Sunday, May 29, 2011

No Seeming Success

A human version of a storm cloud—that’s what she looked like. Her arms crossed in defiance and her lips puckered in a pout, it was evident that somebody wasn’t happy! I heard her mumbled to herself as she boarded the van, “I don’t want to go. Why do they make me? I wish they would just leave me alone.”

I was visiting a Christian boarding academy for the weekend and was joining their outreach team this Sabbath afternoon. Our plans were to sing and play instruments at a local nursing home to bring cheer to the elderly residents. I was glad for the opportunity to get out into the community and also glad to spend some time getting to know some of the students at the academy.

Right away I noticed the unhappy girl. My heart went out to her; she looked miserable behind the defiant mask she wore. I made it a point to sit by her in the van and then tried to start a conversation. It felt like the time I was going to start a business collecting hickory nuts, cracking them, and selling the delectable meats. The collecting wasn’t hard, but striking the nuts with a hammer only sent them flying to the other side of the garage, unscathed. My conversation questions were answered in a yes/no fashion, making me feeling like I hadn’t gotten anywhere.

“Dear Father,” I prayed silently, “I know there is in this child, a hurting heart that needs your love. Please shine through me that she may see You.”

“What do you want to do when you grow up?” I tried again at starting a conversation.

“Go into the army.”

“Really?” I tried not to sound surprised. It’s not every teenage girl whose life goal is to go to the army.

“Yeah, I wanna get outa here. I want to get away from home too.”

“I see.” Inwardly I was praying again. Randomly looking for a topic that would interest her, I asked her about the CNA program offered at the academy. “What do you think about medical work? Are you looking forward to working as a CNA in the campus nursing home while you’re in academy?”

“Nope. I don’t want to. I never will. I hate medical work.”

“Oh,” I said, “you know ’never’ is a dangerous word.”

“How is that?” She asked.

“Well,” I began, “it was dangerous for me anyways. When I was about your age I said ‘No, Never’ to quite a few things that I now am doing. What I thought I would hate actually turned into something that I love doing—medical missionary work, Bible study, preaching, history, backpacking—all of these things were things I said I hated and would never do. . . But when the Lord Jesus took hold of my life. He changed my heart and helped me to see beauty and enjoyment in these things. He gave me peace and happiness that I never had when I was in rebellion.” From there I told a few stories of my mission experiences in Nepal.

“Huh,” my captive audience grunted, “but I will never be a CNA. I’m going to the army. I’m not interested in spiritual things either.”

The van pulled into a parking spot in front of the nursing home and my conversation was over with my little friend. I was disappointed. I wanted to gather this stormy child into my arms and make her to know the love of God. I wanted to see a change for the positive in her life. I wanted to see the peace of God shine from her face. But it wasn’t to be.

Honestly, much of my missionary work has been like this. No response, no marvelous outcomes. Just silence or rejection. The canvassing work was especially like that. Sometimes I would have beautiful experiences, but I never saw someone baptized because of my work.

Some time ago I discovered a quotation that encouraged me greatly in my work. It goes like this. “We are to be sincere, earnest Christians, doing faithfully the duties placed in our hands, and looking ever to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Our reward is not dependent upon our seeming success, but upon the spirit in which our work is done. As canvassers or evangelists, you may not have had the success you prayed for, but remember that you do not know and cannot measure the result of faithful effort.” {CM 114.2} 

I have learned that despite the absence of measurable results in my work, by faith I can know that the reward for my work, is no less than the evangelist who just baptized 50 converts or the Bible worker who just brought 20 people to pray the sinner’s prayer of repentance.

Sequel: The experience with the girl happened 3 months ago. Last week I ran into the teacher who had been driving the van that day when I was visiting. She stopped me and said she had a little news for me.  The girl I had talked to—she had come to her teacher just a week ago and told her that she was sorry for the way she’d been acting and wanted to be forgiven. She admitted that she wasn’t happy and actually wants to change her life. Maybe she’d like to try Jesus too.

Hearing this snippet of good news, my heart rejoiced to hear of God’s working on this girl’s heart. I don’t know exactly what triggered this change in my little friend, but I’d like to believe that God used this little conversation we had in the van to stir within her heart a desire for something better.


Christella said...

Wonderful story, Esther! It encouraged me in my efforts to be a light for Jesus. I hope that that little girl does find the joy in serving and knowing God. It's the best.

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