Not long ago I heard a story that I’d like to share with you concerning Tony Campolo – who is a Baptist pastor, author, speaker and a few others things too!
Tony Campolo tells of a time when he was speaking in Honolulu, Hawaii. He lives on the east coast of America so his body clock was six hours ahead of Hawaiian time. At 3am it felt like 9am to him. Awake and hungry for breakfast, he found himself in a
‘greasy spoon’ café in the early hours. As he bit into his doughnut, a group of prostitutes walked in. They had just finished for the night.
Their talk was loud and crude, and it was difficult to avoid listening in. He heard one tell the others, “It’s my birthday tomorrow.” “What do you want from me? A birthday cake?” was the sarcastic reply. “Why be so mean?” she replied, “I was just telling you. I don’t expect anything. I’ve never had a birthday party. I’m not expecting to have one now.” When Tony overheard this he made a decision.
After the women left, he went over to the café owner, a guy called Harry. “Do they always come in here?” “Yes,” said Harry. “Including the one who sat next to me?” “Yes, that’s Agnes. Why do you want to know?” “Because I heard her say it’s her birthday tomorrow and I thought we might throw her a party.” Pause. Then a smile grew across Harry’s lips. “That’d be a great idea.” A moment later his wife was in on the plot.
The next morning, at 2.30am, Tony had brought decorations and Harry and his wife had baked a cake. Word had got out and it seemed as if every prostitute in Honolulu was there – plus Tony, a pastor. When Agnes entered, she was flabbergasted, her mouth fell open and her knees wobbled. As she sat on a stool, everyone sang Happy Birthday. “Blow out the candles,” people shouted, but in the end Harry had to do it for her. Then he handed her a knife. “Cut the cake, Agnes, so we can all have some.” She looked at the cake, then slowly said, “Is it alright – would you mind – if we didn’t eat it straight away?” “Sure. It’s okay,” said Harry. “Take it home if you want” “Can I?” she said, “Can I take it home now? I’ll be back in a few minutes.” And with that she left the café, carrying her precious cake.
There was a stunned silence. So Tony said, “What do you say we pray?” And they did. Tony lead a group of prostitutes in prayer at 3:30am.
When they were done, Harry said, “Hey! You never told me you were some kind of preacher. What kind of church do you belong to?” Tony answered, “I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3:30 in the morning.” Harry thought for a moment. Then he replied, “No you don’t. There’s no church like that. If there was, I’d join it. I’d join a church like that.”
That story reminds me a lot of another preacher I know – Jesus! It reminds me of his heart for the lost and the neglected. The story gives me a glimpse of the amazing grace of God. I pray that we may become that kind of Church.
God bless you all,