My Raymond Story

Greetings from Toledo, OH! One of the things that Broadview generously provided me this past year was the opportunity to participate in a Next Generation Leadership Roundtable through Leadership Network. Two times a year I get the opportunity to meat with about 12 other young pastors from around the United States and spend three days being coached by experienced and successful mentor pastors. It’s always a very stretching and encouraging time.

One of the things we talked about today was how to “stay in the game” for the long haul. Recently, there have been a large number of pastors with large and public platforms who have fallen out of ministry due to burn out or moral failure. Our conversation was really helpful for how to set up guardrails so that such a thing doesn’t happen in our own ministries.

I walked away feeling so thankful that Broadview is the type of church that takes care of her leaders. I know I’m not perfect and I make a lot of mistakes. However, our church has been extremely gracious and patient as I grow and become more competent in who I am as a leader. I’ve never felt the need to “pretend” in our church. Thanks for being a place that promotes both grace and truth.

A STORY ABOUT RAYMOND

As I write this, I’m closing out the 13th of September from my hotel room. It’s been a very eventful day. I landed in Toledo, OH 30 minutes late. I was worried that the car rental place had already closed and I was going to be hitch hiking to my hotel from the airport. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

The lady was waiting for me there at the Budget Car Rental counter and even wished me a happy birthday. Unfortunately, for the guy beside me, he didn’t have as much luck. I could tell that his English was bad but gathered he wanted to book a rental car but didn’t do it in advance and wasn’t going to get it “after hours” from the lady who was more than ready to get off the clock.

While I was filling out a missing baggage claim (yeah…that’s right… they left my bag in Chicago) I was watching this guy try and get rides from anybody who was left in the airport. You need to know that the Toledo airport is VERY small, smaller than Abilene. Only 3 flights come there per day. The only people left in the airport were me, that guy, and 1 group of three who were missing bags as well.

The Lord blessed me in that they found my bag quickly. They promised to have it delivered by 11:00AM the next morning. So, I  left the counter and headed towards my rental car. As I’m headed out the door I get one of those feelings that the Lord wants me to do something. Have you ever had one of those? The Lord wanted me to minister to the guy who couldn’t find a ride. It was a test of whether or not I was going to practice what I preached only a few days earlier. I fought it for about ten minutes.

I went to the restroom and tried talking myself out of it. “This guy could be dangerous… it’s 1 o’clock in the morning… Audra would kill me…it’s just not wise… on and on I went.” But, when the Lord is prompting you to do something, and if it really is the Lord, then you can’t easily shake it off. So, I go back out there and engage the guy in conversation.

I found out that he’s from Texas as well. He lives about 20 miles from where we work when we do our mission trips to South Texas. He had chosen the day before to fly up to Toledo to surprise an elderly friend of his who was near death. To say that it was a poorly planned trip is an understatement. He didn’t rent a car, he didn’t book a hotel, he didn’t have anybody meeting him at the airport, and he had no cash for a taxi.

In so many ways, it felt and sounded like a scam. But, the Lord kept pushing me to take care of his needs. So, I offered him a ride. As we were walking to the rental car, I asked him where he was headed.

He said, “I don’t know…whatever hotel you see that’s close.”

Seemed reasonable. As we were driving, the Lord prompted me to buy him a room at the same hotel I was staying at. So, I told him that I would book him a room and that he could figure everything out in the morning. The man started crying and told me how he didn’t have any money, only a credit card, and that he  had planned to just sleep outside once I stopped at the hotel.

I paid for his room and told him since I had a few hours before my meeting the following day that I’d drive him to his end destination and help him surprise this elderly friend of his. So the next day (well… same day 5 hours later…) we headed to Michigan on a road trip.

He told me all kinds of stories. I told him some of my own. Eventually, we got to what we did for a living. It didn’t take long until our conversation steered towards the cross of Christ and our need for forgiveness and grace. (You can’t take a road trip with a preacher and not have him try and evangelize you.)

Once we got to our location I got to witness him reunite with this elderly friend of his. All of his stories turned out to be legit. I spent the next hour hanging out with new friends, talking about the faithfulness of God and feeling thankful that I wasn’t spending my birthday all alone.

Throughout the whole process it seemed as if the Lord had invited me to join him as he engineered circumstances to radically bless Raymond’s life. I don’t know why the Lord saw fit to use me. There are millions of little decisions and moving parts that the Lord sovereignly engineered and massaged so that they would accomplish His redemptive purposes.

Many of those moving parts included the free choices of human beings made in His image. The whole experience was a reminder for me of how important it is to stay attuned to what the Lord is doing all around us.

Who knows how many fun adventures the Lord wants us to join Him in if we would only be open to his invitation? I began to wonder “how many of these opportunities have I missed because I was simply too distracted?”

My encouragement to you this week is to be alert to what God is doing through your ordinary circumstances. The truth is, for a Christian, life never has to be “ordinary” ever again.

You’ve been invited into the Kingdom that Christ inaugurated at His first coming. That Kingdom is advancing aggressively through those who are joining Jesus in his mission to seek and save the lost. Are you with Him? Are you joining Him in that effort?

Is there a Raymond in your life whom you need to engage in conversation today? Don’t miss out on the great joy that comes from being obedient to the Great Commission!

Blessings,

Pastor Wes

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