An unexpected connection
After an extraordinarily hectic year, the plan was to take some time off to get reacquainted with the family. So after non-stop mobile calls for the first few days, my wife put her foot down. The phone was confiscated. No more Connect09 until further notice!
I spent a few hours in the pool with the tribe, then while they were watching a DVD I thought I'd kick another work-life balance goal and get some seriously overdue exercise. As I jogged through some very pretty semi-rural areas my mind was very far from praying or connecting, so what came next was entirely unexpected.
As I shuffled past a technician checking on a power pole, I made a remark (with a smile and a wave) about it being a good day for air-conditioning (he had left the land cruiser running and I assumed I knew why). Suddenly, I was in a conversation: he actually doesn't use the aircon at all " had it disconnected " left an office job to get away from aircon " it's not natural " it's why people get so sick all the time "
I had stopped running by this time " it's hard to keep running past someone who is conversing with you, especially if you (inadvertently) initiated it! After we had talked for a bit about working indoors versus outdoors, he asked me what I did. Now, you might think that being able to say "I'm a minister of religion" at this point is a magic conversation turner. And I guess it is " but rarely in a good way. Many is the time that even the most careful answer has stopped the conversation dead cold or guaranteed its imminent demise. In this case, I was kind of keen to get on with the run, so I gave an unusually blunt answer: "I"m an Anglican minister".
To my utter astonishment, the conversation then moved into top gear. He used to go to church a bit when he was younger but kind of fell away from going. His older brother is a 'born again' Christian though. He was very intrigued that his brother's faith in God seemed to have survived a cancer diagnosis about a year ago. His sister passed away recently; that had a big impact on the whole family of six siblings.
We talked and talked (the diesel land cruiser ticking away the whole time) until finally, things wound up. I had mostly listened, but I'd also had an opportunity to say just a few things. I commended a local church where I knew he would be welcomed any time. I asked if I could send him a book, and he was quite taken aback. He found a scrap of paper and gave me his postal address. He then got out his wallet and offered to give me the money for the book on the spot. I refused, saying (quite honestly) I didn't know the price and I didn't have any pockets anyway.
After we went our separate ways, I did pray for him; but God was already at work in his heart. The next day I sent him a copy of If I Were God, I'd End All the Pain by John Dickson, and I put in a brief note with the details of the church I told him about.
God is at work fulfilling his promises and building his kingdom " even when I fail to pray, even when I am reluctant to connect, even when I least expect it. This is no excuse of course, but it is a great relief. What a gracious, sovereign Dad we have!
Andrew Nixon is the Executive Director of Connect 09 and a minister with many years of parish-based ministry.