Two Parties

October 15, 2011

by Maria Fontaine

I want to share with you two stories about two unusual parties. In attendance at both was a most powerful Personage, who, through the hand of one of His representatives, Tony Campolo,[1] bestowed on the partygoers a precious gift that was unlike anything they’d received before.

The first party occurred spontaneously when Tony Campolo was on missionary business in Haiti. As he approached the entrance of his hotel, he was intercepted by three young teen girls.

The one in the middle said, “Mister, for ten dollars you can have me all night long.” He was stunned by what she had said. He turned to the girl next to her and asked, “Can I have you for ten dollars, too?” She nodded approval. He asked the third girl the same question and got the same response.

“Fine! I’ve got thirty dollars! I’m in Room 210. You be up there in a half hour. I’ll pay you then and I want all three of you for the whole night!

Rushing up to his room, he wasted no time getting on the phone and calling the concierge. “Could you please send every Walt Disney cartoon video you have up to Room 210.”

Next, the restaurant. His order? “Banana splits! Huge—with extra everything! Extra whipped cream, extra chocolate syrup, extra nuts. Four of them, please!”

Within the half hour the videos came, the three girls came, and the banana splits came. The girls sat on the edge of the bed devouring the banana splits and thoroughly enjoying video after video until about one in the morning when the last of them fell asleep. It was probably the nicest party they had ever had—and maybe the only one!

As Tony sat there looking at their small bodies strewn across the bed, he thought, “Nothing’s changed. Tomorrow they will be back on the streets. Tomorrow they will be selling their bodies for ten dollars a throw, because there will always be rotten, ugly men who will destroy the dignity of little girls for ten dollars a night.”

Then the Spirit spoke to him and said, “But, for one night, Tony, you let them be little girls again. For one night, you let them be kids. You didn’t change their lives, but for one night you gave them back their childhoods.”[2]

It’s sad that such things exist in this world, but it’s also a reminder that there is always something we can do, even if it's small, to touch a life with the hope for a better future in His kingdom. I am convinced that one night did make a difference in those girls’ lives—in their spirits—in that they had felt Jesus’ love in a beautiful way and would never forget it. That unusual act of kindness was the little seed of love that was planted in their lives and would change things in some way—if not in their circumstances, definitely in their hearts and spirits. If they didn’t know before, at least now they knew that real love existed.

Although Tony did not say so, because I know of his life and ministry, I’m fairly certain that these girls found the way to Jesus that night by taking Him into their hearts so that they truly were changed in the most important way possible. No matter what happens to them in this life, Jesus will always be there with them, helping to make things more bearable, even though they may be unaware of it. And after this short life is over, they will be received into His wonderful arms and everything will be made right—forever! So, was it worth it? Oh, so worth it! A major win!

The next party Tony related took place in Hawaii. He had arrived in Honolulu late at night, ravenously hungry. At 3:30 in the morning, everything was closed except a side street café—“one of those sleazy places that deserves the name ‘greasy spoon.’” Not wanting to touch the filthy menu, he ordered a cup of coffee and a donut.

The solitude of the early morning was broken as the door of the diner swung open, and, much to his discomfort, in marched eight or nine provocatively dressed and boisterous prostitutes.

It was a small place and their talk was loud and crude. Feeling completely out of place and just about to make his getaway, he was suddenly stopped in his tracks when he overheard the woman sitting beside him say, “Tomorrow’s my birthday. I’m going to be thirty-nine.”

Her “friend” responded in a nasty tone, “So what do you want from me? A birthday party? What do you want? Ya want me to get you a cake and sing ‘Happy Birthday’?”

“Come on!” said the woman sitting next to Tony. “Why do you have to be so mean? I was just telling you, that’s all. Why do you have to put me down? I don’t want anything from you. I mean, why should you give me a birthday party? I’ve never had a birthday party in my whole life. Why should I have one now?”

That conversation changed Tony’s plans. Waiting until the women were gone, he inquired of the man behind the counter whether the women came in every night.

“Yeah!” he answered.

“The one that was sitting right next to me, does she come here every night?”

“Yeah!” he said. “That’s Agnes. Yeah, she comes in here every night. Why d’ya wanna know?”

“Because I heard her say that tomorrow is her birthday. What do you think about us throwing a birthday party for her—right here—tomorrow night?”

A smile slowly crossed the owner’s chubby face and he answered enthusiastically. “That’s great! I like it! That’s a great idea!” “Hey! Come out here!” he shouted to his wife, who was cooking in the back room. “This guy’s got a great idea. Tomorrow’s Agnes’s birthday. This guy wants us to go in with him and throw a birthday party for her right here tomorrow night!”

His wife, obviously happy about the idea, exclaimed, “That’s wonderful! You know Agnes is one of those people who is really nice and kind, but nobody ever does anything nice for her!”

“Look,” I told them, “if it’s okay with you, I’ll get back here tomorrow morning about 2:30 and decorate the place. I’ll even get a birthday cake!”

“No way,” said Harry. “The birthday cake’s my thing. I’ll make the cake.”

At 2:30 the next morning Tony was back at the diner. He had picked up some crepe paper decorations at the store and had made a sign out of big pieces of cardboard that read, “Happy Birthday, Agnes!” When the diner was decorated from one end to the other, it really looked good.

Word must have gotten out, because by 3:15 it seemed like every prostitute in Honolulu was in the place. It was wall-to-wall prostitutes … and Tony!

At 3:30 on the dot, the door of the diner swung open and in came Agnes and her friend. Tony had everybody ready. “Happy Birthday!” they all screamed in unison!

Never had anyone been so flabbergasted … so stunned … so shaken. Her mouth fell open. Her legs seemed to buckle a bit. Her friend grabbed her arm to steady her. As she was led to one of the stools along the counter, everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to her. The fight to hold herself together was lost when the birthday cake with all the candles was carried out, and Agnes broke down in huge sobs. Finally composing herself, she looked down at the cake and slowly and softly said, “Look, Harry, is it all right with you if I … I mean is it okay if I kind of … what I want to ask you is … is it okay if I keep the cake a little while? I mean is it all right if we don’t eat it right away?”

Harry shrugged and answered, “Sure! It’s okay. If you want to keep the cake, keep the cake. Take it home if you want to.”

“Can I?” she asked. Then looking at Tony she said, “I live just down the street a couple of doors. I want to take the cake home and show it to my mother, okay? I’ll be right back. Honest!”

Getting off the stool and picking up the cake like it was life’s dearest treasure, she walked slowly toward the door. As they all stood there motionless, she left.

When the door closed, there was a stunned silence in the place. Not knowing what else to do, Tony broke the silence by saying, “What do you say we pray?”

Tony prayed for Agnes. He prayed for her salvation. He prayed that her life would be changed and that God would be good to her. He prayed for the salvation of the others. When he finished, Harry leaned over the counter, and said, “Hey! You never told me you were a preacher. What kind of church do you belong to?”

In one of those moments when just the right words came, he answered, “I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3:30 in the morning.”

Harry paused a moment, then he answered, “No you don’t. There’s no church like that. If there was, I’d join it. I’d join a church like that!”

Tony summed up his story this way. “Wouldn’t we all? Wouldn’t we all love to join a church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3:30 in the morning? Well, that’s the kind of church Jesus came to create. He doesn’t know where we got the other one that’s so prim and proper. But anybody who reads the New Testament will discover a Jesus who loved to party with whores and with all kinds of left-out people. The publicans and sinners loved Him because He partied with them. The lepers of society found in Him someone who would eat and drink with them. And while the solemnly pious could not relate to what He was about, those lonely people who usually didn’t get invited to parties took to Him with excitement: Our Jesus was and is the Lord of the party.”

Tony added as an afterthought, “Now it seems more than strange for a sociologist to be leading a prayer meeting with a bunch of prostitutes in a diner in Honolulu at three-thirty in the morning. But then it just felt like the right thing to do.”[3]

I think experiences like Tony’s hold some important keys to ministering to those whom Jesus said He came to seek and to save. I began thinking about some questions: Why do people throw parties? What would keep me from throwing a party similar to one of the ones above? Maybe I would feel uncomfortable or ill at ease to find myself in a situation like this. But if so, why would I feel that way? What would keep us from being willing to put ourselves on someone else’s level? What would keep us from operating outside of the norm? Would it be easier to do out-of-the-box things if we were already in the habit of doing so? I’m sure if Jesus were here physically, I’d have a good chance of finding Him in a similar situation.—Throwing a “party” for those who have never had one!

It’s wonderful to know that His love through you will make a big difference in the lives of the many lonely people in your part of the world.

[1] I'll be using a few of Tony Campolo's stories in my posts, as I have found them very inspiring. In the preface of his book he wrote, "I want you to feel free to use these stories at will. … I would like you to provide credit where credit is due, but it would be a source of encouragement to my ministry if I knew that these stories were being used to drive home truth and illuminate the messages of those who seek to communicate the gospel." I think these stories do just that, and that's why I will be sharing them with you.

[2] From Let Me Tell You A Story, by Tony Campolo (Thomas Nelson, 2000); adapted by Maria Fontaine.

[3] From Let Me Tell You A Story, by Tony Campolo (Thomas Nelson, 2000); adapted by Maria Fontaine.