It was almost a year ago that I got a call from Stella who had heard about New City painting houses in her father’s neighborhood. She explained how her mom had just recently died and that her dad ended living back in their original house that had been a rental but now became his casa. Unfortunately the house hadn’t been maintained much, so it was in great need of lots of TLC. I explained that I didn’t do roofs or repair doors but did paint the exterior of low-income family homes and especially seniors. Someone in the neighborhood had told Stella about Ramona and Jesse’s house which we had painted a year ago spring.
As with all houses I visit with the families and explain the who and what of New City and that our heart is to share the gospel in a tangible fashion and bring people together to love on their neighbors. I explained that we would be there in a couple of Saturdays with around 35 people and the house would be painted in about 3 hours. I got Mr. Sanchez a Spanish and English Bible as a gift from New City. We had a big group and painted the house in record time and Al and some of his 5 daughters were there that day.
This was the beginning of my friendship with Mr. Sanchez. As with all of our families we help we invite them to our monthly dinner. Al came to a couple of our dinners and I made a personal commitment to visit him once a week and bring him a taco or burrito. Over a couple months of time I notice that he was actually reading through his Bible starting in Genesis and just going page to page everyday. It was about 2 months after his house was painted that I get a call about him being in the hospital. I seriously think he mistakenly thought my number was his daughter’s boyfriend. Anne and I show up in the ER and there is Al in lots of pain but glowing to see us there. I visit again and he is released in a couple of days. I continue to visit, listen, talk and watch over the next 4 months. He does come to church occasionally and remember that he has difficulty getting around so he uses a walker or scooter. He loves to play bingo at the casino and actually wins on occasion. He was able to have a block wall put around his house because of his bingo winnings.
I get a call from Stella telling me that her dad has had some serious health things happen, possible stroke, colitis and ??? So I search my way through Good Sam Hospital and eventually find his ICU room after getting lost a couple of times. He is in horrible shape and the doctors and the daughters don’t give him much hope. I sit and listen to the family dynamics between five daughters, a sister and others. Lots of lively interaction is taking place about the practical side of life if dad dies. As we are talking and I am listening it becomes clear that Al has become a Christian over the last year since we have painted his house. Our giving him the Bible has been a key to his heart and mind being open to the gospel and understanding God’s love and forgiveness for him. Now, please remember that Al is 81 and still a crusty ol man who when I first met was more concerned about the fact that his heart medicine stopped him from taking the ‘blue pill’.
A miracle does take place and Al actually starts to improve and his failing kidneys start to work and his overall appearance goes from almost dead to ‘I’m alive!’. I eventually get to see him at home and to my surprise he screams at me for taking so long to come to see him. I have obviously endeared myself to Al. Over the last month or so he continues to improve and it gives me real justification that the work that New City is doing is truly a ‘God thing’! He actually gave up a slightly used swamp cooler to help someone else whose house we have painted so they don’t die during the horrible summer heat.
My last visit with Al was yesterday and because I had been on vacation it had been over a week since I saw him last. He did lovingly scream at me and asked ‘where the hell have you been’ as he smiles and gives me his mano to shake. God is a work in Al’s life and whether he lives to be a 100 or goes home to be with Jesus tomorrow his life has impacted the lives of his daughters and grandkids. I am thankful for God bringing Mr. Sanchez into my life this last year.
Dios Bendiga – Dave
I forgot to mention that Al's last big win at the Bingo table he gave to New City.