Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Ministry Of Cab Driving

Back in 1971 I was an acid tripping hippie, who moved to Los Angeles, California from Detroit, Michigan and was swept into the Jesus movement revival that emanated from Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa. I read the Bible like it was a best-selling novel and memorized as much of it as I could. I wanted to serve God more than anything else in the world, and dedicated as much time as I could to doing what I felt was God’s will in my life, by becoming completely immersed in the local church that I was part of. My heroes were people like George Mueller and Reese Howells, who started orphanages for homeless children, and Brother Andrew and Sergei Kourdakov who were fighting spiritual battles against Satan’s stronghold behind the then impenetrable atheist Communist Iron Curtain.

By the mid 1970’s, I attended Bible college and became a licensed and ordained Foursquare minister, and served as an associate pastor in the same inner city Los Angeles church that I was actively involved in. In the early 1980’s I moved my family to Oregon in the Pacific Northwest, and gave up on the ministry for a variety of reasons. Thirty years have passed since then, and now I’ve lived in Oregon longer than I had in California, and just as long as in my home state of Michigan. Although I worked in churches as a lay minister over the years, I never returned to the full time ministry, until 2004, when I began to drive a taxi cab.

I never intended it to be a return to the ministry, but once I began doing the job a taxi cab driver does, I realized that it was as much of a ministry as being the pastor of a church. The word ministry in the original Greek is “diakonia”, the same English word as deacon, which today is one who serves in the church. A deacon or minister serves the body of Christ the same way that Christ did, as a servant. The word “servant” comes from the Greek word “doulos”, and can also translated as slave. Richard Alpert, the Harvard LSD pioneer with Timothy Leary, after his spiritual rebirth in India, returned the USA, with his new name, Ram Das, which in Sanskrit means “Slave Of God”. So I realized that I had unintentionally returned to the ministry, and that the cab represented my spiritual rebirth, and I was as much a slave of God now, as I had been when my ministerial license was still current.

When a minister serves in the church, all the people come there in their Sunday best and with smiles on their faces. If the pastor is a gifted speaker, he may coax some of his parishioners to pour their hearts out to him, or each other, so prayers can be offered up or spiritual advice given. When a fare enters a taxi cab they bring their world with them, as it is happening at that moment in time, and present it to the cab driver.

Their world may be that of a drunk legless man, who has to be helped out of his wheel chair into the cab and driven home, while he tells you how he lost his legs from diabetes.

Maybe it’s a dark world, like for the guy who went blind after a stroke, or the woman who was born blind.

Maybe it’s a silent world, like for the students who attend the deaf school on Locust Street.

Maybe it’s a lonely world, inhabited by the people who hand me hundred dollar bill’s and ask me to just drive around and listen to their problems.

Maybe it’s the sick and screaming world of the people who can’t afford an ambulance to the Emergency Room.

Maybe it’s the poverty stricken world of the homeless people who ask for a ride to the mission.

Maybe it’s the world of the suicide failures that I pick up the psychiatric hospital.

Maybe it’s the world of the battered women that I help to escape from their abusers.

Maybe it’s the world of the released prisoners that I pick up from the jail and prisons.

Maybe it’s the world of the exotic dancers who have me wait for them, with the meter running, while they turn a trick at 3:00 AM.

Maybe it’s the world of the paraplegic whose wheelchair that I have to load in the cab smells like defecation.

Maybe it’s the world of the septuagenarian chain smoking angry woman who demands that I walk slowly in the pouring rain with her.

Maybe it’s the world of the drunk who vomits all over my cab.

Maybe it’s the world of me cleaning the drunks vomit.

Maybe it’s the man who soils his pants requiring me to place newspapers on the seat before he sits down.

Maybe it’s the world of the couple living together who are arguing over what the woman’s son is doing, and what her ex-husband is saying.

Maybe it’s the world of the cage fighter who is drunk out of his mind and wants me to drive him to the toughest bar in town.

Maybe it’s the world of the tweaker going to drug store for a twelve pack of syringes.

Maybe it’s the world of the methamphetamine manufacturer distributing his product.

Maybe it’s the world of the nurse going to work.

Maybe it’s the world of the organs that they have me transport from one hospital to the other.

Maybe it’s the world of the elderly man that I pick up at the emergency room who tells me about how he was shot on D-Day when he landed at Normandy.

Maybe it’s the world of the woman who tells me about raising her grand-daughter because of her daughter is addicted to crack.

Maybe it’s the world of the Mexican man who can’t speak a word of English and can’t tell me where he wants to go.

Maybe it’s the world of the person who complains about how much it costs to take a cab.

Whatever their world may be, it becomes the cab drivers world as well, at least for the next fifteen or twenty minutes, until they get to their destination. During this interim period the Holy Spirit fulfills its function by using the salt action of the spirit filled taxi cab driver. Not necessarily in word, since words are meaningless without action. Rather the fruit of the spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22&23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. So when I drive people in my cab I don’t preach to them about accepting Jesus, instead I try to be Jesus to them.

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