I realized last night as I shared a brief story from my past how long it has been since I have shared that story with a group of people. I was reminded of the impact of some key events in my days as a young person in my home church. Much of our lives is a direct result of the formative years in our childhood and youth and we must hold on to those memories. God has been at work in some of us for many years and every now and again we need to reflect on the ways we have grown since these early days and at the same time be reminded of the basic truths that have formed our world view and passions!
In June of 1982 I had been a believer for about three years and was trying my best to learn and follow the instructions of my pastor and youth pastor. I had parents who were very involved in our youth group. So, I had an example in my own home of the obedience to His Word to GO! That June I recall I found myself in a remote village about forty-five minutes from a town called Sells, Arizona. This was a small village on the Tohono O'odham Nation (known at that time as the Papago Indians). After several days of a small backyard Bible club type gathering of a few Indian children we came to the big day.
On one of the last couple of days we were to make a wordless book and share the Gospel one on one with the children. I remember there was some real emotions running through our group. Yet, the time came and as the group divided into small groups of twos, I found myself sitting around the corner from the rest of the group with a little Indian boy. That day I sat beside a pink adobe house and shared this simple wordless book we had been teaching them during the week. I walked as simply as possible through the pages...Black page represents sin in our lives...Red page represents the blood of Jesus shed to cover our sin and bring forgiveness...etc. At the end of that little book, I looked at that young boy and said something like, do you want to ask Jesus to be Lord of your life today? And he said yes!!!
I do not recall all of the events that transpired following that moment. The emotions and passions of the experienced coursed through my mind and heart all throughout the rest of the day. Sometime late that night it all caught up with me. I found myself sitting outside the church on a window sill staring up into the beautiful star-filled sky. I mumbled a few words of thanksgiving to the Lord and then began to cry. As the tears flowed down my cheeks I vividly recall saying to the Lord, "Lord if I can do this for the rest of my life I am yours!"
In May of 1979 I surrendered my life to follow Jesus as my Lord. After being baptized I began to seek out every opportunity to learn the Bible and listen to sermons. The following year, 1980, I had a unique experience with the Lord during a summer camp and surrendered my life to full-time ministry. The following year, 1981, I served as a staff member at my home church during Youth Week and preached for the first time from the pulpit. So, then in 1982, in the middle of the desert, outside this little Indian church, after sharing the Gospel one-on-one for the first time with some one else, I heard loud and clear the call of the Lord to show and share the Gospel!
I have been through many mountain top and valley experiences during the past 36 years as a Christ-follower. However, this event in 1982 remains a significant event that the Lord used to clarify the real matters of eternal importance in my life. To this day this event along the path of this journey influences the way I share the Gospel and the simple methods we use to show the Gospel. As I reflect today this event I thank my God for those He placed in my path to influence and guide me during those early years. Pastor Scott Mcque, Pastor Bruce Rogers, Pastor Jack Overton, Pastor Steve Hammack, Sam and Karen Graves, Lyle Branton, Cotton Westmoreland, Brent Reeves, Hugh Kirby, Pastor Bo Thompson, Lonnie Maddox, C.J. and Faye Mowell, Chester and Fran Thomas, Doyle and Ruth Lindsey, Jimmy and Betty Gober, Gena Turner, John Turner, Sr. and so many more! I am so thankful for the way God used so many things in my journey to form and shape my view of Him and His world that today is driving so much of what I do and say.
I pray for our young people today who are being prepared for the next steps of their journey in this Kingdom work. The Lord has been moving His church from where we are to where we need to be for years. It is our responsibility to respond to those events and influences He places in our path to listen, learn, grow and respond with faith and passion. Will you take a moment today to thank God for the people He has placed along your journey to shape your view of Him and His ways. Ask Him to remind you of the simple truths that form the framework of the Gospel and its message. Now, share the stories with those He brings across your path! Join me as we reach the world and teach His Word to all we can while He allows us to remain here building the Kingdom one by one!
In His Grip,