I Was On a Bus In a Foreign Country and You’ll Never Believe What Happened Next
I had committed to service in Honduras for a year (link to that blog here), but as part of my visa, I had to leave the country every three months. It was an odd requirement because I only had to leave for a few days and then come back, but it was a great opportunity to see something new.
Two of the other missionaries and I wanted to visit some Franciscans that were living in Nicaragua. We hopped from bus to bus and finally made it to Managua, Nicaragua. The buses in Managua were much more crowded.
When we got on one of the buses, it was standing room only, and at every stop more people got on until we were so packed that I probably could have lifted my feet off the ground and been held up by people smashed into me on all sides. Although, not many people spoke English, it was common for people to try the few English words they knew on the white guy. “Haylow.” “How are jew?” Stuff like that. (I can’t imagine how bad my accent must have sounded to them.)
Well, on this bus there was a guy that was pretty proud that he knew a few profanities and kept yelling the “F-word” at us along with a few other colorful expressions. We pretended like we didn’t know what he was saying, as if they weren’t really English words and someone had just played a trick on him.
It was finally our stop and we wiggled our way to the door. I’m pretty sure there was a popping noise when we got off the bus like when you put your finger sideways in your mouth — you know what I’m talking about?
As the bus pulled away, we were figuring out where we were going next. Then I realized, someone had picked my pocket. My I.D., credit cards, cash… it was all gone. I checked my backpack in case I had just misplaced it, but it was definitely gone. The other guys were missing things too. We deduced that while potty mouth was distracting us with his linguistic skills, someone must have been going through our pockets.
Losing the money was unfortunate. But canceling credit cards and getting a new identification while in a foreign country, well, that is not fun or easy!
In the chaos, my friend Tony said, “Let’s pray for the person who did this.” Wow. Praying for the guy that just stole all of my money and my I.D. was literally the last thing on my mind… so I let Tony say the prayer. It was beautiful. And he was right.
He didn’t pray that the thief would bring the money back. He didn’t pray that the thief would break his leg. It was a prayer of love — that the man would come to know God, follow Him, and seek forgiveness.
We are supposed to pray for our enemies, but how often do we really do that? When was the last time that you prayed for someone that hurt you? When is the last time we prayed for people that disagreed with us? When is the last time you heard a prayer intention at Mass for a terrorist group? And I’m not talking about a prayer of revenge or restitution, but a prayer of love for the person, the soul, regardless of how misguided it might be.
Back in Honduras, I was leaving the Missionaries of Charity (Blessed, soon to be Saint, Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s order), and I asked one of the sisters to pray for me. Side note: If you see a religious sister, ask her to pray for you. She has to say, “Yes.” (I think.) Free prayers! Anyway, the sister looked at me and said, “I pray for everyone.”
I thought, wow, what a cop out! Does she sit down at her hour of adoration and say, “I pray for everyone and everything, Amen” and then daydream about breakfast for the rest of the time? But I thought, no, she probably actually prays for everyone that she encounters, anyone that comes into her thoughts! Even people that annoy her or hurt her… probably especially them!
So, I’m saying this as a reminder to myself. Let’s pray for our enemies. Honestly, most of us don’t have enemies. I mean, it’s not like we’re superheros with arch rival villains going after us.
We need to pray for those who hurt us, and for those that annoy us or frustrate us. And especially, pray for those that steal from us… whether they steal our money or attempt to steal our joy. It’s easy to pray for our family and friends, tax collectors can do that, but we are asked to love the difficult, just like God does (Matthew 5:44-48).