Reaching Out To a Brother In Need.
This is a shorter version (last section) of "The Full South Bank Mission Report" # 6. See that blog for the recent South Bank experiences.
The last experience I want to talk about was not actually at S.B. It was something that took place while travelling home.
I had just missed the train in Brisbane so I had to wait another one and a half hours for the next (6:33) one ^_^. While travelling home different thoughts flooded my mind but I reflected mostly on the wonderful experiences of the day.
I am a bit of a greyhound (a lean guy with a high metabolism), had not had much for lunch and so I was feeling hungry and to be honest I was dreaming of eating some yummy Thai food at my favorite restaurant (Thai Seasons) in the Sunshine coast. But as it turned out, the Lord had something better in mind….. at least for then, and I’m not referring to the two large serves of French fries from 24/7 MacDonald’s - a poor substitute I do realize that I would later eat that evening. (Although I have English blood in me and I love potatoes, eating fries is something I very rarely do unless I can’t get anything more nutritious with a bit more colour and life!) Now I will share the experience that for me was “better than Thai”.
Noisy Unruly Youth Down the Back of the Bus: While travelling home an announcement was made that due to track work all customers need to disembark the train and board waiting connecting buses at the nest stop. I knew then my hopes of relishing my favorite dish that night were next to zero. So my mind went back to the experiences of the day. Eventually I boarded a nice comfortable cozy bus with others and we were on our way. Before long I heard in the back of the bus behind me the sounds of joking and jesting from a bunch of young men. The way they carried on in their loud laughter and profanity, in contrast to the quieter more conservative passengers, told me they had had a bit to drink that night although they didn’t seem to cause any real problem or threat. I could feel a deep love for these lost souls and I thought about how much Christ must love them and how He shed His precious blood for them to give them present life and must long for their complete salvation (1 Tim. 4:10; Rom 5:6-8, 18). I wondered how does one reach out to them?
Missed the turn off: The bus driver came to Palmwoods station and started off to the next, and after a minute or two of travelling down the road I wondered if he knew where he was going! I know Palmwoods and although I have a very poor sense of direction and I am not a good navigator, I had an impression something wasn’t quite right and that he should have turned earlier. I wasn’t wrong! It wasn’t long before the “clowns” down the back started piping up, saying, “Where in the world is he taking us?…. where the h___ are we? I had mixed feelings. I felt for the embarrassment of the poor bus driver but I couldn’t help laughing to myself at quite a very amusing situation. (I’m far from being an explosive or impatient choleric, but I’m a bit too easy going at times.) The stirring youth down the back added to the distinctly choleric driver’s embarrassment and frustration. Finally, while approaching a “No Through Road” sign, fuming underneath, the bus driver apologetically announced “Sorry folks, ahrrr, I missed the turn off. He decided to pull into a long driveway in an attempt to turn around but the heavy wheels were digging into the drive and the youth carried on again. Now I really felt for the man. I then noticed silhouetted figures in the dark, the forms of surprised residents that came out of their home with flashlights to investigate the unusual event.
I had a brief word with the driver, stepped out of the bus and explained the situation to the residents. They were actually very considerate and they invited the driver to come up a parallel driveway and turn the coach around that way on their large property (fortunate that it was large!). At first the driver was reluctant - not wanting to tear up their driveway but with their persuasion he ended up conceding. He had managed to turn the huge vehicle around and we were close to our destination and the back seat boys had settled down a bit now. At this point God placed in my heart a deep love for all the people on the bus as I wondered what was going through their heads.
Just before the final stop a man who looked in his early thirties, realizing the lateness of the hour, asked the driver if there was any connecting buses to Gympie. The driver didn’t know and said he would need to enquire at the station. It was late and the situation for the man didn’t look good. I realized this man might not be able to get home. At this point one of the young men from down the back wandered down close to where I was seated and seemed to wonder why we were not frustrated with the driver. So I appealed to what I thought might be his unspoken sentiments and said, “Mate, it could happen to anyone hey? . . . . . I’m really grateful he got us here”; He nodded in agreement and I could see he was really thinking things through. But my mind was mostly focused on the man in front of me that needed to get to Gympie, which is 68 kilometers (a little over 42 miles) away from Nambour! When we disembarked the bus I decided I would follow behind the man and see if there was another connecting bus.
Working With Angels: Standing behind him without him knowing, I listened to the response of the Q-link bus and rail service lady. She said “Sorry, there are no more buses until tomorrow morning”! (I knew just how he must have felt. I am sure we can all identify with this.) I waited for three or 4 seconds to observe his reaction and then tapped on his shoulder. He turned around and I said, “Don’t worry, I’m going to get you home”. He was very happy and a little surprised and even more so when he realized an hour or two later I had gone way past my home in order to get him to his destination. (My home was only 10 minutes away from Nambour station not an hour’s drive north!) I guess we were both conscious of the fact that the only alternative for Nathan (I will call him) would be for him to either get a taxi (cab) home, and that would cost a small *fortune, or to sleep under a gum tree for the night or the other alternative is a hotel somewhere and it was getting a bit late for that. Afterwards I thought I could have invited him to my home but he may have felt a bit awkward about that.
I guess my motives for helping the man were 1) Primarily, unconditional compassion (1 John 4:11) for the man and his welfare 2) Concern for his eternal destiny (2 Cor. 5:14). Hence this would be an evangelistic experiment. My intention from the beginning was to plant at least one seed in his heart and allow God and other possible future encounters to grow and nurture that seed. But I realized the immediate situation would require great sensitivity and tact.
Nathan the Psychology Student/Federal Magistrate’s Son: We walked to my car and got in and got onto the highway. Naturally the conversation began with our individual career identities. He told me he had finished a degree in bio medical science and was currently doing a degree in psychology. That was a good start because, as I told Nathan, I am nearing completion of a diploma in professional counseling which contains a lot of psychology components so a large part of our conversation was on related topics. I told Nathan I work as a remedial massage therapist.
While driving him to his destination I was conscious I would need to definitely refrain from “preaching” or even speaking what might come across as “religious” jargon to him. I purposely avoided manipulatively taking advantage of the situation that could make him feel very uncomfortable and ruin any chances of successfully sowing that “one” seed. Not to say our conversation was un-stimulating: - to the contrary! I asked him about his father and he said he was a federal magistrate in S.A. but had passed away. I found out Nathan didn’t actually live in Gympie. His printer had broken down and he needed to print out and hand in a Uni assignment, which was due in two days time on Monday. Therefore he planned to use his “girlfriend’s” printer. I asked him about her and he said she was a school Teacher and single mother of three – two girls and a boy. Apparently he said her ex-husband had been “unfaithful” and had an affair with another woman and eventually left her. He let her in on his secret, of all days, on her birthday! This really shattered her. Nathan, never married, has won the heart of her and her children – but he told me it took time for them to trust him and believe that he would “not hurt Mommy like daddy did”. Listening to his story took up most of our conversation time. I believe there is a lot of wisdom in the famous book “How to win friends and influence people” that Christians can learn from and apply with good motives. I read the book several years ago and am only now trying to put the principle of showing interest in the other person into action. I must say it works. I believe there is a close connection between being other-centered and genuinely interested in people and divinely originating agape love. In counseling and psychology they refer to it as unconditional “positive regard” for the other person.
Nathan’s “Absolutely…Thank You So Much” Response: Before the beginning of the trip Nathan offered to pay me some money for fuel and I really didn’t say much then. He probably expected I would accept some money. But when it came time to drop him off, he pulled out a few notes that looked like 15 or $25.00 and I waved my hand and said something like, “It’s okay Nathan I am doing this as a favor for you, this is for free.” I expected he might be a little surprised but going by his demeanor and the look on his face it was like he was in disbelief, or to use a slang Aussie term, “gob-smacked”, thinking this doesn’t make sense and why did this guy do this?! (Today I happened to be in Nambour and I asked a waiting taxi driver what would the cost be to get to Gympie and he got out his calculator and with a straight face said, “$150.00” and I knew Nathan wasn’t in practice yet!) The tone of Nathan’s voice more than matched the verbal expression of his repeated gratitude. Now was the critical moment of my evangelistic “experiment” and I longed for what the DVD pointed to (the gospel of the kingdom) to find a place in his heart. I reached for a copy of Jonathan Otto’s Luminesce DVD and offered it to him saying, “Your wife’s a teacher, this guy’s a teacher and he talks about identity, the cause of teenage suicide and depression and psychological value issues that I think would interest you.” And then I took a brief calculated risk that I felt was necessary. That meant being open and honest with Nathan and letting him at least know beforehand that the presenter on the DVD was a Christian. He responded with a very sincere “absolutely . . . . absolutely, which flowed on back to his original gratitude by saying more than once, “Thank you, thank you so much ……” he then hopped out and watched me take off. Because his response was so extraordinary I immediately recognized it must have been influenced to a large degree by the kindness the Lord was showing him. I just chose to be channel for God’s grace and to allow HIM to manifest HIS character through me even though it initially required the decision to die to self. (It was a very little sacrifice to me.) I knew the love and care demonstrated to Nathan was not anything I naturally have inside me but something God puts inside of all His children.
Raising Children - The Noblest Kind Of Work: I don’t see myself, as having any extraordinary advantages or gifts. I possess some basic gifts, natural and spiritual, that by God’s grace I have cultivated and developed over time. I am a single man without the noble job of rearing a family so I guess that might make it a lot easier for me than others with these noble responsibilities of rearing and nurturing children for God’s kingdom. And there’s no greater and nobler work than that. However, I still want to appeal to those of you who may have never really come to the place of taking evangelical risks and experimented, even if it's a little bit, in the world of opportunity for reaching out to lost souls. I decided to share this story to show how easy it is, even amidst materialistic self-satisfied Australians. Start by sharing a thing or two about family and identity as that's something many can relate to.
IF you are prepared to simply place yourself in the other person’s shoes and IF you are prepared to be instrumental, focused, patient, hopeful and last but not least, very tactful. Try it and you’ll find aside from your favorite cuisine whether that’s Greek, Lebanese, Mexican, Italian, Indian or Thai, there will be times when your “meat and drink” will be to do the will of the Son and the Father that sent Him (John 4:34; 6:38). And sometimes being sustained by the meat and drink of reaching out to others we give them an opportunity to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).
That night, after wolfing down my later than usual snack from the golden arches, by the time I got home it was just past midnight and I had to work the next day. (I slept well with no unpleasant dreams by the way :-). Without question I can truly say what happened Sabbath/Sunday evening on the 4-5th of August 2012 in having the privilege of blessing a brother to whom Christ died for was something I will never forget, and something far better than my favorite Thai!
Going by Nathan’s positive reaction I feel it is a very good chance he will watch Luminesce and I am hoping out of curiosity Peta, his “girl friend” possibly wife to be, will watch it also and be profoundly moved by it also so that the Holy Spirit of God would impact their lives and hearts so that it will flow onto their children.
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. – 2 Corinthians 4:6 - 11