I try to always be alert to the lessons that the Lord is teaching me each day. However, I have to admit, I am often a very poor student. I tend to a better student when I am in a new culture and meeting new people. Here are a few lessons I learned during our recent Let’s Start Talking project in Sfantu Gheorghe, Romania.
- The Power of the Story of Jesus – I often fall into the trap of believing that the word of God needs my help. I unfortunately am tempted to put more trust in my illustrations, explanations and abilty to teach the word of God. The simple but powerful method we utilized in Romania was simply reading together from the Bible, the Story of Jesus. Questions, comments and discussions that took place during our reading sessions reminded me once again, I am simply a tool, a vessel, a jar of clay in God’s hands (2 Corinthians 4:7). The power is in the good news message that God has given to me (Romans 1:16-17). One of my readers was a young man named Gabriel (I have his permission to use his story). Gabriel is 17 and in his senior year of high school. He is from an Orthodox background. I was impressed with his spiritual insights. He shared with me his perspective of the “big story.” In his view various Christian groups may have their own story that may differ some, however he said, “We all share one big story that is most important.” I asked him to tell me the “big story.” He said, “it is exactly what we are reading about, the life, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. He is the ‘big story.'” I seem to have read that in Paul’s writings as well. Paul resolved to know nothing while he was with the Corinthians expect Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).
- The Importance of Relationships – One of the friends I met and read with for two weeks in Romania was a single woman who worked at night at the local newspaper. She sadly was estranged from her sister and would only see her mother briefly each week. She did not want to read at first thinking that her English was not good enough. I convinced her to give it a try. She understood more than she could speak. During a conversation about the “friends of Jesus.” I asked her about her friends. She said, “I do not have any friends. That is one of the reasons why I like coming to read with your group. I enjoy having someone to listen to me and to talk to each day.” I had fun with her as she could not stop laughing at her confusion over English numbers. I will continue to pray for her that she will come to know Jesus as her friend and as He brings her into a relationship with a loving family. I thought about hours we may spend in planning, strategizing, preparing and talking about reaching out to the world. Somewhere in all of that talk, I need to return to one on one relatiohships with people who just need a friend and need to be introduced to the Best of Friends.
- The Joy of Ministering with Family – My wife, Sherry works with Let’s Start Talking (LST) as their Project Site Coordinator. I have known of and partnered with LST for years. However, seeing more of the inside of the ministry, I have even gained a greater respect for this simple and powerful method of “sharing Jesus and sharing ourselves.” It is one method of helping people find a way to connect with others and share their faith in Jesus. Our son, Ryan has been serving in Prato, Italy for the last year and a half as a part of the Adventures in Missions (AIM) program. Mike and Anto Mahan are the missionaries who coordiante Ryan’s work along with his four teammates. It has been a good and challenging experience for Ryan. Mike and Anto gave Ryan and his teammate, Josie Collins permission to join Sherry and I in the two week LST project. It was a good experience for us all. Working, praying, cooking, planning and sharing together was an encouraging experience. We all took a step outside of our comfort zone and grew to be a little more like Jesus because of it. I have a wonderful wife who has been side-by-side with me through 28 years of marriage and ministry. God is blessing us at this stage of our life and family to find new ways to challenge ourselves and grow in ministry together.
- The Strength of Faithful Christians – We worked with and met with the brothers and sisters of the Agape Church in Sfantu, Gheorghe. They may be small in number but they are faithful in spirit and in their walk with the Lord. We were encouraged by Maria as she would come by each day to read with Sherry. However, she only wanted to read if we had the time. She did not want to take the time away from someone else with whom we could be reading the gospe.l Stafan served us in multiple ways by picking us up in Bucharest, waiting for seven hours as one of our teammates flight was delayed and driving through the night so we could join the family of God on Sunday. As we sang in Romanian, Hungarian adn English with the church for the two Sundays we enjoyed being with them, I thought of the multitudes of faithful Christians around the globe, seeking to live faithfully as salt and light in a dark world. I was reminded that the only responsibilty of a steward entrusted with the story of Jesus is to be faithful to the task ( 1 Corinthians 4:1-5). We cannot control the results. We are simply to remain faithful to the task that God has given us. Learn the lessons along the way as God transforms us into His image.
May I continue to allow these lessons to change me, transform me and conform me to the image of Jesus Christ. Thank you Lord for the opportunity to learn and grow with you.