We spent our first night at Wellington Presbyterian Church, about 30 miles from our destination. The next morning, after a very brief (and very cold) shower and a shave, I returned to find a couple of them playing with the classroom intercom. They’d push the button that paged the office, then they’d listen to the beep and the system kicking on and then back off.
I’m sure there were more amusing things in the building than that, but at 8 in the morning they hadn’t found it.
One of the kids started pushing the button rapidly and stumbled onto an emergency code. Soon, every speaker in the building was beeping, followed by our room number in an electronic voice reminiscent of a Speak-and-Spell: Two. Two. Nine.
Our host had no idea how to turn the alarm off. It didn’t take long for it to get really annoying.
We gathered in another classroom for breakfast. One of the trip leaders gave a stern lecture about being good guests to our hosts. One of the kids in my group (figures) confessed to pushing the button.
“Well then, Matthew, you lead us in prayer for this meal,” she said.
So Matt lead us in prayer. He started off by saying (in prayer) that he’d pushed the button and he was sorry. Then he thanked God for our hosts and for the meal, and asked Him to bless it.
The electronic voice stopped. Immediately.
With that distraction out of the way, everyone got a little more philosophical. Someone suggested we look up chapter 2, verse 29 in every book of the Bible and see what it said.
We didn’t have time for that. But that afternoon, it dawned on someone that the name of the guy who pushed the button was Matthew, so she looked up Matthew 2:29. There is no Matthew 2:29. So she turned to Matthew 22:9. Want to take a guess what it says?
“Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.”
Much of our work that week was centered around a soup kitchen, from serving breakfast every morning (no questions asked, to anyone who came in) to putting on a Vacation Bible School for the neighborhood kids to painting it in the afternoon and prayer-walking the neighborhood around it.
And as we would soon learn, in that part of Belle Glade, people congregate on street corners.
Matthew 22:9 became the theme of the week.
We told the owner/director of the soup kitchen the story. It moved him to tears.
Matthew 22:9 became the theme of the soup kitchen.