What do empanadas, Chicago, and Jesus have in common?

I heart Chicago

I haven’t been to Chicago in years, but I spent a good portion of my life growing up there. Although I was born in Puerto Rico, our family moved to Chicago just a year later. We left when I was around 10 to the southern suburbs of Chicago, but we still remained close to the city for several years, until college brought me to the East Coast. I’ll always love Chicago and the ’87 Bears (yes, I know the entire Super Bowl Shuffle!). It’s been a while, but I wish I could go there next month for a little Deli in the heart of Chicago that is re-opening soon to sell empanadas and coffee, and to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Nini’s Deli

I’ve already briefly blogged about Nini’s Deli earlier this year. But just for a refresher, Nini’s Deli was in the middle of a huge amount of controversy about a year ago. I remember seeing a video by Bevelyn Beatty, who is an incredible and strong woman of God. She’s literally walking fire, all for Christ. She was outside of Nini’s Deli, courageously defending the business and the owners. There was clearly a reason she decided to show up there and defend this business of Jesus loving Latinos. Obviously, there was more to the story, but that was about all I knew.

Paint the Walls Black

A few months later, I saw a documentary about Nini’s Deli called Paint the Walls Black, and it all came into focus. Same deli/restaurant, but now the reason why people were protesting I understood much better. Instead of doing what everyone else was doing, which was bend their knee to the intimidation and bullying tactics of Black Lives Matter and others, they chose to say that they believed ALL Lives Matter.

What also became clear was that this little restaurant had been extremely popular just before all of this happened. But what Juan Riesco, one of the owners of the restaurant, decided to do was something few others had the courage to do. And that was stand against the mob and speak truth at great risk to his business, his family, and himself. And he lost pretty much everything with respect to the business.

I can’t even express how convicting this documentary was. This young father, Juan Riesco, stood and proclaimed the good news of Christ to people who hated him. Of course, most would ask, why? After all that loss (he and his family left to Texas shortly after their business was swarmed with protestors), he continued to preach the gospel. It would seem that he’s either crazy or a glutton for punishment.

Something more to it

But after much thought, I’ve realized that Riesco doesn’t fit neatly into either of those categories. Instead, he is a sinner who realizes how much he’s been forgiven and wants to share the forgiveness and hope he has in Christ with others around him. The LORD created him to be His mouthpiece, and by the grace of God, Riesco is being obedient to that call, even when it costs him dearly. Even when he’s been misunderstood over and over and over again.

And after several months of street preaching, he’s going back to the Windy City. When I first heard that announcement I thought, AAK! Is that wise?? Ironically, I’m currently in the middle of reading Elisabeth Elliot’s biography, and all I could think of while I was reading about their courtship was, Jim Elliott seemed as if he was out of his mind. Why would he go running into clear danger with a young wife and a child? He had so much potential! He was an incredible man who loved the LORD. Why “waste it” on running into the jungles of Ecuador with people who were known to kill all intruders?

Doesn’t that sound unwise? Irresponsible? Crazy?

What’s the point?

I guess what it comes down to is obedience. We may not always understand. We may not always want to. LORD, life is so difficult, especially when we just can’t see ahead. But even when the future is difficult, God is faithful. Always. He equips and enables, and He causes beauty to rise from ashes. I don’t understand it, and I wish it didn’t work that way, but the longer I live, the more I realize, that’s not just the only way, but the best way. We can trust Jesus, even when no one else understands or agrees. Even ourselves. The Elliots should serve as an incredible reminder of God’s faithfulness and unrelenting love, for all of His people. Even those in the middle of a jungle in Ecuador.

So I am praying for this incredible man of God, Juan Riesco, as he faces the people in his neighborhood of Chicago. I hope you will join me. Pray for his family and pray that he continues to walk faithfully with Christ. I’ll be praying for their protection, but more than anything, I pray for strength. And that we all can have that kind of courage and obedience for Christ. We’ve ALL been forgiven much. We all should have that kind of faith. I pray that we do.

And if you’re in Chicago, go get some empanadas there! They look incredible! Send pics please.

©2024 Mud Hen Mama


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