Summer Starts by Wil Triggs

Last weekend was the Taste of Wheaton. Today is Run for the STARS—both signs that summer is finally here, and I guess it’s safe to put away the snow shovels and sidewalk salt. Why do I hesitate to write that last sentence? Yes, I have put them away, but within easy reach, if needed.

Last week, a man named David helped us pick up Bibles that Tyndale House Publishers donated for us to give away at our Taste of Wheaton display. David's homeland is Burkina Faso. On Monday I wrote a quick email to thank him. I told him of our persecuted church prayer group and invited him to send us any prayer requests.

He replied:

Thank you for praying for my homeland. What is going on in Burkina Faso is something we had not experienced before. The country is currently at a level three travel advisory and is only one step away from the “do not travel” advisory level. Please pray for the safety of the country: terrorism, crime and kidnapping . . . have become very common. I grew up in the East Region, which is one the most affected regions as we share borders with Niger and Mali—two countries with terrorism strongholds. We covet your prayers.

Both Lorraine and I have written often of many fun and inspiring parts of teaching Kindergarten Bible school. We will undoubtedly write more of the things we learn from the children or our teachers. Stories from the Bible come alive so often over the course of the year. I especially enjoyed teaching the lessons of the lost coin, the lost sheep and the lost son with the Kindergarteners (who act out the scene of the father and son’s reunion with gusto and joy).

But there’s one Sunday of the year that I’ve never written about because, honestly, I don’t exactly love it. It’s the Sunday that’s the last one of the school year, and we say goodbye to boys and girls we’ve been with for nine months. That’s the Sunday we just had. Another sign that summer is here.

I feel silly admitting it. I’m not good with goodbyes. The team of teachers that we’ve worked with week after week—not getting to see them and teach with them and learn alongside them until the fall—I’ll miss. And the kids who have grown and learned from and with us, well, our time with them is suddenly over. They are so ready to move on to first grade, and we are not so ready to let them go.

For the most part, the kids just leave. I don’t really expect or even want it to be different from any other Sunday morning. It’s good and right. The kids are headed on to the next adventure, whatever that might be—a special lunch, church, going to a birthday party or a lunch with grandparents. Sometimes the parents remind them to say thanks and goodbye. And Lorraine checks the children out with a special word of love and care to both the parents and their children.

It’s a bittersweet, mostly happy time. I just don’t like to say goodbye.

As Lorraine was giving one of these farewells to young Enoch this last Sunday, his mom and her words suddenly pushed goodbye to a whole new level.

We have a procedure we follow when the kids are picked up after Bible school. The parents stand in line. Lorraine collects each name tag, turns to me and tells me which room for each child. We do it every week. So, it’s routine, but this time it’s different because it’s the last one. We’ll never do it again, not with these kids.

“Enoch,” she says, “Room One.”

I go to Room One and say, “Enoch” to the children and teacher in the room.

Enoch gathers his flower and sunshine craft and comes out of the room toward his waiting mom.

Lorraine starts to explain how we won’t be in the classroom next time Bible school meets, that we’re done, and new teachers for the summer will be in place for Enoch .

“We won’t be back,” Enoch’s mom responds. “Our time of study at Wheaton is finished, so we will be moving back to China.”

We tell her that we pray for China. Every week we pray for China in the persecuted prayer group on Fridays, how the number of requests about China is on the upswing. We are concerned.

Enoch’s mom explains how they have heard similar stories, but they feel okay about where they’re going. We assure her of our prayers.

“Enoch,” says Lorraine, “We're going to pray that you will grow up to stand for Jesus and walk with him. Just like your namesake.”

Suddenly Enoch’s mom is in tears, saying thank you and goodbye and they’ll miss us.  And both of us are choking back tears of our own.

Meanwhile, a mom who is moving to Wisconsin collects a Kindergartener about to be a first-grader. And then, there go the twins. And Annie. Goodbye, Dylan.

Lorraine hugs Enoch’s mom. “We will be praying.” She nods her head affirmatively through tears. Then, they’re gone.

I just saw a Facebook post of a proud parent posting a photo of a son graduating from eighth grade. I don’t know for sure that I would recognize him, remembering him as the Kindergartener. And most mornings we drive by a boy headed to the bus for high school that we knew in our class all those years ago. So we pray when we see him. Enoch, too, will grow into a man we wouldn’t recognize.

Though we may never see Enoch’s family again, there will come a day when we will know and be known, when we will be together with them, and the believers from Burkina Faso and Kenya and Nigeria and our Russian friends from summers past in Maloyaroslavets and Ruza and Yaroslavl and all the Kindergarteners who stop being Kindergarteners and grow into men and women who love and follow Jesus.

That other summer tarries. Let’s live in anticipation of the season still to come and do all we can to point people toward, not away, from Jesus.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" (Revelation 7:9)

The Forgiveness Project by Lorraine Triggs

I recently read an article in The New York Times titled, “Let Go of Your Grudges. They’re Doing You No Good.” As I read the article, I had a flashback to similar childhood advice we probably all received from our mothers and Sunday school teachers—don’t hold grudges.

The author also referenced the Stanford University Forgiveness Project. Decades ago, a foundation donated money for the university to study forgiveness and its psycho-social and physiological benefits. In short, the conclusion: we should forgive others because it’s good for us.

That first Stanford University Forgiveness Project led to more projects, books, events and the inevitable website that lists nine steps in forgiving someone. One of the steps states, “Forgiveness is about personal power.”

It's true that bearing a grudge can hold the bearer in debilitating bonds, but if one of my Kindergarteners in Bible school said that, I would probably give my handy teacher answer of, “Well, I never really thought of that before.” Instead of saying, “What are you thinking? Personal power?”

Grace, my mother, had her own forgiveness project. My sisters and I were frequent subjects. The project involved either the subjects asking forgiveness for a wrong done or receiving the apology and forgiving the other subject involved. In short, my mother's conclusion: we forgave because Christ forgave us.

One sample from Grace's project revolved around the fact that she didn't drive. In my home state of Michigan's legislative wisdom, at age 18, my middle sister qualified as the adult licensed driver when I got my learner's permit.

She took her role seriously and would sit in the passenger's seat and scribble in a notebook everything I did wrong behind the wheel. It seemed like a personal power play by her. One day, I couldn't stand it anymore. I stopped the car in the middle of Fourth Street and screamed, "Why don't you tell me what I am doing wrong, instead of writing it all down?"

"For starters," she yelled back, "you're stopped in the middle of the street."

Even though we didn't live downhill from Fourth Street, that's where things went as I drove the last two blocks home.

Both fuming, we stormed into the house and soon became subjects in my mother's forgiveness project, both on the asking and receiving end of it.

My sister still takes credit for my good driving habits.

Grace's forgiveness project was on the right track. "Guilty, vile, helpless" we have no personal power to change ourselves, let alone forgive anyone, apart from the spotless Lamb of God and his grace.

All this brings Psalm 103 to mind, and God’s conclusion about forgiveness. It's from him, and "as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us" (verse 12).

Before my mother's forgiveness project, before Stanford University's forgiveness projects and before the foundation of the world, God's once-for-all, all-sufficient forgiveness project was in place.

But the Children . . . by Wallace Alcorn

Wallace's thoughtful musing is a reminder of why we can celebrate Memorial Day with parades and cookouts.

Tony Foulds, now 82, walked out onto the grass of Endcliffe Park in Sheffield, England, last February 22 and waved at four American Air Force fighters doing a memorial fly-over.

He had also waved at a B-17 Flying Fortress on this very spot on this very date in 1944, when he was but seven-years-old. The many children who played there at the time felt safe from the German bombers that had earlier made constant raids on Sheffield’s industrial plants. Along with the RAF, bombers of the U.S. 8th Air Force had driven the enemy planes away and were now pursuing the enemy deep into the continent.

As I read about Tony, my mind returned to Ann and her family’s escaping, by congressional intervention, the Manchester area only thirty-eight miles away just months prior to the commencement of bombing. Although she was born there, her parents were immigrants to the United States still applying for citizenship. When she later wished to show me her childhood neighborhood during our first visit, she could not because the bombing had leveled it—nothing had survived.

British citizens on the home front had come to new appreciation for Americans, and even these Sheffield school children knew these airmen were flying overhead so they could play below safely. They risked their lives on every mission to save their lives. That’s why they were there, to save lives even, if necessary, at the cost of their own. Not a few paid the price as young Tony and his playmates would soon discover.

A plane, now, was circling unaccountably and senselessly low. A crew member waved his arms and the children took it as a characteristically American friendly greeting. They waved back and returned to their play.

Then, to Tony’s horror and that of the other children, the bomber dove into the nearby woods and crashed. The local paper reported all ten crewmembers were killed, but this was all they heard at the time.

When Tony became seventeen and curious, he began to read historical accounts. What he eventually learned has driven him back to this spot in Endcliffe Park 260 days every year for seven decades. He tends a simple marker that commemorates the event, but this year people he had interested worked with him to arrange this fly-over. They watched as one plane veered skyward in the traditional missing-airman formation.

What Tony learned and what the crowd now celebrated was this. The crew had named their plane “Mi Amigo,” and the pilot was Lt John G. Kriegshauser from St. Louis. Though only twenty-three himself, this was already his fifteenth bombing mission. Although none of the crew was old enough to be a father to children of his own—but the children below….

The crew had successfully completed its mission of disabling the Aalborg airfield in German-occupied Denmark. Heavily damaged, it nursed the bomber across the North Sea toward its home base near Chelveston, England. It had survived enemy anti-aircraft artillery and defending fighters, but ran into equally dangerous conditions in clouds over England. When it broke through, they found themselves over Sheffield, eighty miles from their airfield. Without enough fuel to reach it, they had to crash-land somewhere right then.

Yet, what Lt Kriegshauser saw below was a park bordered on three sides by terraced housing and on the fourth by woods. The park offered a perfect landing spot—but the children….

As Tony grew older and saw things more broadly, he recognized that crew member, probably one of the gunners, was not waving a friendly greeting but desperately waving them out of the park so they could attempt a landing. With the children returned to play and housing on three sides, the pilot, with evident concurrence of the crew, intentionally aimed for the woods.

Tony Foulds insists: “No one will ever tell me any different. I killed these lads. And that will always stay with me.”

Tony, thank you for your gratitude and all you are doing. But, no, Tony, those American lads — soldiers as they were — chose to give their lives so you and your playmates could have yours and grow up, as you have, to remember them with very great honor, indeed. And so do we.

A Pastor Prays for His People

Good news—we now have copies of Wendell’s book A Pastor Prays for His People at the Sunday morning book stall.

Blessed Redeemer, beautiful Savior
Author of all grace and comfort.
We approach you with the deepest reverence
Not with any presumption, not with servile fear—
But with respectful boldness—because of your gracious invitation.
In days of yore, you met the invited penitent at the mercy seat.
There the sprinkled blood was a covering for sin,
Today, our needed blessings are to be found at the throne of grace.
Here it is that we find grace in every—every—every! time of need.

It is easy for us to elaborate our needs, as trouble upon trouble piles up on us:
fragmented friendships,
hostile relationships,
adversarial conditions,
financial roadblocks,
family nightmares,
unanswered questions.
Some of these heartburning situations have plagued us without relief,
and we have pled with you to alleviate—
Yet still we wait for divine answer.
Lord, we have nowhere else to go but to you,
And so we again cast ourselves upon your mercy.
Maybe you delay because of the insidious sins
we tolerate or turn a blind eye to!
Galatians tells of good old Barnabas and influential Simon Peter who were
Captured by flagrant hypocrisy.
Maybe that’s our sin today—protection of self—
Desiring the approval of the crowd rather than God
to wash away that sin.
We confess with tears all the times we played the hypocrite
and curried the world’s favor—in the world’s place—
and tried some face-saving, self-serving falseness around God’s people.
Forgive us, Lord, as we pray now for deliverance from such sin.

Thank you, Father; help us to never again indulge in hypocrisy.

As a Mother

Director of Childen's Ministries Diane Jordan shares this prayer for Mother's Day.

Almighty God, king of creation, who formed us in our mother’s womb, who knows us best but loves us still, we worship you.

We praise you for your protective love which longs to gather us under your wings as a hen gathers her chicks.

We thank you for your tender compassion as you comfort us as a mother comforts her child.

We stand amazed at the depth of your love for us—a love that paid the ultimate sacrifice—death on the cross, so we could be your children.

How precious is your steadfast love, O Lord.

As we celebrate Mother’s Day, we get a glimpse of your divine love—a love that is gentle yet fierce, humble yet strong, kind and true.

And we thank you for our mothers, and for those who have been like mothers to us—for those who show us in tangible ways what your unconditional love looks like.

May we honor, love and cherish those who gave us birth and those who have been spiritual mothers to us, who have nurtured us, taught us, prayed for us, cared for us and shown us the face of the Savior by their example of faith.

Strengthen them in their daily tasks. Give them wisdom as they teach, patience as they discipline and perseverance as they pour into others’ lives. Help them to see in every mundane task the eternal significance of what they are doing.

Help each one rest in the knowledge that they are but stewards of the children you have given them. Enable them to be strong women of faith, relying on you for their every need, living and loving in ways that point to Jesus.

Father God, we know that for some, today is a day of heartache, not celebration.

We pray for those who have lost a mother, a child, a loved one. We pray for those who are ill, whose bodies are failing. May the reality of the resurrection give them hope.

For those who have longed to be moms but never had children of their own, for those struggling with the process of adoption or infertility, for those dealing with shattered dreams, Lord, we ask that you mend their broken hearts and empower them to live, trusting in you for the future.

Lord, we lift to you those distressed over choices their children have made, for those with children who have turned away from you. We ask that you comfort them in the knowledge that your love is constant, your understanding is perfect, and your compassions are never ending. Remind them that you are a God who pursues the lost.

Father, the many seasons of our lives are marked by transitions and changes, but your nurture and affection for us remain the same. Your steadfast love never ceases. Your mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning.

May the power of the Holy Spirit enable each of us to love and live a life of faith that points others to you and your steadfast love.

For your honor and glory. Amen.

Drowning: Do you not care that we are perishing? By Wil Triggs

I did a lot of odd jobs growing up. Cutting lawns in exchange for the goods or services of others, painting my trumpet teacher’s stucco-sided garage in exchange for music lessons, but what seemed like my first real job was working at the day care camp at the YMCA in Torrance, California.

It wasn’t really a job job exactly. I wasn’t on their payroll. The official Y employees/swimming teachers also had a day camp program for little kids. I would go to the camp and hang out with the kids.

When it was time for them to go into the pool, there were too many of them. They had the day campers all roped off in about a third of the shallow end, while the regular swimming lessons for older students and adults filled the rest of pool with their activities. There were really too many people in that pool and only one lifeguard. So my job during pool time was to make sure that none of the day camp kids drowned.

I had no training in CPR. I don’t even know if there was such a thing. There was mouth to mouth resuscitation. I remember learning that. I’m happy to say that I never had to use it. I’m also happy to say that none of the kids drowned. But I do remember pulling up a lot of kids who seemed like they had been under too long, their heads breaking the surface of water, sometimes laughing smiling, sometimes coughing, choking. Ocassionally someone drank water and needed to sit with me at the side of the pool to catch their breath and take a break.

My pay was a few dollars every day and free high-level swimming lessons. They taught the dolphin kick and the butterfly. I swam with weight belts on my chest. Sometimes I'd sink.

With this job, when I first started, I was so excited. As I look back, I can see God preparing me for years of ministry to kids and students even at this young age. I took my role seriously—watching after the kids in the water. But even the exciting becomes rote, you sort of melt yourself into the routine of swimming pools and kids, and it's easy to forget what you're really there for.

One day when I was off, I went to, where else (?), a pool. It was the municipal pool in my city’s park—kind of like Northside Park. The pool bigger than Northside’s, at least it seems like that looking back. It was nice to swim on my own, no kids to worry about, no weight belts strapped on. I swam underwater a full length of the pool. I was great. Then I saw underwater bodies heading to the ladders and the sides, everyone all getting out of the water all at once. I surfaced and saw what I never had to do myself.

The lifeguard on duty in the water instead of his perch, a child in his arms. The lifeguard rushing to the side and resuscitation efforts beginning immediately. Everyone stood frozen, all of us looking, wanting, hoping to hear the cough, the choke, the catching of breath signalling life. But in the confusion, pool staff rushing everyone to get out of the pool and out into the park on the other side of the locker rooms.

Minutes that seemed like hours later, the child was wheeled out to the ambulance, her eyes open, looking very much alive.

The pool closed for the rest of the day.

You can believe that when I went back to work on Monday, I was more aware than ever of every child entrusted to my care—watching, checking more than I needed to, making sure that pool time was fun time the way it was supposed to be.

It seems like such a long time ago, and yet the memory and the danger still seems fresh. My mind wants to take the metaphor of drowning to the people around me who don’t know Jesus—while I might be drowning in stuff or tasks or fears or worries, what about people who think they’re fine, but don’t know the storm around us all? What kind of a lifeguard might I be today?

This Sunday morning, in our Kindergarten Bible School, we get to tell the story of Jesus calming the storm. It’s my favorite lesson of the year. We make the boat and the storm and act it out as a whole group. And with all of the waves and the storm going strong, we wake up Jesus.

Help us. We’re going to drown. Don’t you care?

Real waves. Real fear. An ocean roiling all around us, swallowing us into death. All of it happening in Room 001.

And then Jesus gets up and says, “Peace! Be still!”

The Kindergarteners all at once are silent (at least it’s always worked so far). The storm is stopped. Drowning averted.

Jesus asks, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Word Sleuth: Lovingkindness by Wil Triggs

The word “lovingkindness” came into my head yesterday morning. A song based on Psalm 63:3 surfaced, dreamlike from my past, its chant-like 70s melody kind of annoying me. I could hear the girls' answering echo as we sang. It was sweet, but maybe a little too sweet. Nevertheless, there it popped into my head like the Wendy’s “where’s the beef?” TV commercial, or the Bears winning the Super Bowl. Did those things really happen?

But more than anything else, it got me thinking about this word.

God’s lovingkindness is better than life.

Whatever happened to lovingkindness? There aren’t too many people I could ask about this without sounding a little wonky. But one I knew would care about words like this and not laugh at me: Lee Ryken.

So I sent him a quick email. “Do you have any thoughts?" I asked. Where did the word come from and what’s happened to it?

Lee must have been on his email because he answered me right back: “William Tyndale introduced the word lovingkindness into the English language in his translation of the Bible,” and he send me a weblink with more.

Well, when someone says “Tyndale” to me, I naturally assume that they’re talking about the publishing house. I knew that’s not what Lee meant, but my brain, having a mind of it own, just went there. It’s like academics who say “Wheaton.” They are usually talking about the college, not the city.

Tyndale House Publishers began with the Living Bible.

I first saw the Living Bible on the dining room table of one of my aunts. This was a long time ago. She listened to Frank Sinatra on her hi-fi stereo. She watched soap operas. She didn’t go to church. But she always seemed beautiful and generous to me. She lived across the street from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and I could hear them practice in the garage. I never heard this aunt talk about the Bible or Jesus or anything like that. She wasn’t part of the “religious” element of the family. (Happily, this situation has changed for the better between then and now.)

I used to go over to my aunt's house and mow her lawn Saturday mornings and play with Honeybee, her miniature white poodle. She and my mom would chat in her kitchen while I mowed and played. And she always had a can of Coke for me, which we almost never bought ourselves. So this was a treat for me in many ways.

One Saturday, suddenly, there it was—its dark green cover with engraved lettering and a design looking fresh and different. I had seen television commercials for it. The Living Bible sat prominently on her mid-century modern coffee table back when it was just a coffee table. Both Mom and I noticed it. My aunt announced that she was reading the Bible—the Living Bible—because it helped her understand and think about the Bible in a new way.

Those are my earliest recollections of Tyndale House Publishers. But before Tyndale House Publishers, there was a man named Tyndale. William Tyndale. That's who Lee was talking about.

What was it about William Tyndale that prompted Ken Taylor to name his company after him?

I asked Mark Taylor. And he replied almost as fast as Lee Ryken.

“Prior to the work of Luther (in Germany) and Tyndale (in England),” he answered, “the Bible had been available for more than 1,000 years only in the Latin Vulgate, and most people couldn’t read Latin. So the Bible was inaccessible to the common man. Ken Taylor had special appreciation for the work of William Tyndale, who made the Bible available to the English-speaking population.

“In the mid-20th century, Ken had the same concern—that the meaning of the Bible was essentially unavailable to the common man, since most people used the King James Version of 1611, which had antiquated language.

“Regarding William Tyndale, who was burned at the stake, Ken Taylor occasionally said, ‘I want to emulate William Tyndale in every way except his death.’”

Imagine a time when English-speaking people had no Bible. So William Tyndale was kind of like the Wycliffe Bible translator to English-speaking people, giving them a Bible they could read. (I’m not going to get into who Wycliffe was here, but feel free to research that if you like). Tyndale wasn’t from outside the culture; he was steeped in his native tongue plus he spoke six other languages. Before the King James Bible, there was the Tyndale translation.

So many words flowed from Tyndale’s work, phrases that are so loved by Christians that it never occurs to most of us that there was a man who first “coined” them. And that man was William Tyndale.

A link Lee sent me said that Tyndale also penned many other Bible phrases/terms. Here are just a few:
• Let there be light
• Ask and it shall be given; seek and ye shall find
• Salt of the earth
• Pearls before swine
• The patience of Job
• The Author and Finisher of our faith.

The list goes on and on. In fact, 80% of the KJV comes from Tyndale’s earlier translation.

We so easily forget history, especially when the 24-hour news cycle pushes us to disregard what happened last week or yesterday or even an hour ago, for whatever news alert is popping up on the phone right now.

Before sending my email question to Lee, I did an internet search and the always reliable search engines told me that lovingkindness is:
• associated with a Hebrew word on the one hand, but also
• some sort of eastern/Buddhist meditation practice (some kind of refinement on self-love) on the other.

Perhaps it is lost because something of God himself is easily lost. Lovingkindness as a word now seems more beautiful and amazing than ever. Just like God.

A few years ago, my Christmas gift to my wife, Lorraine, was The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. This caused a rift between me and one of my co-workers at Russian Ministries who couldn’t forgive me for giving Lorraine a dictionary for Christmas. Jewelry, yes. But a dictionary? I might as well have given her a broom my coworker scolded, looking out for Lorraine on Christmas morning. Fortunately, Lorraine loved this gift.

The definition of lovingkindness in that dictionary is “kindness arising from a deep personal love, as (in Christian use) the active love of God for his creatures.”

Perhaps, in this world where there seems to be more anger than ever, lovingkindness is a word that belongs to God way more than it belongs to his people. Yet it doesn’t have to be forgotten altogether. So thank you William Tyndale for giving us this word. I think it’s time to bring lovingkindness back into the Christian world and not surrender it to eastern thought. Can we practice lovingkindness? Can we seek to emulate the lovingkindness of God? This is something in God that, like the old song and the psalm says “is better than life.”

May this word, dare I say, this attribute of God, burn in our hearts afresh, like the words of Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. (Psalm 63:1–3, King James Version)

Just Like Us by Lorraine Triggs

Throughout my summer trip to Italy with Operation Mobilization many years ago, we’d rotate days off, which translated into a few of us staying behind to do laundry for the team, shop for food and prepare the evening meal. We also had time during the day to read and write letters home on that marvelously thin par avion paper.

One day off, as my teammates and I hung wet laundry on the clothesline to dry in the church courtyard, we noticed two guys peering over the church gate.

“Hey, are you Americans?” one of them asked. We looked at each other. English? People other than teammates speaking English? We were overjoyed. In the small village in rural Italy, well, the only language we heard was Italian.

“And Canadian,” John answered, loyal to his homeland. By now, the five of us walked over to the gate and swung it open to these two Americans who talked like us, looked like us and had, what we would describe these days, as shared values.

We put their book satchels in the corner, and fed them lunch complete with cups of cold water. One of the guests asked if he could play the guitar that was lying around. We talked and sang earnest 70s folk songs. We invited them to stay for dinner. 

Soon, the rest of the team returned. We introduced our new friends to our teammates. They’re here in Italy, just like we are. We asked them to stay for dinner.

“No,” our team leader Arnie said firmly. “They need to leave.” He pointed to their satchels. “Now.” 

“But they are just like us,” we protested feebly. 

Arnie shook his head in dismay at his team.

The two young men picked up their satchels and made a hasty exit, no thank-you or good-bye.

“Why did you ask them to stay?” Arnie explained, “They are not preaching the gospel. They’re Mormon missionaries.” 

Oops. We learned that day that not all missionaries are like us no matter how much they look and sound like us.

Like it or not, I am still prone to the just-like-us mindset. I am more comfortable with people like me. It’s natural. You know, same-feathered birds being together.

But we weren’t in Italy to meet people like us. We were there to find people not like us and point them to Jesus.

I’ve been thinking about that lately, especially with this Explore God initiative that begins at church tomorrow. There’s an Explore God billboard on North Avenue that boldy declares: “We all have questions.”

Well, my question is do we only want people who are just like us to explore God, or are we ready to explore God with whoever—the weary, the wounded or the wanderer who might walk through our front doors or join our discussion group or live near us? 

It’s easy to give the right answer when it’s theoretical, but when there are real people standing before us, well, it’s different. Are we ready?