Take a good look at the little girl in the picture at the right, if you would.
Is that joy, or what?
We were on a mission trip, and my duties involved overseeing a Backyard Bible Club/VBS, being held at a small Baptist mission church in the town in which our work was located. The mission was pastored by a man who was well known in the area, and presumably very knowledgeable.
The young man is Mike Yates, one of the teens who were doing the teaching and the like .. Mike, himself, was doing recreation time for the kids.
The little girl was named Isadora .. we called her Izzy .. and she was just as cute as she could be. On the day I took this photo, I'd gone into the nearby mobile home park where she lived to pick up 12+/- kids, and she was one of the last ones to hop on. She then came back up to where I was and asked if I'd "Please stop by the telephone pole over there" so she could pick some little purple flowers that were growing around the base. It seems that several kids had taken flowers to some of the teachers the day before, and one of the teachers hadn't gotten any.
Izzy wanted to fix that.
So I did, Izzy did, and the teacher got her flowers.
By that afternoon, the teacher was irate. It seems that the pastor of the little church plant had made a comment that we needed to stop looking to the trailer parks for children. That there was too much "deadwood" there.
"Deadwood" like Izzy.
They mentioned this on the way to the motel that afternoon, and I asked God to "set up something" so I could talk to the pastor the next day. But nothing came .. there was never a time when I could just casually mention the incident to him. So we went back to the motel (and I secretly breathed a sigh of relief, inside). But I should have known better....
Mid-afternoon, one of the teachers involved called my room. She asked about a particular bible verse, if I could give her the reference; I told her I'd look it up and call her back. But when I picked up my bible to look, it fell open (it really did, folks, I'm not kidding) to this verse:
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord (Matthew 23:37-39, NIV).
I slammed the bible shut and apologized to God for not having confronted the pastor. Then I set about finding the verse the teacher had called about.
The next day, we drove to the site and picked up all the kids. When they were all situated and the teachers started their classes, I approached the preacher and said "Preacher, you, me, by the tree out back, NOW!".
I rehashed what the teachers had told me. He affirmed that yes, there are too many "non-contributors" in the trailer park, to reach out to them. I then read him the verses cited above, and told him that, if he didn't change his heart immediately, and do all he could to reach out to the children that were all around the little church, I didn't care how much money they had in the bank ... God was not going to honor that, and they would not last as a church.
I have to say it was a good thing I was sitting down. My knees would've been trembling had I n0t been. But the conviction I felt was as strong as any I've ever felt, on any matter before or since.
Maybe it took that kind of weight to kick me into action. Maybe. But I find it's been easier to "follow the Leader" since that summer day at that little mission church on the highway.
I can't help but wonder how many Izzy's there are, out there. That nobody much cares about, because they're "non-contributors". But one thing I don't wonder about is the mission church. I don't think it made it.