One of the most amazing and humbling experiences I have as a minister is when I see what God does with what I do–even when I don’t know I did it, or how important it was to people.
Years ago I was called as a police chaplain to a trailer. An 18 year old boy had taken his own life by putting a shot-gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger. I sat with his family as the coroner and police did their work 20 feet away. I told each family member what happened as they arrived. Then I sat with them more. For hours. When I left I felt useless, unable to do anything to help. I wondered why the family didn’t just tell me to leave.
The next year I was talking with a professor at the local university. When she found out my name she said, “I know about you!”. It seems one of the young man’s sisters was her assistant. I was stunned when she said” “She never stops talking about you, and how grateful her family is for all you did. She said they never would have made it through that day without you”.
I never knew. I thought I was useless. But God used me even when I didn’t know it!
A few years ago one of the homeless men who had begun to attend our church (donuts are attractive!) told us he had made a commitment of his life to the Lord and wanted to be baptized. We baptized him that week. A few months later he was found dead, lying under the bush he called home. We have a number of people in our church who are homeless, or have been homeless, and when we held a memorial service for this man, many of them turned out. Then, except for a few stories told occasionally, he was forgotten.
Today I received an email from a friend in our church (thanks Rita!). She told me she had heard about a friend of hers–the mother of the homeless man we baptized and memorialized. She told me she had heard from another friend who visited this mother that she is in the final stages of Alzheimers and couldn’t remember much of her life. She apparently had a few memories that have, for some reason, burned themselves into her mind.
One of those memories is of “that church on Lincoln” who gave her son a memorial service, and showed love for him and her.
When I read that email, I was surprised, humbled, amazed, and grateful that years later God had uses something we did to encourage this woman and remind her when she remembers virtually nothing that God’s people love her.
Love Jesus, and Be Faithful. You never know…