BY JOSH MARTIN
“Are you here to convert me?” he said with a smile.
“Me? No. I just came for the coffee.”
We shook hands. We ordered. We talked. And that’s how Victor Sanchez and I became friends.
What Victor didn’t know is, before we shook hands, I’d been praying for him for months. Victor grew up with a guy named Matthew. Matthew made the mistake of coming to a Resonate Village, and everyone knows you shouldn’t come to a Resonate Village if you want to stay the same.
Matthew started following Jesus a few years earlier and he told me about Victor. Matthew told me every time we were asked to pray for someone he would pray for Victor. He told me Victor seemed like the last guy who would ever give his life to Jesus. Victor was the popular kid, the guy everyone wanted to be friends with. So, I came to coffee wanting to be friends with the guy everyone wanted to be friends with.
Victor rides a motorcycle, rock climbs, has cool hair, and can beat you at the story topping game. Oh you’ve jumped off a cliff, oh you’ve backpacked a mountain, oh you speak four languages, that’s great. Once when Victor was on vacation with his family in Spain, he fought through a crowd of 100,000 people, took his shirt off, and climbed a thirty-foot greased pole—that hadn’t been successfully climbed for the last ten years—to grab a ham, the sacred ham that starts the largest tomato fight in the world. Oh and then he crowd-surfed six blocks and someone put the whole thing on Youtube. It’s called ‘Monkey Boy Gets the Ham’ at La Tomatina 2011. Look it up.
The difference between the word ‘victor’ and the word ‘victory’ is one letter: the letter ‘y’. It seemed the difference between Victor and Jesus was separated by the same distance, but not the letter, the question. Why would a God exist? Why would I need Him? Who created this God? And if God was real, why would I ever want to follow a God who lets horrible things happen? Why would I ever want to pray? Why?
What I love about Jesus is there is no question too big, no distance too great, no heart too cold. A conspiracy was being written—had already been written—and Victor Sanchez was at the center of it. If you broke into Jesus’ house and snuck into the back room you would see a photo of Victor—and all of us really—and red twine and schemes and intrigue would fill the scenes, all pointing to his (our) salvation. Jesus was orchestrating events. Jesus was working in relationships. Jesus was pursuing Victor from His cosmic court to our corner coffee shop. Jesus is never too busy to track us down.
No Victor, I’m not here to convert you, but I know the one who is. And you’ll know him soon enough.
What it took to save Victor was community. He moved into a house with Christians, became best friends with Christians, and even started going to church with Christians. If you want to be an atheist you shouldn’t hang out with Christians. Victor would tell you that.
“The wrong crowd, that’s what got me. Too many Christians, too much love, too much Jesus.”
The first time Victor came to church he was hung over. He hated it. The music pounded through his aching head and the sermon barely held his attention. But he kept coming. For months Victor went to church, went to Village, and met with me. He had questions every week, and was growing more and more fond of the idea of a God, and of this God maybe even being good.
One weekend Victor took his motorcycle out to the Snake River, hoping the miles of open road and winding river would do something to straighten his thoughts. He told me he even tried to pray when he was out there. He asked God if He was there. God said nothing. Almost as if to say, “I’m so here that I don’t have to speak.” Victor slept under the stars that night with no sleeping bag, being covered only by the clouds and stars of the God he was questioning.
There was a Sunday in the summer—about a year after Victor had first come to church—when our friend Danny led worship with only an acoustic guitar. No drums, no bass, no loudness, no lights, just voices and God and Victor, who was—for the first time ever—singing along.
I was out of town that weekend, but when I got back there was a connection card with Victor’s name on it, and the ‘I want to talk to someone about following Jesus’ box was checked. I saw the connection card on Monday and set up a meeting with Victor.
When he walked into the coffee shop, he was smiling.
“You got my connection card?” he asked.
I put out my hand, “My name is Josh, I’m here to convert you.”
“Oh good, I’d like to convert,” he laughed.
Victor wouldn’t decide to follow Jesus until a few months later, but that day he said, “I believe God is real; now I’m ready to think about Jesus.”
“How’d it happen?” I asked.
“While we were singing with no flashing lights or drums or electric guitar, I sang along and felt something. I think I felt God.”
“Did you sing along?” I asked.
“Yeah, a little.”
“Were you any good?” I questioned.
“At what? Worshiping?”
“No, you any good at singing?”
“No, I was awful.”
Sixty-four people crowded into my house to throw Victor a party after he decided to follow Jesus. He tells me now that moment was more memorable to him than climbing that pole in Spain. And I believe him.