when God shows up at an Italian Festival…

T628591A.jpgI wasn’t going to post tonight, but after what happened earlier this evening, I pretty much have to.

So we decided to walk down to the Italian Unity Festival a block or two from our house after dinner (it looked sorta like this ——————>). It’s great — all the Italian merchants in East Boston (and even a few from the rest of the city) converge on Central Square, joining “bouncy-fun toys” and carnival games of all kinds. We were watching an older couple sing the classics with a brass band and back-up singers behind them, when I felt a tap on my shoulder.

“Excuse me, but what school are the Bison from on your shirt?” asked a young man about our age. He had a young woman with him and another male friend as well. I was wearing a polo shirt with the logo for the Madison Elementary School (Abilene, TX) Bison on it, which I got at a thrift store.

“Oh, it’s the Madison Elementary School Bison Band T-shirt,” I answered, pleasantly surprised that he would ask me such a peculiar question. “I got it at a thrift store in Abilene, TX.”

“Oh, that’s awesome. I was just curious and thought I’d ask,” he said.

He asked if we lived in East Boston, to which I said, “we do.” He said he and his wife (the young lady, who was talking to Chrissy separately at this point) also live in East Boston, just a few steps from where we were standing. We began to make small talk, and he mentioned “his church” in passing. I asked him what church he is a part of, and he mentioned the name of a community church plant in Brighton, near Boston University, with which I was familiar.

I told him that we had been at that church two years ago for World Mandate East, a missions conference his church had sponsored.

He gave me the classic, “You’re a Christian?” look. It was awesome. We began to have that “oh-my-goodness-how-weird-is-this” exchange. He asked if we were going to church anywhere, and I told him that we were thinking about starting something up in our housing development just down the street. He told me that they were going to be starting a similar group at their house just a half-mile or so down the street. The male friend that was with them is moving to their neighborhood to help them do so. Truly a “Twilight Zone” moment.

OK, so why did he tap me on the shoulder in the first place, you ask? Well, he admitted that he, his wife, and their friend (who is moving to East Boston to help them start this “Faith Group” as a part of their church) had walked down to the Italian Festival to check it out and just wanted to meet at least one person before they left. He said he saw me, was struck with curiosity about my shirt, and chose to ask me about it. No agenda — just wanted to meet another East Bostonian at the Italian Festival.

Anyway, we went back to their house and stayed for about 2 hours (they live less than a mile from our front step). We had an amazing time. We ended up having several other relational connections (it’s a small world in the church, isn’t it?) and many interests, including a mutual love for music (our brothers are both in bands), enjoyment of camping, a virtual mastery of the Spanish language (…ok, for me, I really only know “un poquito”), and a love for the Lord and His kingdom in the city. They are actively pursuing meaningful relationships with the folks they live around, including playing host to ESL classes for the latinos in the neighborhood. They are incarnating the love of Christ where they are.

I hope this isn’t jumping the gun on things too much (because they’ll probably read this post), but I’m pretty sure God sent both us and them some new friends tonight. And He did it in such a weird way — using an Italian Festival, a thrift store shirt, and a chance meeting. We discovered that both we and they had been praying for another couple with which to connect. Lord?

Thank you, Lord, for your “mysterious ways.” Events like tonight’s remind us, Lord, that You are running the show and have simply invited us to partner with you. Thanks for taking a risk in inviting us to join what You’re doing, and thanks for leading our new friends to take a risk tonight asking a simple question about a school mascot. Amen.

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