Friday, February 23, 2007

Unexpected Encouragement

The church office doors were locked, so I rang the doorbell. Sharon, the church secretary, saw me from me from the security camera and came down stairs to let me in.

“I know you,” she said with a big smile.

“Really?” I replied with surprise.

“Twenty years ago,” Sharon continued, “you preached here and it changed my husband’s life. Some people thought we were going to end up on the mission field. Obviously we didn’t, but that night had a profound impact on my husband.”

The following Sunday the pastor at another church began his introduction of me by stating, “Seventeen years ago Richard gave us some advice on how to structure our missions conference differently. Instead of the traditional approach of having services at the church each evening, he suggested we have home meetings where people could get to know missionaries on a more informal setting. It was the best advice we’ve ever received and we have been using that model every year since.”

I always resist taking time away from my “ministry” of teaching and training to visit churches in America. The stated goal for my visit is to report to our donors and hopefully find new churches and individuals who will partner with us. It’s painful for me to turn down invitations to teach as that is my passion as well as my calling. However, I realize that visiting churches is a necessary part of the job; raising support comes with the territory of taking on the profession of a career missionary.

God has blessed me in many ways, but one of His gracious acts this past two weeks came in the form of unexpected encouragement. Comments from a church secretary and a pastor were God’s way of reminding me that no matter what the venue, my service for Him has no geographical boundaries. Whether I teach in a classroom or from a pulpit, whether the location is in Delhi or Downey, the message of world evangelism and the need to take the message of Christ to every people in every cultural context is ministry. To think that God used anything I said twenty years ago is humbling. To think that anything I say on this trip may have eternal value is sobering. And so it is with all of us. No matter how mundane or even distasteful the task may seem God can use it for His honor and His purpose.


Malcolm said...

Thanks for the great reminder. And to think that God will also use the internet for you to be able to teach, challenge, and coach a pastor in New York whom you have never met - He is indeed our sovereign and faithful God.



RG Lewis said...

Thanks, Malcom. What another great word of encouragement. Thank God for pastors who are interested in growing in their mission knowledge. Maybe one day we will meet.