There are times when change comes and we weren't really looking for it. We may not have been expecting it, or even wanted it, yet it came just the same. At other times we welcome it and look forward to the newness and possibilities that will come with it.
Two years ago this past December we moved to Little Rock, Arkansas. I never imagined living in Arkansas. I had no desire to live here, or really even visit. There was no particular reason for me feeling that way. I had nothing against this place, but it just wasn't on the top of my "must see" places before I die list. Not that I actually have a list written down, though, perhaps I should! So, when we came here and left our families, best friends and a church family we dearly loved I would wonder why at times. Why? Why leave everything so familiar and comfortable? We were content, happy and had a good life. A good opportunity opened up for Stan and so we came to Little Rock. I have grown to like it here and am continuing to make new friends, but still sometimes have wondered "why am I really here?" I believe there is a reason for everything, including me being in Little Rock.
For several months, approximately six, we visited churches all over the city. Each Sunday would be a new mini adventure in "where will we visit today?" This became the question each Sunday. Over time though I could tell Stan wasn't happy with just sitting on a pew or in a seat. When one has led worship for around 35 years it isn't easy to no longer do it. It is part of who you are, part of how you worship.
Eventually we went to a small church where Stan would lead the worship. I led a Beth Moore study one semester and a couple of book clubs, but I missed my regular teaching lessons that I had done with Stephen Ministry in Tuscaloosa. I was asked late last fall about doing a Sunday school class for a very small group of girls. My first thought, as anytime I'm asked to do something long term was "Can I do this?" With lupus I never know from day to day how I may feel. Some days are good and some days are bad. One day you think everything is great and the next you are in bed. If I sign up for something I will be there regardless of how I feel. I will push even when I know I shouldn't. Then, there was the thought of how the girls would respond to me. Would they listen? Would they want to have me as their teacher? We come from different backgrounds. Would we relate to one another? None of these things really mattered but quickly crossed my mind. God calls us to sometimes step out of familiarity and into a new adventure. I was about to enter my new adventure.
I took the class beginning in December. We spent the next 6 weeks getting to know one another. I shared about my life with them, who I was, where I came from, some of my triumphs and some of my trials. I shared some pretty things and some ugly things. I shared hopes for the future and heartbreaks of the past. I got real with the girls. No sugar candy coating, but the real me. In order for them to trust me and open up to me I knew I had to do the same. How could I expect them to share with me if I wasn't willing to do the same?
For the first month we talked about Jeremiah 29:11. "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord....plans for good and a hope and a future. Plans to prosper...." Each week we would say this verse and write it out. Over and over. I told them how God had planned each day of my life and protected me also. I told them He would do the same for them. Over time we went over the Romans Road and F.A.I.T.H. I knew planting seeds in these girls was my most important goal. They might like me, they might not. God didn't call me to be popular with them or to be their best friend. He called me to help them, to guide them, to lead them to His son, Jesus. I wanted to be their friend, love them and care for them, and of course I hoped they would like me. I knew however that unless they met Jesus it really didn't matter how much they liked me. In eternity I wouldn't be asked if they liked me. I would be asked "Did you share my Son?" Huge responsibility which I knew was no small thing.
Easter Sunday I shared about Jesus, the sacrifice He made for us, the hope we have in Him. I shared how He was beaten, bruised and hung on a cross to die. I asked them to picture us at the foot of the cross, looking up at him dying and knowing that He was shedding His blood for us: for each one of us He did this. When we entered the sanctuary communion was served and the same passage was once again used and a message was shared. The girls were hearing the exact same scriptures again. I prayed.
The Sunday after Easter one of the girls wanted to know why she couldn't have the "cranberry juice and crackers." Then another girl spoke up and said she knew why. She said she had to be saved and then she said "I need to be saved." She said she knew she needed "saving" because she hadn't been able to participate in communion. She understood that she must be saved in order to partake of that. She said she wasn't a Christian and understood that only Christians could have communion. She said she knew she wasn't a Christian. When I asked her and the other girl sitting beside her if they were ready they said they weren't. I could tell they were thinking seriously about it. My heart was heavy, burdened and I was concerned for them. Yet, I knew it had to be their decision and I wanted them to understand, to be sure and not just go through an act. I wanted this to be real to them. God is real. He isn't a game or a religion. I explained all of this to them. God isn't just for Sunday mornings. He is a relationship and I want them to have that.
The following week I asked my friends to pray. I asked my Beth Moore Bible Study group at another church to pray. I sent emails and made status updates on Facebook asking for prayer for the special girls. I asked the lady in Lifeway to pray. I asked Stan and my familiy. I felt an urgency as I had never before experienced. These girls must be saved. God had given me a burden for their souls and I wasn't going to be at peace until they came to know Him.
Sunday came and the one who had first mentioned being saved wasn't there. How disappointed I was. My heart sank and I could almost feel the enemy telling me that I had been foolish for believing the girl was going to be saved that day. Two other girls were saved that day! I asked them if they understood that Jesus died for them, they had sinned and needed to repent. They told me they understood. We prayed a simple prayer and Jesus entered the hearts of two girls that morning. This past Sunday the other girl was there. Two weeks before she had said she knew she needed to get saved. Would she? With the other two having already been saved I was afraid she might back out. I knew that once again Satan was trying to dash my hopes but I prayed on and had asked many people just as before to pray. I knew in my heart that Sunday morning I would see another young woman come to Christ. We had been in class for just a few minutes and she said she was ready. No reason to wait until the end of class or church. We prayed first thing and the other two girls who had been saved the week before prayed with her. It was a sweet time seeing such young girls praying a sinner's prayer with their friend.
We closed class on Sunday morning by joing hands and praying. I tell the girls each week that they are beautiful to God and are precious jewels. They are His most valued treasures. I tell them how much He loves them. I tell them I love them. Girls who just over four months ago would barely speak, sit with their arms crossed or get up and walk around the room now pay attention, read the Bible outloud, laugh, sing, hum, and share their concerns. They ask each week prayer requests for their families, school, boys, and grades. They ask the everyday things that all girls are concerned with; those are their needs.
Once again I sat in the sanctuary and prayed that at the close the last girl to accept Christ would go forward. At the end of the service the young girls who had been saved the week before made their way once again nervously down to the front of the church with their new sister in Christ. As I stood their beside them I could feel tears welling up inside of me and my heart so full I felt as though I might begin to cry or even laugh. It was a joy indescribable.
For the times I have wondered why we really came to Little Rock, Arkansas I have at least three reasons why. Kimani, Khalia, Delicia...those are my precious reasons. No matter where life takes me, or these girls I will spend eternity with them in heaven. As I drove to the Beth Moore Study this morning and caught a mental picture of these three young girls in my mind I knew without a doubt why I am here. Nothing happens by chance. There are no accidents. God has reasons and plans for each of our lives. He is waiting for us to take the path and complete the task he has given us. It scares me to think...what if? What if I hadn't taken these girls to teach on Sunday morning? Not that God wouldn't have used someone else; He could. But, oh, the joy I would have missed out on? How sad that would be. Three reasons for being in Little Rock...three precious reasons.