“But thanks be to God, who made us his captives and leads us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now wherever we go he uses us to tell others about the Lord and to spread the Good News like a sweet perfume.”
—2 Corinthians 2:14 (New Living Translation)
As we approach this season of Thanksgiving, I can’t help but review the events and people who have left their mark on my life. At the time, I probably didn’t appreciate them as much as I do now, but hindsight is always 20/20, isn’t it?
I’d never thought much about heading off to the mission field. In fact, after an extremely boring slide show during fourth-grade church camp, I prayed that God would find something—anything—for me to accomplish closer to home. Our special Saturday night guest arrived at an after-dinner meeting towing a slide projector, a gargantuan case of slides, and a stack of handouts. His wide-eyed expression reminded me of Aunt Bea on Mayberry, RFD, right after she realized that she’d ruined her whole batch of dill pickles.
I’d never met a real-life missionary until that night. Maybe they should have sent a guy who laughed once in a while. Maybe he should have dressed down a bit and wore jeans instead of slacks and a white dress shirt. Or maybe it would have helped if he’d warmed up his audience with a funny story or two. He didn’t seem like any of the dads or pastors I knew. His description of missions work sounded very much like torture.
After switching off the lights, this nervous-twitchy little man cleared his throat, then quoted a few key verses that dripped with “thee’s,” “thou’s,” and “thy’s”. The show began with a grass hut deep in some faraway jungle, and moved on to slides of huge snakes with exotic names I couldn’t pronounce.
“We found this mammoth python coiled around a bucket in our washing area!” he said breathlessly.
Oh great. Pleee-ase, God, do NOT ask me to be a missionary!
The slide show moved on to a series of hairy spiders and a pile of huge mosquitoes that might have drilled the jugular of unwary victims while they slept, had he not done some fancy baiting to lure them into the Mason-jar trap.
When the lights flicked back on, nobody said a word. (Imagine two hundred kids stuffed into a steamy dining hall, and nobody speaking.) It was quite the night to remember. Afterwards, on my trek back up the hill to our cabin, I aimed my brand-new red flashlight back and forth across the path. A girl couldn’t be too careful. You never knew where snakes would hide, the missionary had warned us.
With maturity came a better understanding of God’s “call”. I realized that as a believer, wherever I live, whatever I spend my life doing, He asks me to view my little corner of the world with new eyes. To reflect Jesus by watching for opportunities to show simple kindnesses. To be a friend to the friendless. Encourage a stranger. Cheer a child on. Lift someone’s chin. Leave a good word.
This season, when our hearts turn towards the blessings we enjoy, and the concerns we share as a nation, I’m thankful I had the opportunity to attend church camp as a child. That experience helped me think beyond my own small community, to a world filled with needs I couldn’t begin to imagine. I never thought I’d count that “boring” camp speaker as one of the most influential people God ever brought across my path, but it’s true.
God’s timetable always casts a shadow of the bigger picture.
©2008, Bonnie Bruno
For more slice-of-life stories, visit Bonnie’s Macromoments blog: http://macromoments.blogspot.com