“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” — I Corinthians 15:58
Sometimes we wonder if our efforts to help others make any difference, especially when they don’t respond. For example, nearly 38 years ago, a local church sent my family a nice letter telling us they had prayed for our sick daughter. We provided no reply whatsoever. They had no idea if their prayers or their letter made any difference, yet 5 years later we “coincidentally” became members of that very same church.
As Adrian Monk would say “Here’s what happened” : In 1982, our 2-year-old daughter Anne was hospitalized. Verita, who learned of our situation, told her Wednesday night prayer group. A few days later we received a letter, signed by 14 church members, telling us they had prayed for Anne’s healing. I didn’t know any of them or anything about the church.
Anne got better. We never thanked the church for praying. Their nice letter was filed away. We didn’t think much about it, as we weren’t attending any church. In early 1987, my wife, Martha, and I decided to get serious about following Jesus and started looking for a church. After a lot of Christian TV and prayer, one Sunday morning I pedaled my 10-speed bike toward a church near town, hoping for some exciting worship. On the way I came upon a white church on the hill, where a man was walking up the stairs to the front door. It was about worship time, so I decided to stop and try this church instead.
As I entered the building, I saw a familiar, friendly face. Duane and I had just met a couple of weeks before. He remembered me, warmly shook my hand and handed me a bulletin. I felt welcome.
As the service progressed, a man stood up to lead intercessory prayer time. I recognized immediately that it was Al, whom I had known from bowling league a few years before.
Pastor Johnny Jackson Jr. preached a powerful sermon, and I enjoyed the message. He mentioned a fellowship meal downstairs after the service, but I decided to go home and tell Martha what happened; Maybe we’d come back the next Sunday. I was headed toward my bike when Denny and Linda came over to introduce themselves, and invite me to the fellowship meal.
Being caught a little off guard, I made several excuses: “I can’t. My wife and daughters are expecting me home soon.” Linda said “They’re welcome to join us.”
I said “I don’t have a ride, and they’re probably not ready. I don’t have any way to call them.” She said “We can get you a ride, and you can use the phone in the front office.”
Out of excuses, I picked up the phone and called Martha. “Hi, I’m at the First Baptist Church. They are having a luncheon, and we’re invited. Can you and the girls be ready in a few minutes?”
Surprisingly, she said “Sure, that would be great.”
My bike went into the back of Deacon Harold’s truck and a few minutes later we picked up Martha; our now 6-year-old daughter, Anne; and her 2-year old sister, Jessica. At the luncheon, we met more friendly people, including Harold’s wife, Beverly; Johnny’s wife, Tanya; Helene; Ann and Andy; Peter and Cathy; Dianne; Belle; and Janet.
Another church member, Jewel, said she lived just down the street from us and that she could give us rides to church anytime. We took her up on it, and a month later, Martha and I were baptized and joined the church.
A few weeks later we remembered that old nice letter and were amazed to learn that we were now attending that very same church.
We thanked God and shared the letter with our new friends, some of whom had signed it five years earlier.
That was 33 years ago, and we are still going to First Baptist Church.
So keep on serving, brothers and sisters.
You never know what God will do, even if the ones you are helping never say a word.
• Guy Crockroft is executive director of Love Inc Juneau. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.