I Wish You Wouldn't
Look In My Closet

Editor's Note: Occasionally we read an article, in an other publication, that challenges us in our Christian walk -- in a special way. We feel the following article bears reprinting as it reminded us that all we have is from God and for His glory -- that we should never take for granted how God has blessed all of us here in North America.

I'm having a hard time enjoying my Filipino houseguest. Already his presence has upset my way of living- a way in which I have grown very comfortable. The alternatives are not pleasant; either get rid of him or change my way of living.

I first met Aley Gonzalez three years before my first visit to the southernmost island of the Archipelago: Mindanao. An ex-boxer with more than a hundred professional fights under his bantam-weight-belt, this middle aged, tough-as-coconut- husk, brown-skinned Filipino was preaching like he fought in the ring- both hands jabbing, feet dancing and always boring in for the knockout punch. With the aid of a vintage motorcycle and motorized outrigger canoe, he would go into some of the most inaccessible places in the island chain, starting churches and training pastors.

His average salary was fifty pesos a month (about seventy dollars) and his entire wardrobe consisted of three pairs of pants, some shirts, a cheap nylon jacket and a pair of rubber shoes.

Few Americans ever visit his out-of-the-way location in the province of Agusan del Norte. To get there you go seven hundred miles south from Manila, cross two volcanoes, through the straits at Mactan, take a jeep ride through the rain forests to the coastal barrio of Cabadbaran. Those of us who visited three, however, had encouraged Aley to visit the States. It would surely broaden his perspective and make him a better preacher. Or, so we thought.

Then Aley arrived at my Florida home. My son Tim had worked that summer and saved money for an expensive new slalom water ski. Knowing how much Aley loved the water (we had spent some happy hours swimming together in the China Sea) I took him with us for a late afternoon ride on our new boat.

On the way to the marina we passed a golf course.

"Why do those men hit that little ball with those sticks?" he asked. "Does somebody hire them to do that?"

I started to give him an explanation but realized it sounded foolish, so I stopped. "We have a lot of people in America who do odd things," I mumbled.

Aley nodded. He understood.

"We hear in the Philippines there are many Americans without work. When jobs become more plentiful they will probably stop this foolishness."

I didn't have the heart to tell him that only the rich could afford to be fools.

Aley was impressed with my boat.

"It is very expensive," he said softly, running his hands along the sleek fiberglass deck. "It must have cost twenty thousand pesos. But what do you use it for? Do your sons and daughter fish for a living?"

He could tell I was having trouble with the answer.

"Perhaps you and your wife go up and down the river and preach the gospel to all those out-of- work people swinging their sticks at the balls?" he asked, knowing that somewhere I had hidden a sensible answer.

When I explained we used the boat only to pull water skiers and for some sport fishing, he was startled. I could tell he was thinking of the thirty-two miles he had to paddle his outrigger just to get to the small village of San Jose where he preached the Gospel. And here I was with this sleek red and white fiberglass beauty. He turned his eyes away and said nothing.

Coming back we stopped at the home of a friend who has three motorcycles in the garage. Aley's eyes danced with excitement, thinking of his battered old Kawasaki.

"These people must go many places helping the poor, feeding the hungry and preaching the Gospel," he said approvingly.

When I explained that although these people belonged to the church they weren't active Christians, he was startled. "You have church members who do not preach? How can this be? The Bible says all church members should be preaching the Gospel. What then do they use these motorcycles for?"

I explained they were dirt bikes, used only to roar around the woods, going no place. I saw that same pensive look move across his face like clouds over the sun. "There are many things about America which I need to learn," he said, amazed.

I drove home a different way. I didn't want him to see the yachts on the river, the dune buggies in the driveways, or the imposing church buildings which sit idle except for a few feeble groans on Sunday mornings. I didn't want to face any more of his questions. It was the same feeling I had many years ago when as a young idealist, I attended a church service when they dedicated a seventy - five - thousand - dollar stained-glass window -- to the glory of God.

But I have mellowed since then. (A state which I imagine Aley would describe as one step removed from going rotten.)

Aley was too kind to say anything to me. But last night I couldn't help but see the expression on his face when he looked in my closet and saw all those shoes.

I haven't been sleeping well recently.

End Notes: This article was reprinted by permission from Christian Mission , Summer 96 issue. Aley Gonzalez is the leader of Agape Evangelistic Mission in the Philippines -- an indigenous ministry funded through Christian Aid Mission, VA. The late Jamie Buckingham authored this article.

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