Saturday, March 26, 2005


“LUPITA’S SURPRISE” by Keith Giles

My cell phone rang last Saturday morning as I watched cartoons with my two sons. It was Pete, the manager of the California Suites Inn. Our Church had adopted the residents of this motel where several low-income families lived.

I don’t normally get calls from Pete unless it’s an emergency. His tone was calm, but I could hear some emotion in his voice as he shared with me about a couple in serious need of help.

Lupita and Javier are a young Hispanic couple who live in Garden Grove with their four children. Javier had done some work around the motel for Pete over the last few years and lived in an apartment formerly managed by Pete’s ex-wife, Mary Anne. Pete and Javier were friends and I could tell that Pete was very concerned.

A few weeks earlier, Javier had to stop working because of a respiratory infection. Because they have no insurance, he simply stayed home and tried to rest. A few days later he found he couldn’t breathe and was rushed to the hospital where he lost consciousness and ended up on a respirator.

Lupita was now left wondering how to feed their children and pay their bills while worrying if Javier would live or die.

I asked Pete if Lupita could come and meet us at the motel since The River would be passing out “Easter Baskets” to the residents there. I wanted to meet with her and help her in any way I could. Pete said he’d have his ex-wife drive them over.

When I arrived at the Motel that afternoon I met with Lupita and, with a little help from Mary Anne’s interpreting, we listened to her story. Her tears needed no translation however and we instantly felt compassion for her and her family.

Wendy and my little boys, Dylan and David, all joined hands with Lupita and Mary Anne and prayed for her and for Javier. She understood enough of our words to cry when we hugged her and told her that everything was going to be ok.

As God would provide, the trunk of my car was filled with a case of Huggies and diaper wipes and a cardboard box of canned food which we gave to her. We also gave her the nicest laundry basket of goodies off the Rescue Mission truck that we could find. The chaplain of the Rescue Mission, Ray Green, gave her his personal cell number and told her to call him so he could get her all the food she needed next week and I took down Lupita’s phone number and told her that The River would help her as much as we could with rent and utilities that were coming due in April.

Just the other day I was talking with Pete and he had good news. He said that Javier had called him from the hospital to say “thank you” for everything we had done to help Lupita and his children. He sounded weak but he was conscious and breathing on his own.

Pete, who has not yet fully surrendered to Christ, but is a valuable member of our Motel Ministry Team…and a friend, fought back tears as he told me how good it felt to help this family in their hour of need and he thanked me and The River for being there for them.

“We make a good team, Pete,” I said. “Without you we couldn’t help anyone here in the motel, or Lupita either. Thank you for working with our church to bring light to these people.”

Pete then shared something with me that I’ll never forget. He told me how Mary Anne had called him the Saturday after we’d first helped Lupita. It seems that, on the drive home after meeting with Wendy and I she had expressed her surprise to Mary Anne. “When I first saw those people from the church I thought, ‘Oh no, they are all so white. They will never help us.’….but then they really did help us. I am so happy,” she said.

Pete and I had a good laugh over that, but then I said, “I’m glad that this was her first experience with someone helping her in spite of race or background. That’s the way it should be,” and Pete agreed.

One last note. Mary Anne and I had an interesting conversation last Saturday about Pete. She said that he was changing. “He’s had more peace and joy in his face the last few months,” she said. “I think it’s because he’s been working with your church to help the people here.” I agreed. Then she told me about Pete’s failing health. How his heart was not so strong and he’d been worried lately about dieing. “His own father died at about the same age that Pete is now,” Mary Anne said. “But the change over him has been so good to see. I told him that I thought that if he died today he’d die with peace in his heart and he said I was right.”

As Mary Anne confirmed my suspicions about the changes that God was doing in Pete’s heart I was encouraged that Kingdom was breaking in at this motel. Not just in the lives of the residents, but especially in the heart of Pete, the manager of this motel. This same manager who initially slammed the door in my face and told me he’d never allow anything religious or Christian into his motel. The same manager who, at first, told me I was wasting my time in this place.

And now I could see that, actually, he wasn’t the same guy anymore at all.


the kid said...

It's a shame you don't have any comments on such good work. I'll be stopping back to read your stuff regularly.

I'm currently organizing the small groups at a community of faith called Mosaic Arlington ( and i really hope we can build into the community in similar ways here in Texas.

Kent C. Williamson said...

Keith -

It's very encouraging to read of your experiences being the hands and feet of Christ to the residents of a motel that most believers drive by and never give a second thought about.

Your commitment to loving your neighbor takes the one thing most "Christians" hold too dear... time. I tend to view time as a commodity that belongs to me, that I'm in control of, that can't be wasted, squandered, or lost. (Is it possible for Time to become my idol?!)

If all of us who claim to follow the Risen Saviour would be willing to part with even a small amount of time we might witness first hand the type of blessings you write about.

Vaya con Dios, mi amigo!