I finally took some time yesterday to begin to read from some journals that my neighbor had loaned me. These time worn, hand written notes contain the stories her grandfather wrote of his activities and insights during his time overseas as a Methodist Missionary to Russia and then Manchuria in the late 19-teens through the 1920’s. When financial aid began to falter due to the great depression in the United States, he was called back to the USA and ministered first in the South Georgia Conference of the Methodist Church and then transferred back home to the North Georgia Conference so that he could be close to his beloved mountains!
So, like I said, I’ve just begun to read his notes but I’ve already found myself excitedly traveling along with him as he ministered to the lost, started churches and also attended various conferences in Europe. In the first book I opened up written on November 20, 1927, he was attending services in various Methodist Missions in Belgium. During his time there he also reported going to multiple services of the Salvation Army. I found my anticipation growing as he began to write of a meeting that he attended that was presided over by General Bramble Booth, the eldest son and appointed successor of General William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army. (William Booth, April 10, 1829 – August 20, 1912, is considered by many to be one of “God’s Generals” of the modern Christian Church.)
He described Bramble, who was in his seventies at the time, as being “an old man, very grey and a very fine looking man”* (General Booth died two years later in 1929). And while he did not go into much detail about the contents of the message that the General gave, he did detail some of the testimonies given by men whose lives were changed by the intervention of the Salvation Army. I was impressed with the way the “Army” reached out to the sick, hurting and very needy of their time with respect and honor to those being ministered to.
I have read in other historical accounts of the organization of how most other denominations shunned the “Army” because of the class of people they associated with in their ministry in the slums with those living in prostitution, drunkenness and poverty, many times forced into that lifestyle due to the laws and regulations of the day.
What I immediately noticed as I read the notes written on the yellowed pages, was the excitement for ministry and the life of God that was stirring up inside me! As I pushed back from the table and began to prepare dinner I thought about how different Piper’s and my lifestyle had been from many others we knew in our neighborhood, at work and in the other associations in our lives. Life to us was… and still is to a degree, centered on ministering the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It dawned on me that as an Associate Pastor leading children, youth, and young adult and music ministries for over 35 years, that I spent the majority of my ministry seeking new and innovative ways to make the Gospel come alive with understanding, zeal and excitement in the lives of the young people we had the honor to teach! Over the years I had been constantly on the look out to see what in the mainstream media as well as other Christian ministries was capturing the attention of kids and youth. Then I would attempt to integrate acceptable portions of what was working for them into our ministry.
Piper and I, and then our kids as well, ate, drank and slept ministry! It was our world. When I had to step down from my last assignment in 2012 in order to better assist my wife’s needs I felt an immediate sense of loss. The writing of this blog has been a Godsend to me as it has given me an outlet to minister the Word by sharing many of the lessons I’ve learned through our walk down the road we are now taking with my wife’s health needs. I am always appreciative and blessed when I hear that my experiences are helpful to those reading the blog!
But what’s next? At times I wonder if there WILL be a next! But as I just barely began to read from those journals yesterday, I felt an old friendly fire sparking up inside me once again! I turned to Piper, got down on my knees next to her as she sat in her chair and looked deeply into her beautiful brown eyes and declared: “You do know that Papa God still has plans for you and me, don’t you?” And while she may not have given me any physical recognition to what I was saying, I felt something jump inside me and believe I could feel something inside her as well!
I saw a picture the other day of a gal who reminded me soooo much of Piper. It wasn’t even that she looked anything like my wife except that she was petite and slender as is my girl, but it was the look on her face as she was reaching out and doing something with her hands. The look of confident concentration, the way she pressed her lips together and the gleam in her eyes said: “Piper!” Within a moment of time I remembered that look of bold, happy, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” confidence that was always present in her. (See Philippians 4:13)
It reminded me of how she always stood with me in ministry with the look that said “Let’s do it!” no matter how weird, different, outlandish, ridiculous or impossible my idea was! Now that’s the gal I married… and it is the gal I expect to continue to minister hand in hand with in this chapter of our lives.
How about you? What excites you concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ? What is it that ignites the fires that burn inside you for the things of God? What plans and directions do you think that Papa God might still have for you to accomplish in this chapter of your life? Isn’t it about time that you found out and began to pursue them? I don’t believe that it is ever too late to do what He has called you to do… no matter how outlandish or ridicules it may seem to you… After all… our God specializes in the impossible, doesn’t He? (Check out: Matthew 19:26, Luke 1:37, Luke 18:27)
Have a great rest of the week, and as you go out to explore the possibilities that Papa God has for you, keep asking yourself… “What exciting things am I expecting to do for God today?”
*Personal journals written by The Rev. George Erwin, book date beginning with entry November 20, 1927