For years now, years, I have been reading the devotional "Voices of the Faithful" Missionary stories from all around the world serving with IMB. What makes a missionary overseas different from a missionary serving here in North America? Better yet, what is the difference between a missionary and a Christian? These are thoughts and questions that have challenged me lately and spurred me on to challenge my brothers and sisters in Christ. Aren't we all to share the Gospel, live it out in our daily lives if we claim Christ, even if it isn't our vocation (ie: Pastor, youth worker, evangelist, etc.)? Yes. So what is that one thing that sets apart knowing who Jesus is and LIVING for Him? Living intentionally. Praying for God to open our eyes to see what He wants us to see, to be obedient to move into action and to be bold enough to share Him.
With that being said, here is my own story of when I recently was convicted to start praying more boldly for opportunities to be Jesus' hands and feet. Let me just say it went against anything I thought was sane or safe and I'm not saying "go do what I did" at all, but rather to encourage you that sometimes, when we pray big, He asks for big faith that might seem scary and unsafe.
There are a few different routes from my house to my parents. Two of them are about equal distance and time, just different sides of the lake, a different view. One particular way goes through trees and winds down the road to a glorious view. It was below 30 degrees and hardly any cars were out on this deserted road in the middle of a small town. Except today, when there was a man in a thin hooded sweatshirt who quietly stuck his thumb out as I slowed and swerved pass him. Yes, past him. I didn't stop, phew! Because what mother with two small children would pick up a hitchhiking man?
I didn't stop.
I turned around.
I know, irresponsible right? But here is the palm thick-sweat heart racing dilemma, I had absolutely no desire to turn that car around, or stop and ask him "Hey, what's up?" Because I'm so slick with words like that. It was an instant argument with God that seemed to go on for much longer than the 30 seconds it took me to turn back around and talk to that man. My heart was gripped and it wasn't for this stranger it was for what God was calling me to do. It was almost audible and I couldn't deny for a moment that it was from God and not me. So I rolled my window and we talked. I asked bluntly "So what's you're deal? You on drugs or something? What are you running from?" He was shy and a little embarrassed but I pressed "If I'm going to even consider letting you in my car with my two precious babies in the backseat, I'm going to drill you before I unlock it." He insisted that I need not worry myself with him, he would be alright and apologized. But truly, he was in the middle of nowhere in a sweatshirt and nothing else to claim on him. I didn't let his condition break my heart, I hardened it, thinking of excuses. But one thing is sure- when the Holy Spirit insists on something it is hard to ignore or deny it is Him.
He passed whatever test it was that I had impromptu made up in my head. We talked about where he had come from and where he was headed- almost 50 minutes away by car. It was his first time hitchhiking. He was my age. As I unlocked the car I told him to put his seat belt on and that I had 911 on speed dial in my hand ready to hit send. I am still thinking this is all crazy and asking God why He would ask me, a woman with two children in the backseat, to do this. (Perhaps you too are thinking how crazy I am and God would never ask such a thing and judging me as a parent. It's okay, I might do the same to you too, because I'm not God and I see things with human eyes also.)
I pulled out from the side of the road into a parking lot and he stammered over and over again, "Why did you... why are you..." before finally conveying his own shock that I stopped for him. My answer was honest - "Because I felt like it was what God wanted me to do." And then I saw that man spill tears for the first time and immediately my heart warmed and I knew, God this had nothing to do with him needing a ride, this man needed the hope of Jesus today!
"So, you are a Christian! I knew it! I could sense the Holy Spirit in your eyes." He told me. Now I had the watery eyes. "I'm a Christian too, I'm born again, I just have back slide so far." He confessed.
Now I have a grown man weeping in my car and I am overwhelmed, unsure of what to do next. Craig is having coffee with a friend about half an hour away, so I just start heading there.
On the way, he asks "Do you talk to God every day?" It was the simplest question with the easiest response. "Yes," I said "every day." And then he wept more, crying out in a hushed voice "God, I miss that!" I shared the Bible story of the prodigal son and God's never ending love for His children, how is mercy and grace covers us if we just turn back to Him, He will receive us no matter our condition.
We were interrupted with Abigail, who will be 4 years old at the end of the month, asking why our new friend was crying. I shared that sometimes grownups cry because of how our hearts feel, not just when we get boo-boos.
We arrived at the coffee shop where I text Craig to meet me outside, which he wasn't expecting. He took the surprise with great grace as he asked why I had picked up a man hitching a ride. Craig and the man went into the coffee shop together where Craig and his friend had already been sitting. They talked and prayed with the man and our friend even gave him a Bible.
Craig dropped the man off at his location, praying with him as his nerves were still a wreck with anticipation of his destination. Leaving his phone number with him, the man with a Bible now and nothing but his thin sweater and nothing else he owned, he went in the house that we pray he was welcomed into.
I just wonder, what if I had taken my usual route?
What if I had gone with what was sensible and smart and drove straight home and ignored the undeniable prompting of the Holy Spirit?
He had walked his skinny bones 5 hours out and was in the middle of nowhere and would most likely have froze that night in our -6 degree weather.
Then that man would not have received the encouragement he needed to know that God still loves him and that even in his darkest hour, God was watching over him and sent him 3 Christians to remind him of that.
This isn't a story about what we did, but like I said in the very beginning, I read these stories of missionaries of "great faith" overseas, but really they are ordinary people living for Christ and their faith is being stretch, all for God's glory. Regardless of the names of people, who did what and when, the Story is that JESUS is our Great Rescuer which compels me to share my redemption story and how no matter what, you are never too bad, broken, far away or have gone too deep to be out of reach for our Great Father's arms to reach in and lift you up, hold you close and mend your wounds.
One of my favorite songs by Jesus Culture- One Thing Remains
And one of my favorite verses of all Isaiah 61:1