International Ministries

Small world!

April 17, 2011 Journal
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"My Mom shops in that store!"                                                                      

I had been unable to resist the urge.  Usually, I try not to inflict my pictures ("Our name is Legion, for we are m-a-n-y...") on people.  Decades ago, I put an entire room full of people to sleep with my f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s photos. So, I well know the (soporific) power of pictures.                                                  

But this was a special case.  Ishor was genuinely interested.  And, as we looked at the pictures, his eyes did not grow heavy, they got brighter!  Then, in a small restaurant in a small city in the middle of the U.S.--a Vietnamese restaurant, no less!--Ishor joyously pointed to the photo on the screen and said, "My Mom shops in that store!  And our home is just down the street!"  The photo was one I had taken years previously in Kathmandu, Nepal when I visited missionary friends, Carole and Bucky Sydnor.

Despite what seems to be its unofficial airline motto ("you can't get there from here" [I have stories]), Springfield, Illinois is a wonderful place.  Once you do get there (preferably, by driving), the people are terrific.  And, as in so many American cities, "the people" come from everywhere!

I was in Springfield to participate in the annual mission conference of the American Baptist Churches of the Great Rivers Region, and stayed over through Sunday in order to share in the life of Central Baptist Church, where my friend Reg Mills is the pastor.

Ishor is a bright young electrical engineer who is plugged into the life of CBC.  As we talked at the end of the Sunday School hour, he was amazed to learn that I had been in his hometown.  So, Reg thought it would be fun to get Ishor and me together at lunch.

Ishor was eager to know where in Kathmandu I had been, and what I had learned.  I was busily demonstrating the limits of my memory when it hit me that my computer had the photos I had taken in Nepal, and was only a few yards away, in the parking lot.  As we fired it up and starting looking at the pictures, Ishor got more and more animated--especially when it turned out I had actually spent a brief time in his neighborhood.  Small world!

During lunch, the "small world" discovery also went the other way, as I listened to Ishor's story.  At the weekend mission conference, I had spent a little time working with the story of the reunion of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 33.  I had invited the participants to live as channels of God's mercy and love so that they, like Esau, could be used to reveal "the face of God" to others.  When I asked how Ishor, born a Hindu, had become a follower of Jesus, he basically gave me the same message I had shared with the conferees.  

As a boy, Ishor was eager to learn all he could.  So, when he heard about a Sunday School operating among the local group of Jesus' followers, he decided to check it out.  What he found was a teacher unlike any he had ever met in ordinary schools.  In them, the teachers seemed to take a special delight in punishing children for what they did not know and humiliating them for what they had not yet learned how to do.  At the church, Ishor met a radically different kind of teacher, a woman who embodied loving encouragement.  Ishor was astounded--and attracted--by this very different way of treating people.  In that loving teacher, Ishor came to recognize the love of God.

Small world.  The seeds sown by a loving Sunday School teacher in Nepal have borne fruit not only in Kathmandu, but also in Springfield, Illinois.  An investment in the life of a little boy has yielded dividends in the contagious enthusiasm for Jesus of a winsome young man.  

I am encouraged by Ishor's story, and hope you are, too.  We never know what God will do with our faithfulness.  The real value of small acts of love and kindness is impossible to anticipate.  May the Lord enable us all to be like that teacher in the lives of the Ishors around us!