November 3, 2012

Real Living

Just one more Sabbath of door-to-door outreach.

One more Sabbath where I worked all day and come back far more rested, satisfied, and contented than a hundred Sabbath's spent lying on a couch or talking to friends. How does the Lord do that? I don't know, but I'm grateful He does.

Today a precious lady drove an hour to church and brought her husband along. Her name came just weeks ago from the Hope Channel. She wanted Bible Studies. Last week a dozen of us squeezed into her apartment and sang scripture songs with her. This week as we visited before potluck she confided to me with her heart in her voice that "You all coming and singing was the nicest thing I think anyone has done for me. I've never seen people be so nice..."

I smiled of course, and told her we loved her, even as my mind reeled in disbelief. Can the simplest of simple acts truly carry such weight? Can it really be that easy?

Oh how much mercy the Lord has on us to make our weak, pitiful efforts fruitful and meaningful!

Last spring, Dominique knocked on Alice's door while canvassing on a free Sunday with a small team from school. She invited him in and bought four books. He looked just like her son, she said.

Soon after she came to an evangelistic series put on by the students. She was nearly the only one who did. Besides a handful of church members there were never more than one or two visitors attending each night. Not a soul was baptized. But Alice started coming to church and prayer meeting, driving an hour each way.

Half a year later Alice was still attending and several times invited the whole group of us students to her home and insisted on feeding us great quantities of food, even catering to our vegan diet. One week she announced at prayer meeting that she had decided to quit smoking.

Within another week she was dead.

An illness took her in her sleep.

As we sang "The Blessed Hope" at her funeral I couldn't help but wonder, what if...?

What if Dominique had spent that Sunday doing homework instead of canvassing?
What if the evangelistic meetings hadn't been done last spring? It wasn't the most convenient time for sure. I wasn't involved with it then, but I know dedicated young people who never mentioned how much their grades were suffering because they were writing sermons and driving two hours each night to hold those meetings.
What if the meetings had been stopped because of low attendance? Alice only came to the last four....

What if?
I don't even want to think about it.

Nor do I want to think about the hundreds and thousands of beautiful hearts that will die before I can get the book in their hand... or the invitation, or the survey.

A canvassing leader who trained me had a catch phrase he would use to urge students to get out of the van faster. "The people are dying!" he would enthuse, drumming his fists on the steering wheel. I laughed at his goofy grin then, but ever since Alice died the phrase holds a meaning for me that it never did before.
The people are dying, faster than we can get to them. I wish I could say their souls lie heavy on my heart, and that I cannot sleep because their case haunts me, but you know? I can't. I have a calloused heart that forgets they even exist.
I am appalled at the selfishness within me that still, at times, dreads approaching that first door; that hides within comfortable shyness while the woman at the checkout, and the neighbor next door, and the kid at the gas station exist in sin and error's living death.

Yet I rest in the assurance that there is help for my calloused heart in the loving help of the man Jesus.
He helps me do outreach.
He casts out the fear with His perfect love.
He makes the longest Sabbath's restful.
He awakens the hearts of the people.
He gives the words to say at just the moment they are needed.
He protects His servants with a legion of mighty angels.
Oh, He helps, He helps, He helps, and He'd do abundantly more than I could even ask or think if I'd only ask Him to.

I can't resist Him. And when He is on the throne of my heart, I want to do outreach. I love it.
After all, I was wired to need this. We all were.
We need outreach (may I submit, non-Adventist outreach) for our spiritual health just as much as we need Bible study and prayer. We weren't designed to live for ourselves, and the law of life is that we receive as we give. In reaching out to others we often help ourselves the most. I never cease to be amazed how fast simply giving out a glow tract will clear the yucky, spiritually stagnant, self-focused feelings I have from time to time.

Share the tract, give the smile, take the risk and ask a weary person "How are you doing?" in a compassionate tone (you never know how long it's been since they heard someone say it in a genuine way), go canvassing, give a bible study, hold that series, do the stop smoking seminar, the afternoon bible program for children, the cooking school...
I know a girl and her mom who set a goal to personally deliver a Great Controversy to everyone in their town. Hey, I could do that! Or at least start with my street.

Do these things work? Are they really effective? Are there really people out there who want to read a religious book or study the Bible?

Ohhhh yes. The Holy Spirit sees to that. My current Bible study contact professed no religious interest when we first met her and hasn't set foot in any church for years. But one Sabbath when we stopped in to say hi, she was watching a program on TV about hell. She started asking questions, which led to a Bible study, which led to another, and another. To our surprise, she took the magazine of Bible studies we had given her and went through it page by page looking up the texts. Last week I gave her some Peace Above the Storm magabooks to give to a grieving family she knew and she immediately took interest and asked if I had any more? Could she have one too?

This week she's already partway through reading it. Sweet Anita. I wish you could see her smile now when we come..

I'm glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and pushed past my chilling terror of giving a Bible study. It's not even that hard. And let me tell you, I'd way rather be in Anita's smoky little apartment answering eager questions and watching her revel in the awakening freedom of truth than sleeping on any comfortable couch or taking a hike.

It's worth it.

They're worth it.

"He is no fool who gives what He cannot keep, to gain what He cannot lose."-- Jim Elliot


  1. I love you, Beth. Thanks for sharing the inspiration. :) Your friendship is one of the best gifts God has given me, and I mean that. Keep sharing.

  2. Yes... that's the spirit. So much more to life than self. Yes, the people are dying. I can't wait to get out there and do something about it, too... :)

  3. Um... Beth?
    My heart hurts a little.
    And so do my toes.
    Thanks sister...

    1. Please tell your toes I'm sorry! I didn't mean to. :)