This article was originally published in The World Invader: Global Outreach Developments, Int’l, Issue 16, June 2004, by Tara Garner. You can read the whole edition here.

An encounter with God

Journal Entry 6-23-04:

I made a new friend today. Her name is Gene. She is a 42 year old woman; Jamaican, a mother, and in her last dying stages of AIDS. More than the things I did for Gene or the way I “served” her, I want to remember how Jesus used her to give me an encounter with him.

Gene had nothing to hide, nothing to give or offer anyone — or so she thought. She lay naked, frail, 50 lbs of flesh and bone, totally dependent on God and man for her needs to be met. This woman displayed a humility and vulnerability that I have never before witnessed. A frailty I’ve only seen on TV, and never expected I’d have the honor to embrace. Her skin was covered in sores, scabs, decay, and her stomach empty and upset from chronic diarrhea. If I was Gene, I would have run off any young person like myself, trying to visit with her in her last hours. Instead, she took the time to speak with me, share with me about her family and even her disease. Even in her suffering, made obvious by her constant groans and tears, she held my hand, looked me in the eyes and made me her friend.

We shared a moment that will be forever etched in my heart and memory. As she wept about her disease, her pain, and handicap, I could only dare utter these words to her: “Jesus loves you so much Gene, and He is even here with you right now. He never leaves you, and He longs to be with you and care for you.” She responded with a half grin, shaky-voiced “Jesus.” We stared so deeply into each other without looking away, without fear, and with only a perfect love in the room, we held each other crying. This woman I was embracing; this woman that embraced me; was my very Lord and friend Jesus Christ. His presence was thick in the room and all Gene could keep saying while holding her stomach in anguish was, “God loves me, God loves me.” No matter how deep Gene’s suffering ran, she consciously proclaimed God’s love for her and her trust in Jesus.

God graciously gave me something I’ve been seeking and asking of him for the last few weeks — an encounter with Him. And it changed me right where I sat. Just as God’s servant Job, after seeing him face to face, refused to present his ever so justified case/complaint before the Lord — I too had no words, no worries, no complaints, no case, because in that moment of seeing Jesus in Gene, I had my answer and my deepest needs met. In Job just seeing God, he received his answer, his resolve, his peace, his justice — and today I know Gene found hers.

Today, I refused to care for Gene to just make me feel better about myself. I despised the thought of making my time with her about me and how I could serve her. I wanted an encounter with God as Job had. I wanted my own personal, in the flesh encounter with Him — forgetting about myself — and He responded to me through Gene. Thank you Jesus for responding to your children. May your loving, peaceful arms embrace your daughter Gene until you welcome her into Your presence. Save me a seat next to her at your table.