How do we best represent Christ to others? How do we earn the right to speak the Gospel into the lives of people?
Yes, there are crusades where thousands are saved at one time. God does that!
Yes, there are situations where people accept Christ after a presentation from a perfect stranger. God does that, too!
With all of my heart, I believe that God has called our little family to the task of relationship-building in order to share the Gospel. We are relational beings... we truly love people. We feel His call to be here for the long-term. Our daily job includes sowing seeds. Relationship seeds.
Sometimes, relationships begin with the filling of a hungry belly. Sometimes, relationships begin with the offer of a school uniform. Sometimes, relationships begin with a conversation on the street... one of those look-you-in-the-eye conversations that says 'I CARE about YOU!'
Cross-cultural ministry requires patience in building relationships. Yes, we have seen children accept Christ. But, more often, they want to see our lives first, to see if we are sincere when we tell them we care and they are welcome at our home. People are watching us very carefully.
Two nights ago, Ken came to our door after dark. Just to rewind a bit... Ken and a few of his buddies are street boys - they don't go to school, don't have a strong family life and have very little structure. They collect cans or mangoes or whatever they can find to sell for a few lempira to buy a coke or some chips. Scrounging around. Without direction.
The above picture shows Ken, on the right, when he and 2 of his friends came to dinner at our house last year. They had fun coloring and playing Legos that night and left with full bellies and a lot of laughs. We usually see Ken on the street with his friends - sometimes they are hanging out next door watching a soccer game on the TV at the bakery, sometimes they are helping trucks unload produce, sometimes they are throwing rocks into trees to try to get the mangoes to fall. Since we've been back from the US, Ken has been absent.
The knock came around 6:30 p.m. It always seems like chaos opens up around dark. Knocks on our door are always more frequent as dinner approaches. We have been talking about setting a boundary and not answering the door during dinner. But then, what would we miss from God's hand?
I opened the door and there stood Ken, barefooted, brown eyes brimming with tears. His Spanish isn't great, but he told me quietly that his mother had died. I closed my eyes and just said 'come in.' My friend, Mery Luz, was able to talk to him in Miskito and find out that, yes, his mother had died the day before, and that he would be living with an aunt. He was hungry.
We made him a tuna sandwich and gave him an apple. Comida de gringos (Gringo food). He laughed. We asked to pray for him. Alex and I stood at the top of our stairs, hands on his little shoulders and prayed in English for him, his life and his salvation. I have no idea if he understood a word of what we said, but I know that the Spirit speaks in every language. He headed down the street and back into his life. I'm not sure when I'll hear that little knock again.
One day, we may have the opportunity to share Jesus with him. One day, one of our fellow missionaries here may have that opportunity. One day, one of the Miskito pastors here might have that opportunity. Regardless who it is, I simply hope that Ken knows how much God loves him... and that Ken understands that God cares for people through other people.
I share this with you because I know there is a 'Ken' right around your corner. In fact, I read just this week about one of my friends who is helping a young man with shoes and clothes right in rural north Texas. Open your eyes to the 'Kens' around you, friends! Don't let another day pass without beginning a relationship with someone! It doesn't have to be complicated... a meal, a glass of water, a laugh, a sincere expression of love.
Don't worry about creating 'dependency' in people... don't worry about what that person is going to do with your offering... God has got that side of things covered. Just open up your heart to hear God's Spirit whispering, listen carefully and GIVE, GIVE LAVISHLY!