John Stumbo Video Blog No. 38
September 12, 2016
Recorded at Wheaton College after John spoke to 2,000 Hmong youth, this video blog recalls an emotionally low moment from John’s life in 2009 and a promise he made to God. If only he and his wife, Joanna, knew then what they know now, John says, “we would have lived with our heads a little higher and prayers a little bolder.”
Hey, team! Good to be back with you again today. It’s September! I can’t believe that summer is over. It went too fast for me—I don’t know about you. We had some great experiences though.
HAMS is the annual event here in Colorado Springs. Before we send off our international workers to your churches for tour, a missionary home assignment kind of thing, we have them here for a conference. That was very enjoyable.
We had our largest gathering ever of new workers for our Resonate conference. It brought a great deal of energy and engagement. I’m very excited about this new wave of Kingdom servants that have come to the Alliance family.
And in town we had 25 of our newest international workers that we are sending off this fall for pre-field orientations. So I love those events.
Meanwhile, I snuck away for two weeks for a little writing break. I have wanted to do more writing. I have two books that I am working on right now. One is an evangelistic tool—not an evangelistic training device. We have plenty of those. But I wanted a little book that I could give away, a gift book for unsaved people that I run across, that presents the gospel in a fresh kind of manner. And so I’m working on that.
I’m also working on an end-times, Jesus-returning kind of book. So much of what’s been written in my lifetime about the end times has been who the Antichrist will be, when Christ is coming back, where the battles will take place. I am not interested in dealing with any of that kind of stuff. I am very interested in talking about what kind of world will we live in as the return of Christ approaches and how are we to live as Christ followers. So I’m grappling with some passages that talk about an increase of false prophets, increase of antichrists, increase of wickedness, those kinds of things and how to have hope in life in the middle of those seasons or that season that’s coming.
I was able to catch a couple of days, catch a couple of fish in northern Minnesota. That’s very renewing for me. And grandson No. 2 was born to our family and very exciting for us.
Looking ahead, we are just a month away from Council registration being launched online. Good preparations coming together for a Council in Columbus May 2017.
And online right now, there is information about our next Prayer and Praise event in October. Coming from Grace Church in Cleveland, Ohio, we are going to have our next Prayer and Praise event. We’d love to have you join us online if you are not living in the Cleveland area.
This completes year three of my role as president. It’s gone exceedingly fast. I have loved it, and I am so honored to get to do what I do. I have been with the Alliance family as much as I possibly can, speaking 500 times now since being elected. One of those times, this summer, I had just finished a message. A cameraman was standing next to me—not from our team but for the event—and I said, “Do you have a few minutes?” And we did an impromptu shooting that I am going to show to you now. It’s for the remainder of this blog.
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Hey, team! I am at Wheaton College. I have just finished speaking to 2,000 Hmong youth. I had an incredible evening, as they are here for their every-two-year event, and I was honored to get to speak to them.
There are two things that I want to say at this moment. One is every culture has something to offer the Body of Christ. The Christian and Missionary Alliance family in the United States is in 37 different languages. I have been with a number of them just in the last week, and I sense there is significance of every culture having a nuance of the character of God, a way of expressing praise and worship, a contribution of their heritage that makes the Church stronger.
The Hmong are so strong in community, and other groups are strong in some other ways, and I am just loving the fact how when the Body of Christ gets to know each other and learns each other’s values and priorities, gains from each other’s wisdom, that we really are better together.
I know I say that phrase a lot: “We’re better together,” but in this moment, I want to acknowledge that we are better when our cultures mix more. Still in America, we have so much of the cultures separated, but I am enjoying the moments when we are actually shoulders rubbing, wisdom increasing, hearts enlarging as we spend time in community with each other.
Secondly, I want to say this: Speaking at LIFE a few weeks ago, speaking at a Montagnard conference in North Carolina, speaking at a church in North Carolina, speaking here tonight in Wheaton, I have been taken back to a moment when I was ill that I have not spoken of very often. But as the crowd tonight celebrated my story and gave praise to Jesus, I was reminded of a very low point.
You know the story that I didn’t eat the entire year of 2009, but during that year, I was very irritated that I could vomit but not swallow. It was frustrating that it would come up but not go down. And there was one moment that I was laying in bed for an afternoon nap. I was sleeping 15 hours a day in my very weak, wheel-chaired, feeding-tubed condition, and I felt it coming on that I was going to vomit again. We left a garbage can next to the bed for that very purpose, because it happened too often. And on that day, as the medical food kind of soured my stomach and came out in a wretched kind of form, I vomited into the garbage can yet lost control of my weak body and fell out of bed.
Now, it wasn’t a dangerous injury kind of moment. It was more of a sad slither to the floor. But as I landed on the floor, next to my vomit bucket, I was too weak to get up—not just that moment, but that year. The therapist worked with me that “if you end up on the floor, how are you going to get off?” And we tried all sorts of strategies, but I was physically too weak to pull myself up or push myself up, and my voice was too weak to get anybody’s attention. The bedroom door was closed. Nobody could hear me. So I had a very weak and low moment emotionally.
I laid there on the floor. I quit trying to call, because that was not working. And at that time, in God’s sweetness—I promise you it was not a barter or a bargain; it was more of a surrender—I said, “Lord, if You get me off of this floor, I’ll preach anywhere. If I ever get to preach again, it doesn’t matter where it is.” And there were scenes in my mind that momentarily passed of being in some very small situations and some very significant situations. Without a bit of medical hope or physical sense of progress, God was, I believe, giving me a glimpse of what might come.
As I stepped off the platform tonight and the congregation was exceedingly gracious in their response, that image came to my mind of being on the floor. Afterwards, somebody, a student, congratulated Joanna and I on our almost 34 years of marriage, and my wife said something to the effect of, “If we only knew what was waiting for us. If we only knew what was ahead for us.” Some of those hard times—both in my medical crisis and in our marriage before that medical crisis—if we only knew what was ahead for us, there would have been a greater measure of hope and encouragement in the midst of the crisis.
None of us knows where our earthly crisis is going to lead. You’ve got a challenge with your church board right now. You’ve got an issue in your congregation right now. You’ve got an issue in your body or in your marriage or in some relationship. We have an issue with one of our sons.
You don’t know where your story humanly is leading on this earth. But if only we knew that the King is still on His throne, that the Author is still writing a good story in our lives even though there might be some dark chapter right now. If only we knew of what awaits for us in heaven, how the fabric of all of these threads, of all of these confusing and sometimes delightful stories, all weaved together. If only we knew.
I guess I’m simply giving some pastor, some pastor’s wife, some family, some leader, somebody watching this video today—I’m simply trying to give a word of encouragement that, no, not every story ends from the floor next to a vomit bucket to standing in front of 2,000 cheering youth. Not every story ends that way. But we follow the Christ who is the Author of salvation, the Author of our faith, and the Author of life. He is an author. That’s one of the Bible metaphors for who He is, and I have to believe that just because you are in a confusing chapter that it’s not the last chapter. He is good. He is involved. He is alive.
If only I knew during 2009 what I would get to do today. If only we knew in some previous years that our marriage would be stronger. If only we knew, we would have lived with our heads a little higher and prayers a little bolder.
Just recently, one of the Board members of The Christian and Missionary Alliance shared about prodigals. He had a picture, a vision one day of these sheep that were in wolf’s clothing—the reverse of what we normally think of: a wolf in sheep’s clothing. No, he had a picture of this large flock of sheep that all had wolf’s clothing on.
And he said, “Lord, what is this?” The Lord said, “Those are my prodigals. Those are my strays. They truly are mine, but right now they are wearing the clothing of the enemy.” And the Lord said to him, “Don’t pray a prayer of desperation when you pray for these prodigals. Pray into who they really are. They are mine; they are my sheep.”
God was giving that hurting father a word of hope that He wasn’t done writing a good story even for the life of that prodigal.
If only we knew how big the plan of God is. If only we knew how great His love is. If only we knew what awaits for us in heaven. If only we knew, we would live with greater courage today. Our prayers would have more faith in them today. We would despair less and hope more.
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