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The Best and Worst

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“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”

This quote from A Tale of Two Cities came to mind while I was at the C&MA’s Home Assignment Ministry Seminar (HAMS), where I was blessed to rub shoulders with more than 100 Alliance international workers from around the world. I was leading a seminar on the basics of fund raising: the importance of developing relationships with the people who support our ministries and how crucial it is for workers to always thank our Great Commission Fund (GCF) donors. I have been privileged to do this for the last two years, and it is a great reminder to me of the wonderful and talented people that we have on our team around the world. It was the best of times!

As I began my presentation, I was excited that I was doing my part to hold down the fort here at home, ensuring that the message of the worldwide work of The Alliance gets out to our churches. I wanted to make sure I gave the best advice possible to the ones God has sent to the front line.

But as I looked at the faces before me, something broke in my heart. I had prepared and practiced and now I had the opportunity to tell our Alliance workers how to explain the GCF, how to communicate with the people who support them every month, how to tell the Alliance story so the person in the pew gets it, remembers it and shares it with someone else. Then it hit me—I should have been sitting in that audience. I should have been the one taking notes from a presenter. In an instant everything flooded back to me. All of a sudden the information was coming out of my mouth, but my heart was saying, How did this happen? How did I end up on this side of the podium? Please remind me, Lord, why I never had the opportunity to serve You overseas. And as my heart broke, the emotion of the moment got caught in my throat. It was the worst of times.

You see, almost 30 years ago, my wife, Patty, and I were on our way to Indonesia as Alliance workers to join the Java 500 church-planting effort. We were six months away from leaving Nyack, New York, and starting our missionary career. But the Lord had a different idea.

While working on a sermon, I got very ill. I was admitted to the hospital and given several doses of codeine and Tylenol for the pain. I then spiked a fever of 105 and was rushed to intensive care, where I spent the next week. Patty was told by doctor after doctor that I was going to die, that our life together was over.

Alliance people around the world prayed on my behalf, and God miraculously healed me. However, I was not given medical clearance to be an overseas worker. Our world was turned upside down because that is all Patty and I had worked toward for 10 years; that is all we had planned for. In fact, that was the only plan.

As I stood at the podium at HAMS, my mind raced back to all the steps that we had taken: our years in seminary, our home service, the psychological and language aptitude tests, the doctrinal interview and ordination. The audience I was speaking to would have been our colleagues, the people I would have stood shoulder to shoulder with in proclaiming Christ overseas. I should be finishing up my sixth term in Indonesia, not standing behind a podium, I thought.

My voice gave way as the pain of being set aside came in waves. Then God caught my heart and reminded me that He does not make mistakes. As clearly as I heard the call from God to serve overseas, I also heard the call to empower the church here at home to support our international workers. Without all that preparation, without all that time Patty and I spent readying ourselves, without that period of brokenness followed by the willingness to do whatever God wanted me to do, I would never have been this passionate about telling people that we all need to participate in what God is doing through The Alliance around the world. I never would have been this passionate about raising funds to keep our international workers in their place of service.

As I completed my comments, my heart was calmed and focused because God reminded me again that He uses all kinds of people with all kinds of gifts to complete His mission of bringing the world to Christ. I completed the presentation with a smile knowing that God has chosen me to work with the church here in America and coach my colleagues in effective ways to communicate with their fellow servants here in America; yes, it was the best of times because God has a place of service for all of us—even me.

Past Alliance Life Issues

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