The morning was still young when I arrived at the bank to deposit the month’s tithes and offerings from our mission boarding academy into the SDA Eastern Bolivia Conference account. The customer queue at the bank, however, was longer than the lines at the DMV back home. I took my line ticket, and it was F-162! The electronic screen above the teller read, “now serving T-29.”
What? I thought. How does that work? Are we working backwards through the alphabet?
Just then I noticed a ticket that someone had dropped on the floor. I picked it up and it read T-46! Yes! Praise God! (I am always quick to recognize the selfish blessings). But alas, I soon noticed that those who went to the counter with T-tickets were all senior citizens and pregnant mothers. So I left beloved T-46 on top of the ticket machine and exited the bank with my original ticket. I’d run a few other errands and check in later on the progress of the line.
When I returned in the afternoon, 70 was the next number to be served, and the waiting crowd had grown to occupy the covered sidewalk outside as well. Come on! What’s the deal? I fumed. I don’t want to wait here all afternoon! If I don’t make the deposit before returning to the mission school, I won’t get it done until I come to town next week!
I decided to wait awhile and see how fast the line was moving, and sat down on a ledge just outside the front window. I was about to get out some papers to grade when the Holy Spirit reminded me about the GLOW tracts in my backpack and I felt impressed to give one to a lady sitting nearby.
Okay... But what, just like that? Out of the blue? I argued.
You can make conversation!
Right. Easier said than done! I complained.
I was trying to think of something to say when she stood up and peered through the window.
“Long line isn’t it?” I said.
“What number are you?”
“Well, at least you’re ahead of me. Do you like to read? Here’s something to help pass the time” I handed her a GLOW tract.
“Hey, that’s a good idea! The time always goes by faster when you have something to occupy you.” She smiled.
I wasn’t sure if it was indeed keen interest, or the small print, or both, but she seemed to be studiously pouring over the pamphlet. Not noticing any squint in her eye, I chanced that it was the former. After a few minutes she finished reading, and felt I should give her another one. While I debated, I looked through the window at the screen and she followed my gaze. Now serving F-73.
“Not much progress is there? You needed something longer than that tiny leaflet to last you through this line, huh?”
She laughed. “I need a book like this!” she indicated the thickness of a multi-volume set of encyclopedias.
“Well, I don’t have anything that size, but you’re more than welcome to read any of these others.” I spread out half a dozen more tracts on various topics.
“Oh! Thank-you!” She selected one, read it straight through, and took another. After finishing the third she took a break from reading. We checked the line again, and I realized that I really had no hope of making it before closing time. I was going to leave, but something told me I should keep talking to this lady.
“Do you come here often?” I asked what immediately seemed to me a dumb question. Banco Union is the federal bank in Bolivia, where nearly everyone has to do at least some banking.
“No, I’m just here from Cochabamba to visit my sister.”
“Oh wow, that’s nice. How long will you stay for?”
“I’m leaving tomorrow.” We continued chatting and she asked me where I am from and what I do here in Bolivia and I asked her about Cochabamba. She told me about her kids and how she’d gone through some hard times. Once she was really sick and almost died, but she couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her kids without a mom and asked the Lord to spare her life. He did, and ever since she felt like it was God who holds her up and keeps her going.
“But still, some things about God trouble me.” She continued.
“Like what?” I asked.
“Like, if I were to die tomorrow, what would happen to me?”
It was about then that I really wished I had a Bible with me. I breathed a silent plea for divine aid, and the results were better than typing “state of the dead” into some kind of cerebral search engine. For every question she had, there was a text: Genesis 2:7, Ecclesiastes 12:7 and 9:5-6, Job 7:9-10, Psalms 115:17, Ezekiel 18:4, John 11 I didn’t remember the verse, and the same with 1 Thess 4. I need to learn this stuff better! I realized.
We talked for over an hour. I will never forget the smile on her face as she heard how death is a sleep until the trumpet sounds at the second coming of Christ, and that God doesn’t send people to hell or purgatory when they die, or torture people for time without end. As we said goodbye, I was suddenly struck with the reality of what had just happened.
Man! I thought I was here to make a deposit for God’s work and I got frustrated because it seemed like it wasn’t going to happen, when all along God had a more important deposit for me to make!
I love how God is so full of surprises. How He condescends to risk His reputation with me I’ll never fully understand, but I sure praise His name for it! Whether or not you are the church treasurer, God calls you to bank for the Kingdom of Heaven.
Kody Kostenko lives in Goldendale WA and loves serving the Lord.