I LOVE to look back. Sometimes it’s painful, sometimes it brings joy, but ALWAYS, I see how God has been working in my life leading me to places I never intended to be or ever thought I’d end up.
It was Friday, January 5. Asbury’s baptismal pool was ready for the baptism of an adult male from Thailand, (who, as of January 9, is living and working in China). Wait…we do baptisms on Fridays at Asbury? Well…not usually. However, this circumstance called for flexibility so we flexed.
This young man had come to the U.S. on a temporary visa through his company for job training. Fortunately, he happened upon a group of cigar smoking men who love Jesus and enjoy getting together regularly. These men had befriended this new foreign co-worker and invited him into their small band of brothers. The leader of this men’s group had been praying for this young Thai co-worker to come to know Christ and encouraged his friends to do so as well. After many months of relationship building, laughing, sharing cigars and talking about life, he felt comfortable enough to begin asking deeper questions about faith. In October, he accepted Jesus as his Savior and continued to grow in his new faith surrounded by his band of brothers.
One man in this group, who attends Asbury, reached out to see if we could host a small baptism ceremony before his friend returned to China. We agreed…without hesitation. On that special Friday afternoon, we filled the baptismal tub and then watched and listened to the ceremony which was performed by a pastor from Apex. The best part of the service was when this group of back slapping, cigar smoking friends shared about their journey with this friend as he awaited baptism. One by one they shared about how their journey began with prayer, and the prayer was followed by an invitation to join their group. A relationship of trust and confidentiality was built, leading to acceptance of Christ as Lord and now, baptism.
The final piece to this special service was hearing from the baptism candidate. He shared how this story began more than a decade earlier. A friend from his university invited him to attend church. Another friend from China stayed in touch with him while he was in the U.S., letting him know he was being prayed for while away. Finally, he met the crazy Americans at work who found time in their busy schedule to invite him in, to invest in relationship and who lived in a way that set them apart, which became the catalyst for questions about faith. Discussions, acceptance and love, (A.K.A. relationship) led to Jesus.
When he emerged from the water, he was smiling from ear to ear. I must admit, we all were. I felt warm tears running down my cheeks because as I had listened to his story I was struck by God’s tenacious involvement. I was touched by the lengths that God went to, to capture this man’s heart. So many people worked together to usher him into the family of God over a long period of time. GOD DID NOT GIVE UP.
Asbury friends, this is the result of engaging in relationships where Christ transforms. It was a beautiful picture of people locking arms to love another brother into the kingdom. In his story, we heard of the work of sowers, waterers (new word) and reapers – a beautiful combined effort of love.
God invites us to join him in sowing, watering and harvesting. God doesn’t need us – but he wants us to help. I walked away from that holy moment asking myself, “Who am I intentionally praying for? Who am I investing in right now?” Am I being intentional about sharing my faith OR am I allowing the busyness of life to cloud my focus, stopping me from reaching out and investing in others?
What about you friends? How do you answer these questions? It’s a new year and a new day. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work – starting with prayer – and see where God leads us. After all, the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Jesus prayed for harvest hands. Might that be us?
~Submitted by Sharon Hensley, Director of Groups and Service