God said to Jonah, “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” – Jonah 4:11
“Buy me a cappuccino,” the little boy in the blue hat shyly says to my friend as we sit on the stools at Café Rafá. I look down.
“Hola, Pedro!” I say to him as I recognize him from the street. “Do you remember my name?” He shakes his head.
“Do you remember the last time we ran into each other?” I ask. He nods and says, “You bought me juice.”
“No, I invited you to have juice with me,” I correct him jokingly. “Have you sold a lot today?” I ask him as I point to the basket full of beaded key chains that he peddles everyday along Calle Principal, what the locals call “Calle Gringa” due the tourists that make hour trips to the Santiago Dock and stick to the few blocks of market rather than discovering the beauty that lies within the inner parts of the pueblo.
Pedro nods energetically. “Can I invite you to a soda?” I ask. He nods again.
I pat the stool next to where Sara and I are sitting and say, “Pick a soda out and hop on up here.”
“Pepsi!” he says as he sets his basket on the counter and climbs up next to me at the café bar.
“How’s school going? Did you have math yesterday?” I ask. “Sí!” Pedro says as he puts a straw in his Pepsi can.
I point to the soccer player whose image is branded on the can. “Who’s this guy?” I ask, already knowing the answer. Pedro shrugs. “It rhymes with Pepsi…sort of…” I hint.
“Messi!” Pedro shouts, recognizing the star player for Spain’s Barcelona team.
“Yea, but we’re Madristas, right?” I say, reminding him of our fidelity to Barcelona’s rival team, Real Madrid. I point to the Real Madrid hat he is wearing. “Sí!” he says, touching his hat.
“Did you watch the game yesterday? James scored at minute 81!” I raise my hands and cheer, “James! James!” Pedro laughs.
My soul laughs.
“You hungry?” I ask him. “I just bought some muffins. Do you want a banana one or an orange one?”
“Banano,” he says.
I open up my bag and hand him one as I talk to Juan, the café owner, about local current events. I turn back to talk to Pedro and find the muffin almost completely gone.
“Whoah! Did you swallow that whole???” I ask the 10-year-old sales boy on my right. He laughs with his eyes. “You swallowed that banana muffin just like the whale swallowed Jonah whole!” I say.
He stares at me.
“Do you know the story of Jonah and the big fish?” I ask. Pedro shakes his head as he sips his straw.
“Well, I can tell you the story if you’d like,” I say. Still sipping on his straw, Pedro nods.
So I start telling him the story of the reluctant prophet Jonah and the big fish. Using Lake Atitlán and the surrounding villages as common day comparisons.
“Imagine if you were thrown off of a boat and a HUGE fish swallowed you whole! Then you were stuck in its belly for three whole days on the bottom of Lake Atitlán! THEN the fish spat you out on the dock in San Pedro!” I say to him.
Pedro’s eyes light up. He listens intently, sipping his Pepsi.
“So Jonah spent the whole day walking from the beginning of the city to the end of the city, preaching for people to repent because God wanted to be in relationship with them, so they could experience the freedom of God’s forgiveness.”
I cup my hands around my mouth and pretend to be Jonah, “Hey everybody, this city is headed for trouble. Best thing to do is repent and get to know God!”
Juan, the café owner and fellow believer, grins and nods. Pedro sips and listens.
“And do you know what happened?” I ask him. Pedro shakes his head.
“The whole city – every single person – felt sorry, repented, and God forgave them! The city wasn’t destroyed because God’s love was greater than the people in the city and even Jonah had imagined!” Pedro’s eyes grow wide.
“So what do we know about God from this story?” I ask. Pedro shrugs.
“Even though Jonah thought the people in Nineveh didn’t deserve God’s love, he couldn’t keep God’s love from them. God’s love is for everyone – even you, Pedro! God loves you, too, Pedro. More than we love soccer or Real Madrid or banana muffins. More than anything in the whole world. God loves YOU.”
Pedro’s eyes stay on me as he sips his Pepsi.
“Did you like the story?” I ask. “Sí!” he says.
Knowing he has to make a quota of sales for the day, I point to the basket full of beaded crafts and say, “Well, let me take a look.” As I look through the items I ask Pedro what is his favorite color. “Blue!” he answers. I pick out two hummingbird key chains. “Which one should I get?” I ask as I hold them up.
“This one,” Pedro says, “This one is blue!”
“Deal,” I say as I hand him 15 quetzales. “Well you better get back to work before you have to get to school,” I say. Pedro agrees and hops down from the stool.
“Want a muffin to go?” I ask. Pedro nods. “Banana right?” He nods again as he takes the bag from my hands.
“Gracias, Raquel,” he shouts back to me as he leaves the café.
“De nada, Pedro,” I say back to him. “Thanks for accepting my invitation!”
I look down at the blue, beaded hummingbird sparkling in the sun, sip on my coffee and thank God for the marvel and wonder that occurs in conversations and stories of God’s unfathomable love that meets us in surprising ways.