I first met my friend Sol on the sidewalk by the parking lot of the married housing at the University of Arkansas. Miguel and I were moving to Arkansas to be closer to his job and I was transferring to the U of A. My Mom, younger sister and I were struggling to carry our king-size mattress into our apartment. Sol stopped to offer her help in broken English. Recognizing Sol for a Spanish speaker, my Mom stopped to talk to her.
The expression on Sol's face changed from one of cautiousness to joyful radiance that we spoke her language. I would like to say that I stopped what I was doing to take the time to properly greet and show openness to Sol, but I let my Mom do that. Of course I should have known better, but after briefly acknowledging her existence, I, the task-oriented Westerner, continued working on the job at hand...unloading the truck. After Mom and Sol were done talking, we all worked to wrestle the mattress and box springs into our tiny on-campus apartment and thanked Sol for her help.
Turns out Sol and her family occupied the apartment right next to us...a divine appointment. After a few weeks, we began slowly getting to know our new neighbors...Ciro, Sol's husband, and Sol were from Mexico and seemed open to friendship. Miguel and I agreed to pursue a friendship with them with the idea of eventually offering to have a Bible study with them. So we intentionally befriended them even though it was hard...we didn't know the Mexican culture very well and we sensed strong tensions in the home, at times even oppression.
After about a year of working to gain their confidence, we tentatively offered the Bible study and they accepted. We found out later that they had already rejected the Catholic faith because it had not served their needs and they were openly searching for truth. I began a Bible study with Sol and Miguel started with Ciro, both of us using the chronological method, but separately. Looking back now, I realize we had little idea of what we were doing, but we blundered through by the grace of God. Little by little Sol opened up more and more to me as confidence and trust grew in the relationship. Eventually, we found out that they did have serious family and marriage issues and that demonic oppression was a part of their lives. I know that God works miracles because both Ciro and Sol are now both fellow believers and our brother and sister in Christ.
One day, however, once Sol and I were fast friends and trust levels were high, she reminded me of that first day we met out there on the sidewalk. She told me that she knew that my Mom liked her right away, but she felt rejected by me because I did not take the time to talk to her and get to know her right there when we met.
She told me that the day she met me, she honestly thought I didn't like her because her skin was dark.