Photo by Garrett
Some of the very best missionary stories happen in aeroplanes. Aeroplanes or aeroports. You know the kind: "I was 10,000 feet up between _____ and _____, and the Lord allowed me to lead my atheist fellow passenger to Christ." And then what followed was a mini-revival on flight number AF1234 all because the intrepid Christian blog author got into a discussion about the article he was writing.
Sorry. This is not one of those stories.
Eight days ago I travelled back to my country of origin for a week of meetings. Apart from the ridiculously early start, the journey was going very smoothly. I made my flight connections with time to spare and zero stress. On arrival in a familiar culture, it was good to breathe the English air and be immersed in chatter which took no effort to understand. Bliss. I boarded the bus for the penultimate leg of my journey.
I handed over £10. That's when it all started going wrong.
"We don't give change."
What??! Since when do bus drivers not give change? Since now, apparently. A random passenger offered 30p to me, then random stranger number two came forward with £1. Together with my loose change it was enough, and I settled down next to random stranger number two for a long bus ride; prepared to share the gospel with this man that God had clearly put in my path. Only, English was not his first language and, despite my best efforts to engage in conversation, he seemed happy to just gaze out of the window.
I disembarked in Birmingham city centre, and with a few hours to spare before meetings started, decided to wander around and enjoy some space. That's when Derek came into my life.
Derek is 61, homeless, has no front teeth and arrived in England from the Caribbean island country of Dominica when he was 11. He wanted some change to buy breakfast. Now, as a general rule I avoid handing out cash to random homeless strangers, especially as I don't have a lot! But I remembered God's provision for me earlier that morning and decided to buy him some food. Another God-given opportunity, right? So as we settled down to sausage and bacon baps and tea, I chatted with Derek listening intently as food sprayed out of his mouth where his teeth should have been holding it in, and tried to steer our conversation towards more spiritual matters. But he was really most interested in whether I was going to give him some money. Derek eventually accepted prayer for a better life and we parted ways.
So here I am, back at the aeroports, meetings over, mulling over the last ten days of missionary misadventure: Saturday when I was invited to take part in a round-table discussion at a regional evangelism day at a French Bible college and left afterwards thinking my three-sentence contribution hadn't been worth me being there. Or Sunday, when I was shouting at my misbehaving children in front of my house wondering what the neighbours must be thinking. Followed by the bus bungle, the Derek disaster AND a distinct lack of aeroplane stories.
Missionary – really? Do you ever get that ‘failure’ feeling?
At times like this that it's good to remember that Jesus actually surrounded Himself with people like me: misfits, losers, failures...
Thomas the doubter
Matthew the cheat
Peter the coward
Judas the traitor
What a comfort to know that He loves me even when I miss the opportunities, or just plain mess up! How nice that it's not about my aeroplane stories. He chose to love me and if He wants to use me – despite my weaknesses – then I need to persevere in allowing myself to be used by Him. So I will persevere! I will trust that our God, who is sovereign, IS working, even though with my limited human perspective I can’t always see how. What makes this approach even more liberating is that I can be sure that any fruit I eventually see will be God’s work, not mine, and I can join the amazing Apostle Paul in saying, “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” - 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT)
THIS is what keeps me going! Knowing that I have Christ’s power at work in me: In the bus. In the street. Yes, even in the plane.
Well, it's time to board. I wonder who I’ll sit next to…