Jake sighed as he opened his church bulletin – this morning there was a missionary recognition service. How he longed to be a missionary! Every week as he drove his big truck across the country he spent time talking with God about his desire to be a missionary to a foreign land. When missionaries spoke at his church, his heart quickened at the stories they told of exotic places. In his heart, he felt God’s assurance that he would be a missionary, but how could he go? His mom and his handicapped brother depended on the money he made. What would happen to them if he followed his dream?
The service began with a song, Send Me, O Lord, Send Me. The words threatened to shred Jake’s heart. How could he sit through another service like this with such a deep longing unfulfilled? If he hadn’t promised to go to lunch with Steve and Lisa, he’d leave right now.
Young people marched in, carrying flags from the countries to which his church sent missionaries. They had even included the American flag. That was unusual. Jake wondered if someone had gotten confused.
The scripture was Acts 1:8 NIV, “…and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Jake looked at the flags representing the ‘ends of the earth.’ He bowed his head and asked God to forgive his jealousy over those who went to such places.
Pastor Tim began, “Today’s service is different. Usually we have missionaries speak about their work. This morning, the work is going to speak about the missionary. Helen, would you come to the platform?”
A small woman timidly took the microphone. “For years my husband emotionally and mentally abused our children and me. I had finally reached the point where I thought the only way to save the children was to leave him. Then one day he returned early from work and asked us all to come to the living room. What happened next was a shock.
‘Helen, children,’ he said, ‘I’m sorry I haven’t been the husband and father I should be. I’m sorry I have hurt you. I’m a changed man today, and I promise that I will never hurt you again. Will you forgive me?’
My husband told us how a man had come to the warehouse where he worked and told him about Jesus. He told us how he had asked Jesus to be his Savior. All I could do was weep. How long I had prayed for that day.”
A teenager was next. His story was about his mom. She had been living a life-style that was embarrassing and hurtful to him and his sisters. He told of a man who frequently ate in the restaurant where his mom worked. He told how that man had introduced his mom to Jesus and what a difference it had made in their lives.
Others spoke of changes in their loved ones. Last was an old couple that looked vaguely familiar to Jake.
The woman spoke. “We were traveling when my husband suffered a heart attack. He pulled the car to the side of the road, and I got out to get help. Many cars passed us by. Then a big truck stopped, and the nicest young man called for an ambulance and stayed with us until it came. He told us about Jesus in a way that we had never heard before, and both of us accepted him as our Savior right there on the side of the road.”
Pastor Tim returned to the microphone. “Brothers and sisters, it seems that we have our own special resident missionary. These people, and many others, have called and written to our church telling what Jake Cummings has done for them. All those who could, came today. Many of the others sent letters expressing their appreciation, which we compiled in a scrapbook. Jake, will you come forward?”
In a daze, Jake went to the platform.
“Jake,” Pastor Tim said, “today we want to recognize you as a missionary in your ‘Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria’.
The congregation rose as one and erupted in thunderous applause. Those on stage crowded around Jake, hugging and crying and all talking at once. But Jake’s heart heard one quiet voice above all the rest, “Well done, my missionary son.”
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