Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Missionary (10/19/06)
TITLE: Anywhere but Africa
By Ed VanDeMark
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“I go to church isn’t that enough?”
“If I give my life to Jesus he’ll make me do stuff I don’t wantna do.”
“Snakes drip off trees in Africa.”
For 35 years reading was a chore. Chores were boring. Boredom was for old people, girls with thick glasses, clumsy nerds and Aunt Emma. There is an exception to every rule and Aunt Emma certainly is exceptional but if we had discussed it I would have told her that she was an old person. It’s a miracle that I picked up and read that tract.
“How do I get this Lord?”
“Seek and ye shall find, knock and the door will be opened unto you.”
Parents with young children get a choice. They either sleep or read. I sought and I found.
“There is absolutely no way I’m going to go to that alter. Not today. Not ever.”
I’m still not sure how I got there but there I was kneeling at the rail.
“What are these people going to think?”
Two years passed and I was the reading and alter call poster boy.
“You call yourself a Christian and you’ve never read the bible?”
“Come on up to this alter it’s a special place, good things happen here.”
“Faith is more than talk, you gotta walk the walk.”
Newspapers come into the house one day and out to the curb the next but not this one.
“That’s Steve on the front page.”
Steve had worked for me on two occasions. He had lots of potential but he always fell short.
“This says that he escaped from jail.”
The following day’s paper said that they recaptured him.
“I should do something about this…but I really don’t know him that well.”
The four by four photo haunted me for days that turned into weeks. The paper had gone from the kitchen table to the top of the refrigerator. I’m six foot tall. I can see the top of the refrigerator.
Ken a Christian cop from the neighboring County had an active jail ministry. He was the guest speaker at our Sunday school class. He was from the County where Steve was being held.
“I know what I’ll do, I’ll call Ken. I’ll ask him to visit Steve.”
First thing Monday morning I called Ken. He agreed to go see Steve.
“Thank you Lord for sending Ken…he’s a good man.”
Tuesday afternoon my phone rang, it was Ken. He said that he missed Steve because he had been convicted and was transferred to State prison. “God didn’t want me to see him; it’s you he’s chosen for this not me. You better be doing this yourself.”
“I really don’t know Steve all that well Lord.”
Days passed. Weeks passed and that newspaper still sat on the top of my refrigerator. The Holy Spirit had become rather chatty. Every time I came near the refrigerator he spoke to me and he wasn’t discussing my diet.
“OK. OK Lord. I’ll write this kid a letter if you insist.”
Two sentences into my letter the Holy Spirit seemed to be saying “send Steve a bible”.
“I’ve got an old one around here some place.”
My wife, Linda, said “What are you doing.” I told her who Steve was and explained the newspaper. I told her about Ken and the letter that I was writing. She said “I think you should send him a bible.” The bible accompanied my letter.
Two weeks later I received a letter from Steve. It read “ever since I’ve been in jail I’ve been praying God if you are God get me a bible.”
“Wow! That’s powerful.”
Linda began to insist that I visit Steve.
“I did my part. I wrote the letter… and… I sent the bible.”
Linda was insistent. She drove me to the front door of the maximum security prison.
“OK, OK I’ll go”
Five minutes later I returned to the car.
“The guard says the whole family can visit him.”
Linda reluctantly followed with our two younger kids. Our eight year old son was already on his way to the front door of this prison that also housed the Son of Sam.
Steve needed a family because he didn’t have one of his own.
The Lord certainly has a special way of calling Missionaries into his mission fields.
“Snakes may drip off trees in Africa but after five years in this mission I can assure you that it’s pretty safe ministering to inmates.”
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