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A tribute to Vincent, mi amigo

Bus ticket

Cheryl Bistayi shares how she learned valuable faith lessons from an unlikely friendship with a sojourner during Christmas. This is the first half of a two-part story.

Allendale: Valley UMC

It seems that every time I visit NOAH at Central United Methodist Church in Detroit, I meet God.

Recently, a man came in who spoke only Spanish. I could find no one who could converse with him, so I used my inadequate Spanish to try to find out what he needed.

Vincent David is a 62-year-old man living here on a 6-month work visa. He arrived on November 26 and was heading from Honduras through Florida and Detroit to Philadelphia, where his amigo lives. His friend has work for him. Unfortunately, while sitting in the bus station, the $150 he had for his ticket to Philadelphia was stolen.

He walked to NOAH and just wanted help. He was willing to wait for a social worker. Willing to sit and sit and sit. Willing to stay in a shelter. Willing to do whatever. He had references and a visa. His story was true; I just knew it.

And gratitude and grace were evident within him.

Vincent’s story made my heart hurt because I had no idea how to help him. Not really.

So, the director helped me connect him to the Latino Agency, and on speakerphone, I listened as he retold the story to someone who spoke his native language.

She verified the story as I had understood it, and we brainstormed on what to do.

Vincent gave Cheryl this necklace pendant before leaving Detroit. ~ photo courtesy Cheryl Bistayi

The director said they would pay half his bus ticket to Philadelphia, but it would be three transfers. I worried about that and told him. He said he had five transfers coming from Florida and would be okay with that.

My husband and I took Vincent to the station and got his ticket. He took a brown bag meal from NOAH, and I gave him the $5 I had in my wallet. I never give cash, but something told me he would use it wisely. Giving five dollars doesn’t take that much wisdom.

I also handed him a slip of paper with my first name and phone number. Again, something compelled me.

Around his neck, Vincent wore a cross, a crucifix, and a sun/moon symbol, which he took off and gave to me. I resisted, of course, but he insisted I take it.

He said I was his amiga, his friend.

I had nothing worthy of the label “friend” to give him. Instead, I hugged him, prayed that he “vaya con Dios,” and tried not to cry.

With his half-English and my half-Spanish, we met in the middle and found each other, and what we found was a fast friendship that I shall never forget. I am pretty sure God was our interpreter.

As we departed, I prayed Vincent David made it to his amigo in Philadelphia. I prayed no one stole his $5. I prayed he would get work and return home with something more than he left with.

I prayed he knew he left me with a better understanding of the language of Honduras and the language of God.

Thank you, Vincent David. I will not forget you.

Vaya con Dios.


Returning home, I received calls from three different social workers, wanting me to verify that Vincent’s story was true. They said Vincent called me amiga.

The one in Philadelphia said he could not find his friend even though she helped him. The second call was from a New Jersey hospital. They wondered if I knew he had been sent to a shelter and was now being checked at the hospital. The third was from the New Jersey shelter he went to from the hospital. Could I, they asked, be a resource now that Christmas was drawing nigh?

I told them all that I had spent one hour with him, and I believed he was not malicious but misguided, and he needed to, at least, get back to Florida where, even if at risk, he was warmer. They all agreed.

The last social worker said that, with my verification, he believed he could get Vincent back to Florida.

I thanked him and asked him to tell Vincent I was sorry for his trouble. I said to tell him I thought he needed to stop hopping shelters and get back to Florida and then to Honduras, where he might be safer (and certainly warmer). I then asked the social worker to tell him what I had said when I left him at the bus station.

“Dios bendiga.” God bless.

I hung up and felt conflicted. I genuinely cared about Vincent. I sincerely meant those words, but I knew these calls were telling.

I had no idea if this man was simply the lonely soul I sensed or if he was intentionally using peoples’ “gifting,” and I was one of them. Indeed, it would not be the first time in my professional or personal life that someone has “used” my gifts in ways other than I hoped.

Indeed, I would never give again if I only gifted when I was sure those gifts would be used exactly as I intended. But that’s not the point.

The point is in the giving, especially at Christmas.

If God had waited until God was sure we would use the gift of love exactly as intended, there might not even be a Babe to celebrate.

But, the point was in the giving.

Sometimes that’s a miss, and sometimes that’s a hit.

Given the extent of God’s “gamble,” it seems petty to ponder it too much. So, I am trying to give it a rest.

It makes me wonder if God ever rests. Makes me want to do better with that love that is God’s gift of Christmas. Makes me want to discern how to use it best as God intended.

So, I open my mind and heart to Guidance as I say: “Gracias, Dios.” Thank you, God.

“Dios bendiga, Vincent.” God bless.

To read the second half of this true story, click here.

Last Updated on December 20, 2023

The Michigan Conference