The Taxi Ride
A Divine Appointment
As told to me by Jim Conlon
It was the mid-1990s, and my printing sales job had me traveling all about the country. Since becoming a follower of Christ 10 years earlier, I had marveled at how often the Lord would allow me to be present as He worked His salvation miracle in the life of some new acquaintance I’d meet while on the road. This trip might bring another such encounter, so I was careful to pray and be willing, watching, and waiting.
My first stop was Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I was supervising a printing project at a large Milwaukee printer when my cell phone rang. It was my oldest daughter calling with some tragic news. Through her tears, she explained that her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. The cancer had spread, and the prognosis was grim. Her mom would not survive.
Cindy and I were high school sweethearts and had married when we were just 20 years old. We had two beautiful daughters now in their teenage years. Our marriage had failed years ago, before I became a believer, and squarely due to my infidelity to her. She had found her way to forgive me, and over time we managed to rekindle a great friendship.
My heart broke with the news for my daughter’s sake and frankly for my own. My daughter told me that there was no need to rush home. The doctors would treat her to extend her life for a year at most. So, I continued with my business trip but with a heavy heart and sadness that I had never known before. The sadness was of a kind that has a physical presence. A physical ache from somewhere deep inside that produced tears that just flowed without warning.
Later that day, I boarded a plane to the West Coast, and over the hours in the air, I talked with God about my great sadness and my fear of going forward, parenting my daughters alone and without their mother’s partnership.
When I landed in San Francisco, it was Saturday evening. My grief and sense of loneliness were overwhelming. I was determined to find a church to attend the following morning where surrounded by believers, I would be free to sing His praises, encouraged by the message, and sob if I needed to.
I scoured the telephone directory and discovered a Christian and Missionary Alliance church listing. Not being familiar with the area, I hoped that it was not far from my downtown hotel. A little CMA church in Michigan was where I had met the Lord, and I longed to be with His people and meet with Him now. I’d ask the hotel staff for directions the following morning.
I didn’t sleep well, so I was up early to ask the Concierge about the local CMA church’s location. His words were discouraging. He informed me that it was not very close and the area of town was very questionable. He strongly recommended that I do not go there. Feeling discouraged, I wandered out of the hotel lobby and into the already warm sunshine of a glorious California day. The street was already teeming with people, and a few yards away stood a friendly-looking policeman. I walked up to him and explained my desire to attend the local CMA church’s morning service and asked if he was familiar with the area. Sadly he echoed the Concierge’s sentiments and went so far as to say that he wouldn’t park his car down there. I guessed it was the Lord telling me to adjust my plan.
I decided to start walking, and as I walked, I prayed. I told God that He must know what church He wanted me in that morning, so I would just keep walking until He led me to it. I walked, and I walked, and I walked. Now I was sure there must be churches in downtown San Francisco within walking distance from my hotel, but I passed only one, and its doors were closed and locked. I walked up and down the streets, back and forth, searching for some church, any church, until eventually, I ended up down at Fisherman’s Wharf. That’s a two-mile walk in a straight line, so a few more the way I arrived.
When I hit Columbus Street and checked to see if it was safe to cross, I noticed a taxi dropping off his fare at the Holiday Inn, and something in my spirit told me to run to him. So I did. After a one-block sprint, I was face to face and staring into the soft brown eyes of a somewhat surprised South American taxi driver. I told him the address of the CMA church and asked if it was very far away. He said he knew the area, and it was no more than 12 miles or so. I asked him if he felt the area was safe to visit, and he said that he thought it was fine. It wasn’t a wealthy area but a very pleasant neighborhood. So I hired him to take me there.
I noticed that there was half an hour before the service would start, so it seemed there was enough time to arrive on time. The taxi driver and I talked as he drove, and he asked why I wanted to visit this particular church. I told him that it would be similar to the church I attended at home and that my church was very special to me. I asked his name. “Eduardo,” he said, and I asked him if he had a home church. He explained that he was Catholic and that his wife was a Buddhist. She disagreed with his religion and did not want him taking their children to mass. He complied with her request but still thought he would like to find a church where he could take his children. He explained that his practice was to simply open his bible and read it for himself, learning what he could on his own. I asked him if he understood what he was reading, and he replied, “How can I unless someone explains it to me?”
By then, we had reached the church, which was very small and located in a storefront in a quiet neighborhood. He asked if I thought someone like him could go inside. I said, “Of course. You can come in with me.” He felt embarrassed by his casual clothing, shorts, and a polo shirt and thought he might slip in the back just to receive a blessing and then leave.” I gently asked him to park the taxi and walk inside with me.
When we walked in together, the people were already standing and singing from a hymnal. There couldn’t have been more than 25 people, including the children. We stood next to each other amid worn folding chairs and sang as best we could with people we had never met. The music was unfamiliar to the taxi driver, but he sang along, wanting to be a part of whatever was going on.
After a few songs, one of the church leaders announced that some children were being recognized for achievement in Sunday school and were receiving awards. The children were paraded up to the front and given little ribbons and badges celebrating their milestones. Eduardo looked over at me and smiled.
Next, they announced that one of the newer families joined the church, and the entire family came to the front of the church. Speaking with an accent that sounded strangely familiar, the father began to thank the church members for how they had welcomed his family and embraced them when they had arrived a few months before. He mentioned that they had come from a small village in South America. With that, I felt Eduardo’s hand gripping my forearm. He leaned over to say that these people were his countrymen and that their village was just miles from his own. “How can this be?” he whispered.
Then came the pastor’s message. He preached about how we should always be prepared to share our faith and never be selfish about sharing the Gospel. He preached from the following text:
Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch
Acts 8:26-40 (NKJV)
26 Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert.
27 So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship,
28 was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet.
29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.”
30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 The place in the Scripture which he read was this: “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He opened not His mouth.
33 In His humiliation His justice was taken away, And who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth.”
34 So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?”
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.
36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”
37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.
39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.
40 But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea.
As the pastor preached, Eduardo became more and more excited. He said, “Listen to that story! That’s you, and that’s me!” I said, “I know. God is real. He is here, and He is speaking to you and me.”
When the service ended, the pastor made his way over to welcome us, but Eduardo interrupted him in his excitement and gushed out the story of how this man from Michigan had run to his taxi this morning, and they had come to this little church. He gushed about the children and the family introduced this morning from a town near his home village. He spoke about the message from the Scripture and how he felt the presence of God.
By now, the men of the church had gathered around us, and the pastor pulled close to Eduardo, and looking into his soft eyes, he asked him, “Who is Jesus to you?” Eduardo fumbled for a moment, and with that, the pastor shared the Gospel and invited Eduardo to pray that very moment for Jesus to be his Savior. A small group of men stood and encircled Eduardo and the pastor. We held hands, praying and shedding tears as the pastor led our new brother through the sinner’s prayer.
I wish I could tell all of what’s happened with Eduardo, but I’ve never seen him since. I wish I could tell you that Cindy’s cancer was miraculously cured, but she died a few years later after a courageous battle.
I can tell you that God always meets us where we are. His mercies are new every morning, and His faithfulness is great. I saw Him at work so clearly that day, and I heard His voice saying, “I know your sadness but do not fear. Behold, I bring you good news!”