Average Folk

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A few Sabbaths ago, my wife and I went to visit friends we had not seen or met before. I say friends because we had heard so much about them that we knew they were kindred spirits. We had heard stories of this missionary couple, good stories, stories of generosity and love, and of their kindness and dedication to those to whom they ministered. We just had not had the pleasure to meet them yet.

Because of the distance we had to travel, we overnighted with some other friends who lived nearby deep in the foothills of central Montana. I was glad our little Subaru has decent ground clearance; the road was not only snowy but rutted and steep.

That night, as I lay on my mat, imagining how the next day’s meeting would go, I collated topics and questions I wanted to ask. It is always great to visit with missionaries. Not only do they have amazing stories, but they have an unparalleled life perspective. With anticipation, I closed my eyes and tried to sleep.
The next morning, we drove nearly 50 miles down the mountain into town, where we would meet our soon-to-be friends. It was Sabbath, and as we walked into the church, Donna greeted us. She shook our hands warmly and asked all the usual questions, including if we would sign their guest registry. Then she walked us up the stairs into the fellowship hall where a group was studying a Bible lesson. She interrupted them to introduce us, and we sat down. I scanned the class, looking at every face and trying to guess which were our friends.

Gary and Marla are a cut-above couple. But they are not superheroes with bulging muscles, and flowing red capes draped over their shoulders. They are not even head and shoulders taller than all others. They are like you and me, disciples of Jesus. You know what a disciple is, right? A disciple, according to Merriam-Webster, is: “Someone who accepts and helps to spread the teachings of a famous person.” In this case—Jesus.

After serving as missionaries in Africa, Gary became a university instructor for more than three decades. And then, when the time came that most couples their age move closer to the grandkids and into a comfortable trophy house in the country, they chose to spend their sunset years living six hours from the nearest Costco on an Indian reservation renowned for its violence and trouble!

Can you imagine? I hope so.

Gary and Marla are disciples who have simply and honestly walked according to the mandate Jesus gave those who profess to be His followers. “Go.” We were blessed as we shared for several hours, witnessing the amazing power of love in the hearts of those they touched. Visiting with them will give us a “foot up” as we seek to build relationships here.

Not long after we returned to the States after several years in Papua New Guinea, I ran into a young college student who seemed to recognize me. After staring until we both became uncomfortable, he finally asked my name. When I told him, he looked both surprised and disappointed! Shaking my hand earnestly, he said, “I’ve followed you and your wife in the AF magazine for years.” It seemed he had read all our stories from the field. But then, just as suddenly as we had met, he turned away to leave and, with great disappointment, said, “I thought you’d be taller.” I was sorry that I disappointed him.

It really doesn’t matter if you are tall or short; there is a place for you in the gospel field. Gary and Marla are just average folk like you and me who want to share the good news of Jesus’ soon coming. My friend Steve Huey, director of Native Ministries in the North Pacific Union, has a list of Reserves and Reservations in the Pacific Northwest, Canada and Alaska needing disciples. Adventist Frontier Missions has a list of places for disciples, too. Are you ready to be a disciple?

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