My lay ministry started when I was in the Air Force. Specifically while I was stationed on a Turkish air base in 1967.
Many of our small contingent were younger than I was and had difficulty adjusting to our isolation and being subject to the authority of another country.
I had no such problem, because as a believer I was never alone -- I had God. That made me ultimately responsible only to the authority of my faith. Because others recognized that I was “different,” they gravitated to me for help in getting through.
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” (1 Peter 2:9 NKJV)
Eventually I was given the nickname “Mom,” by those who appreciated what I was doing in God’s name. I embraced the name as a tribute to the power of witnessing.
It was during this time that I met Frank. At first, I didn’t like him and he didn’t like me. There was no reason for our dislike, it was just one of those “oil and water” things. In spite of any negative feelings, we had to work together and adhere to the unwritten code of soldiers who need to be productive in unity for the good of all. It’s a “we’re all in the same boat” kind of thing.
Not surprisingly, much like the teacher you hated at first who then became your favorite as the school year progressed, Frank and I, with no fanfare or noteworthy event, became best friends. It was with great sadness then when we said good-bye twelve months later, I was shipped to a base in Utah, Frank was sent to Libya. Like so many military friends have done over the years, we lost touch. I never saw Frank again.
From the time I was a child I wanted a relationship with our Lord. Not the “normal” relationship, but one where I could actually converse with Him. It never happened, at least I didn’t think it had. Turns out, I was wrong. God was talking to me all the time… I just couldn’t hear Him.
Later, as my faith matured, I realized I was having disjointed and unexplained thoughts that would come to me out of the blue. At the time, I simple chalked them up to my mind working overtime without my conscious consent. A pattern began to emerge wherein I could delineate between my thoughts and thoughts that were being given to me. The key was simple - my thoughts would go away; the other thoughts would not. They came to me again and again, which made me believe they were not random. Instead, they were the beginning of what I had prayed for; a truly personal relationship with God.
It took me a long time to understand what was happening, but what it comes down to is this - when God wants me to do something He lovingly “pesters” me until I listen and act. Most of the time I have no idea why He asks me to do something, but I’ve learned over the years to trust Him no matter how “silly” or potentially embarrassing matters seem.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;” (Proverbs 3:5).
Frank is a perfect example of what I mean. A few years ago I started having the feeling I was to locate him. I put the feeling aside for weeks until it dawned on me that I was being “pestered.” Believing it was God’s will, I immediately started to search. Thanks to the Internet it only took a short time to find him in Florida where he was a local radio celebrity. I called the next day not knowing what to expect.
When he answered the phone I said, “Frank, this is Ed Mrkvicka.” My next line was going to be “I don’t know if you remember me, but…” Before I could get to that sentence Frank yelled with the glee of a small child at Christmastime, “Mom!” It was like we had never lost a step. We caught up very quickly.
Near the end of the conversation I told him what prompted me to call. And then I said that I didn’t know why, but “God wants me to tell you that He loves you.” I had no idea at the time why God asked me to tell Frank that. The only thing I knew for sure was that He did, so I did. Frank became very quiet and could only say that he wanted us to stay in touch, to which I gladly agreed. Over the next month I think we talked five times, and while we learned about our lives after Turkey, we also talked about the Lord.
Six weeks after our initial telephone reunion Frank called to say he hadn’t been feeling well and had just received the results of a number of tests that indicated he had liver cancer. They were going to attempt a liver transplant. Sadly, the operation never happened, as further last-minute tests showed the cancer had progressed to the point that there was nothing that could be done.
Three days later I called to check on him and say hi, but Frank had died during the night. Only then did I truly understand why God had me do what I did.
In tears, I got down on my knees and thanked God for giving me the privilege of helping a fellow human being in His Holy Name. I was heartbroken that Frank had passed away so soon, but I had great joy knowing that he knew that God had gone out of His way to say He loved him. I pray even to this day that it helped him in his journey.
I don’t know how God talks to you. But I know this, He talks to all who seek Him.
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)