SHAMGAR. I Always Have To Explain
And to the extent that my Spiritual life has contributed to who and what I am, today, to my entire life.
"Shamgar" refers to a course of training I participated in, from December 1969 to May 1970. The real "meat" of it came in four retreats, held at the Southern Indiana Methodist Campgrounds, just outside Mitchell, Indiana, on the last weekend of February, March, April and May, 1970.
The course was obviously named after the Biblical character Shamgar, who appears only twice in Scripture.
Judges 3:31: "After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel."
Judges 5:6: “In the days of Shamgar son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned; travelers took to winding paths."
The real focus in the training was 3:31. All we know Biblically about Shamgar was that he killed 600 Philistines with an oxgoad ... basically a stick with a point on the end ... and played a notable part in the delivery of Israel. Putting that into a modern context, Shamgar's aim was to arm Christian businessmen ... from all walks of life ... to advance the Kingdom causes with whatever we had in our hands. A cocktail napkin, a microphone, a blackboard, or whatever. To move us beyond the point where we needed a Bible, a tract, or some other aid. To be able to share Jesus without external help.
The first thing Shamgar did for me was to cement the certainty of my own salvation. When you learn, the plan of salvation, by heart, you can objectively discern that you have, indeed, conformed to the Biblical definition of a Christian. Sort of divorce your salvation from the subjectivity of emotions and attach it to the objectivity of your actions and your beliefs.
For me, that was huge.
After the 3rd weekend retreat, we were encouraged to share the "plan of salvation" we'd memorized with 4 Christian friends .. one a week .. before our final session. We hadn't learned yet how to handle someone who wanted to be saved, hence the instructions to share with Believers.
I was talking a few days later with a Christian insurance client of mine, a Charles Chips distributor, and I told him I'd like to share something with him; he said "Why not come to my Sunday School class and share with them?" I said OK, and got a sheet of poster board and a marker to draw out the plan that we'd normally share on a sheet of paper. He picked me up Sunday morning and when he got on the Interstate, I asked where he want to church. He said "Oh ... this isn't at my church .. I teach Sunday School at the Plainfield Boys' Prison".
Well, I went ahead and made the presentation. But when I got to the end, I didn't know how to proceed. We hadn't learned that, yet. I looked at Red and he said "Go ahead, you're doing fine". So I cobbled up something from what I'd read in "The Cross and the Switchblade" and when I was done, 6 teens had knelt at their desks and asked Jesus to save them. I was so intimidated I did not appreciate the moment, but the guys sure did at the next retreat......
Shamgar also caused something else unexpected in my life. Shortly after the final weekend retreat, ... about 30 days .. Peg and I went on a Witnessing Crusade to Haiti. One of the places we visited, on a Sunday morning, was a brush arbor church .. called a Tonel .. atop a plateau at Massabeuil, Haiti. WE hiked about 4 miles from the road, up about 1500', to the church. When we got there, worship was going on and we loved hearing them sing in Creole ... sort of a "Pigeon-French". What was unexpected was that the leader of our group, Dave Graffenberger .. also the head of the OMS mission in Haiti ... asked me to deliver the morning message. I told him I wasn't a preacher .. we had one of those in our group ... but I had just learned a nice story-telling way to explain the plan of salvation.
He said "Great ... that'll be perfect ... something simple..." and said he'd interpret for me. My oh my ... culture shock level professional. But I did it. There was some response, but it was in Creole, so I didn't know what was going on.
That led to one of the first miracles in my life, that I actually witnessed myself. When we got back to the bus, I took off my (wet) shoes & socks, and had a blood blister about the size of a thumbprint on each big toe. As I was rubbing them, Lawrence Sackman, who was the one minister on the trip with us, said to me: "Those are beautiful to Jesus." Suddenly feeling somewhat ashamed, I put my shoes and socks back on.
The next morning, they were gone. Completely.
Anyway, to the picture above. Back in 1997, at the dawn of the internet, I found Doug Snider, of Shamgar ministries, and sent him a letter. I thanked him for what he'd meant in my journey with Jesus, and the papers above were what he sent back to me, in return. They consist of, left to right, 4 pages of a commitment form that we'd all filled out in our final session, and given to him. It highlighted some things we'd generally need to do in order to focus as best we could on serving the Lord in our everyday lives.
There's also a very kind letter he wrote me. He explained he'd been cleaning out some old files and found them and thought I'd like to have them. We'd been the 5th session ever, of Shamgar, and in 1997, it was still going strong, And, indeed, it still is, a terrific testimony to Doug and God's faithfulness, even after Doug's death about a year after he sent me the stuff.
Fair warning: take steps to become more dangerous to the devil, and there's no telling how far God will take you. But what a ride it'll be!!
There's an old mantra to the effect that I'm not all I could be, but thank God I'm not what I used to be. Sometimes it's good to look back at some written evidence of just what God can do in one's life.
Thanks again, Doug.