Friday August 9th was just another day, or so I thought as I rolled in at 7:30 that morning. I'm the apprentice to River City Ministry's Executive Director and Evangelist. I'm an urban evangelist with much needed training wheels. Every day, my God reminds me that I have no clue what I'm doing, I am here to learn and depend on Him.
I showed up droopy eyed, because we have a beautiful two week old baby girl, and somehow even the one who doesn't stay awake the whole night with the new born manages to feel like they did. God bless my wife! Anyway, I don't usually come in on Fridays, Fridays are family days, but Anthony (the Executive Director) was out of town and Paul (the Operations Director) was out of the country. I was glad to do it, a little proud of the fact that I was trusted to be the man of the house, so to speak, and a little afraid of the responsibility.
I was getting ready for a trip to Georgia to speak to one of my supporting churches, and getting ready to speak at River City Church for the first time since moving here. I thought I was ready for the latter, but Anthony has been teaching me how to speak to the urban culture. I love this form of speaking, but it is new to me because I spent the last 8ish years speaking to white churches who were, for the most part, more middle class. I tell you all this so you can understand that I was tempted to stay in the office and work on my sermon. I could always leave the door open in case anyone wanted to talk.
But that's not my job. I have left the days of the desk job behind. Now I am an evangelist. I'm glad for the change; for the last few years I have wanted to be a minister and not a preacher. I did not want to spend my time preparing lessons for those who are saved or have "enough Jesus" in their lives. God was pushing me to really get out there and serve. God bless our brothers who dedicate their lives to teaching and encouraging the saints, we need you, and I appreciate every effort made to push the comfortable church member out of their comfort zone and into the Lord's work. But it was time for me to step out of my own comfort zone and do what I knew God wanted from me.
Now my job is to try to teach those who come to River City Ministry, a day center for the poor and homeless, about Jesus. I had a bunch of Bible studies and lots of times of prayer with those who showed an interest, and was even able to help seven people renew their walk with God, but I had not been able to lead anyone to the water for baptism. I pray everyday as I get ready for work that God will open the heart of those who need to change, that He will help me see who they are or that He will bring them to me, and that He will give me His words and His heart so that I can lead them to Him. Today was the day that this all happened.
Everyone I talked to that morning was glad to take the time and talk about God. When I asked them if they would like to sit and pray with me, everyone said yes. Two people even asked to pray for me! I was grateful for the prayers, I sure need them. I saw two men who I tried to help get set up with a P.O. Box at the Day Recourse Center and was talking with them when a man came in who was an answer to my daily prayer. He was there to talk and I knew that he was someone I was supposed to talk to. I asked him if we could sit and pray together and our prayer time developed into a Bible study. Mike shared his struggles and we talked about how he could begin his walk with Jesus. He had faith in Jesus and was ready to change his life, as we studied about counting the cost of discipleship and began discussing baptism, he told me that this was what he needed and he was ready to make it count.
During our talk, Mama B poked her head in to say hello and I told her the good news of my new friend's decision to give his life to the Lord. She asked if she could come along, and as she went to gather her stuff, a friend asked her where she was going. When a man I have never seen before heard her say that she was on the way to a baptism, he asked her if anyone could be baptized! She said, "You better come talk to Steven." God was filling the nets as fast as I could draw them in!
We sat and talked and Bill told me he was ready to give his life to the Lord, he just wanted to make sure that he knew how and that he didn't fall back into sin. So we talked about what a commitment he was making and how by God's help he could keep walking the walk after he was born again.
So, off we went rejoicing, just as God was rejoicing with His angels in heaven. We waved good by to their old lives and old identities, and welcomed two of God's newborn babes with warm embraces. On the ride back, Mike shared that he wanted to be a voice for God but wasn't sure how to start. I told him to just share how good God is, to share how God was patient with him, and how He give him a new life and would do the same for them. We stopped at a church that hands out sack meals so Mike and Bill could grab a meal to save for dinner (both men are homeless). When we got there, Mike talked to everyone he saw about how good his God is! God is busy in Mike's life, because Mike learned what it is to surrender to him.
When we got back for lunch, I announced the wonderful news that two of the Shepherd's wandering sheep were carried back to His fold. In the middle of the announcement, I kid you not, a man interrupted and said; "Can you baptize me when you're done?" HA! Isn't our God awesome!
This was Marshall. We had talked three days ago about him coming to the Lord! He had never heard the parable of the prodigal son, and when he did it brought him to tears. We talked about what he needed to do and he said he wanted to be baptized, but not today. I warned him about putting it off, but I didn't want to pressure him into anything. Anthony talked to him and had him promise that he would at least come back the next day, after study and prayer, to talk more about it. He said he would. before he left that day he said, "It won't be tomorrow, it will be Thursday." I was concerned that he was putting it off and that he wouldn't show. Well, Thursday came and went and there was no sign of Marshall.
Thursday, before Anthony left, he told me, "That happens, but then again, he may show up tomorrow, ready to go. Some times the days you're not expecting anything are the days when you have more responses than you do the whole week." As you can tell, Anthony has been at this for a while, he knows how the inner city flows and how God likes to surprise us.
God filled the nets, I pulled in the fish, and God cleaned them. When you become fishers for men, you never know when God will bring the big haul or which side you will be fishing on when it happens. But when my God delivers, He really delivers. The day I don't usually come in, became the day that I'm glad I didn't miss. My God is great! He delivers souls, changes lives, and enriches the lives of all those who He uses in the process.
That day, a brother who had never been able to baptize anyone came with us and was able to baptize Marshall. He was so happy that he cried. He, Mama B, two others who came with us, and I were so happy about God letting us be there to witness three of his children come home that we could talk of nothing else the rest of the day. There was partying on earth and in Heaven that day, and the three men who gave their lives to him were the guests of honor.