When God Called a Wandering Backpacker

“I've been on a seven-month journey trying to find myself, but I'm more lost than ever.”

Meet Wilson. Wilson was a Wall Street analyst before his life began to cave in around him this time last year. He stopped by our church in Bogota, Colombia, three weeks ago. I wasn't preaching and was enjoying the first Sunday in a long, long time sitting in church with Laura Kate. Just the two us, kids taken care of, ministry responsibilities taken care of, just attending church. Or so we thought. After the benediction was pronounced, one of our elderly prayer warriors had a young, travel-worn 30-something by the arm and was headed my way. "Hi. My name is Wilson. I'm just passing through and wanted to say thanks for the service."

Now a moment of honesty. When I meet someone who's just passing through—a backpacker, someone on vacation or a work trip—I'm cordial, but I flip a switch that shuts down my "really-get-to-know-you" function. It's the nature of pastoring in a church where there are loads of new visitors every Sunday. I'm not proud of it. I had flipped that switch with backpacker Wilson. "Great to meet you. You're welcome anytime you find yourself in our city," I said warmly.

But then the Holy Spirit nudged me and I saw in Wilson's hands one of our visitor cards on which he had clearly checked "Become a follower of Jesus." He passed the nervously folded piece of paper to me, my spiritually-sensitive prayer warrior wandered away, the switch was flipped back on, and I heard myself saying, "Why don't you tell me about this card?"

Then I really met Wilson. “I've been on a seven-month journey trying to find myself, but I'm more lost than ever. I can't find what I'm looking for in travel, in girls, in substance, in money, in experiences. I've been all over South America and I can't find it. I don't even know what it is I'm trying to find.” He went on to tell me more. And then it was my turn to state the obvious.

"Wilson, do you think it was an accident that you found yourself walking by this church, which is miles away from your hostel, exactly when we were starting a service, exactly when you needed it most? It sounds like you're not looking for something as much as God is looking for you."

And then Wilson met Jesus. And I got to listen to the utterly beautiful repentance of a new Christian as he unloaded all his sins at the feet of Jesus and said, "I give you my life. Please take control of it because I keep making a mess of it." It amazes me that God allows me to watch him seek and save the lost, even when I've flipped the switch to off.


Andrew Lupton is an MTW missionary serving with Next in Bogota, Colombia.

Andrew Lupton in Bogota Colombia on May 4, 2017

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