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The Most Amazing Week of My Life

March 10, 2014

imageI shared the following story in our school chapel some years back.  It’s one of the most amazing weeks of my life, and I included it in my previous book Gas Tank Chronicles.  I want you to read and see how God worked in my life when I was a self-supporting single circuit-riding preacher traveling the country in a broken-down Dodge Aspen: 

The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. – John 12:21

I sat at the rest stop outside of Phoenix, Arizona in the late evening hours, letting both the car and myself cool down before the overnight haul that would take both of us to Escondido, California.   Sitting at a concrete picnic table and brushing away some loose crumbs from a previous family’s meal, I took a few minutes to sip on a splendid cup of Maxwell House coffee and do a little Bible study.  Tonight I was exploring the passage in John chapter twelve, where verse twenty-one’s message was especially striking, due to one small word:  see.   The Koine Greek word was eido and it carried a significant meaning for me as I was nearing the completion of my first year on my circuit.

Eido had four definitions that I discovered, and they could all apply to those who had asked Philip to see Jesus:

First definition:  they wanted to become aware of Him with their eyes, to get a look at this Savior;

Second definition:  they wanted to comprehend His power and goodness by any of the senses.  Touch Him, hear Him, maybe even taste of a piece of bread or fish that He might miraculously make.  In other words, they wanted to know Jesus in a way that goes beyond mere passing curiosity.

 Third definition: they wanted to sense Him in their heart, take Him in their innermost spiritual being.  They wanted to make this more than a vacation visit to a curiosity. They wanted this pilgrimage to help answer questions in their soul.

 Fourth definition: They wanted to take a bold step; to discover Him, and with that discovery possibly find a whole new purpose in life.

I got excited when I read these definitions and began  to realize the power of the Greek word eido.   If I were to emulate those people in their eido pursuit of the Christ, it meant I would do more than more finely tune my eyes, mind, and attention to Him.   I would also ascertain what must be done in my life once I’d reached the goal of this experience.

I closed my Bible and headed back to the car.  The people coming to Phillip wanted more than a cursory glance at Jesus. They wanted an experience they would never forget. That’s what I want, too.  I’d been learning lessons along the way, and the support church-by-church had been nothing short of miraculous.  Now it was time to dig deeper and discover new depths of understanding about this Lord.

The time was upon me.  I would soon come to realize that I could have an eido experience of Jesus through watching a reflection of Him.  It would happen in Escondido, California.

The excitement had already been building in the last forty-eight hours.  I had been  in my last day of meetings in Phoenix, Arizona, including a memorable day at a Mexican Christian school where I was able to enjoy a bilingual chapel and hear marvelous testimonies of students’ great experiences in seeing God’s blessing.  I was feeling that my cup was overflowing; how could things become more powerful than this?

Then at the host family’s home, I received a phone call one early evening.

“Is this Brad Zockoll, the fellow who’s traveling on a circuit riding ministry around the country?”

“Yes, it is.  And who is this?”

“This is Dennis Sparks, and I’m the principal of Sinai Christian School in Escondido, California.  I was able to look up your parent’s home phone in Delaware and that’s how I got your number in Phoenix.  Listen, I need to ask you something very, very important.”

I shifted the phone receiver to my other hand and took out a pen and paper.  “Yes, Mr. Sparks, I’ll do what I can. What is it that you need?”

“I need you to cancel your meetings in Seattle next week.”

I held my pen in mid-air.  “Sorry, sir, could you repeat that once more?”

“Yes.  I found out that your next week’s meetings would take you up into Seattle.  I need you to cancel those meetings and head south, down the West Coast.”

“Let me make sure I understand what you’re asking.  You want me to cancel the meetings I’ve already committed to, and come down your way.  Is that correct?”

“Yes.”

“Well, now, that’s a pretty big decision for me to make.”

“I’m sure it’ll be okay.  We’ve been praying about it down here and we’re sure they’re going to allow you to cancel.”

“Why would you say that, Mr. Sparks?”

He paused for a moment.  When he spoke, he pronounced the words slowly and with great gravity.  “Because, sir, there is a once-in-a-lifetime experience going on down in this Christian school.  I’ve never seen it before.  We’re on the verge of a revival.”

“On the verge?”

“Yes.  The Holy Spirit has been moving and it’s evident in the hallways and the classrooms.  You can see it in the students, from the seniors all the way down to the freshmen.   The growing  tension has encompassed the whole campus like a dam about to break.  We feel that it will come through the words of a messenger from outside our campus and community.  Through prayer we feel that person is you.”

 I let this sink in.

“This is indeed exciting,” I said, “but as I said, the schools in Seattle will need to agree for me to cancel their engagements first.  We scheduled those Washington meetings months ago.”

“Sir, I want to tell you this in all sincerity.  If you’re wiling to come, then those schools will allow you to be with us.  It just comes down to your willingness to travel to Escondido.  The Lord will let those Seattle schools know that you should come.”

I was willing.  And amazingly enough, it was just like the school principal said.  The Seattle area schools understood and agreed to cancel.

As I had mentioned earlier, that was when the excitement started building.  I had seen some God-empowered events during my months on the road so far, many which came to my memory as I hung up the phone.

In Morristown, Tennessee, ten teens had made decisions for Christ.

At a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Bible camp, nine campers made serious decisions for Jesus.

In Austin, Texas, eleven students turned their hearts to the Lord in salvation.

A West Virginia outdoor service saw ten parents get their hearts right and re-unite with their children.

In a Chattanooga, Tennessee camp, twenty-two  youngsters came forward and gave their lives to Christ.

But I’d yet to experience a soul-gripping, all-encompassing revival that shook each and every person to their spiritual core.  True revivals couldn’t be manufactured – when they occurred, anyone and everyone would readily agree that it was totally of God above.

The way Dennis Sparks presented it on the phone, this sounded like something near to a revival.  Well, we would soon see.

I pulled into the parking lot of the small building that housed the Sinai Christian School, an institution that held a little over one hundred in enrollment.   I stepped out of my car at eleven o’clock on Monday morning, and the principal sprinted out the school door to greet me.  Dennis Sparks was about twenty-five years old, with sandy hair and a strong jaw.  He was of average height but he had an athletic build.  True excitement was in his eyes.

He was pumping my hand up and down.  “Pastor Zockoll, Pastor Zockoll, Pastor Zockoll!”

I laughed at his excitement but raised a hand.  “Please.  Call me Brad.”

“And please call me Dennis,” he said, turning towards the front door.  “Well, now.  Are you ready?”

We entered the front lobby and I can honestly say that I could feel an aura of spiritual anticipation in the air.  How can I adequately describe it?  For those readers who have been in an actual revival, you’ll understand when I say that I grope for the proper adjectives but can only come up woefully short. Although I put little stock on outward appearances and emotionalism, I could tell in the faces of the Sinai students that something important was in the works.

“Chapel time will be in about an hour,” said the principal.  “Please, follow me.  There is an important thing I need to show you before you enter the auditorium to speak.”

As he led me down the hall, I thought I’d try to get some more information.

“How did you know this was coming about?” I asked.  “I guess a better question would be: when did you realize that revival was on its way?”

Dennis shrugged.  “For the life of me, I couldn’t tell you.  I don’t want to use a tired cliché, but I have no other choice when I say, it just happened.  I can’t truly give you a time or date, and not to sound high-minded, but I don’t think anybody through Christian history could either, for that matter.  I must say this, that although I can’t tell you exactly when it was that the Holy Spirit was moving among the students this way, it was evident that something was going on.“    He stopped and thought for a moment.  “Well, let me correct myself, now that I think about it,” he said, leaning on a doorpost.  “I can tell you something that gave a hint of what was to come.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Students started realizing their sin,” he answered, holding open the door to a long hallway.  “One by one I had guys and girls coming in private to talk about how their sin was grieving them.  One fellow comes in and confesses that he’d been cheating on a test.  A girl comes in to tell me how she wants to apologize to her teachers and her parents for horrid things she’s been saying to them.  A boy comes in and fully confesses, while asking for help from an addiction to pornography.  Someone else comes in and makes a clean slate of dabbling with drugs.  None of them had talked with each other; it was happening as if a great big cloud of conviction was hovering overhead.”  He nodded.  “Yes.  I would say we started to see the power of Christ move whenever sin was being confessed and forsaken – all over the campus.”

We walked to a set of double doors.  He knocked lightly and a thin boy of about fifteen years of age peeked his head out.  “Yes, sir?” he asked quietly.  In fact, I noticed that the whole school was unusually quiet.

Mr. Sparks motioned toward me.  “He’s here, Bennett.  Our messenger is here.”

The boy named Bennett stepped out into the hall and grabbed my hand with both of his.  “Preacher Zockoll!  It’s so good to see you, sir.  We’ve been praying for your safe journey.”

I was taken aback at the genuine kindness of his remarks.  “Thank you, Bennett.”

“Please come on in,” he said, pulling on my hand.

Mr. Sparks gave me a small wave.  “I’m going to meet with the faculty.  I’ll see you later.”

I stepped through the double doors and let out a small gasp.  The room was actually a rectangular hallway of a sort, with no furniture.  It was completely filled with students.  Fifty or sixty of them.

All on their knees.

“We’ve been praying about the service today, and we’d be happy to have you join us in prayer,” said Bennett.  The room was so packed with students that I had to wait for some teens to adjust and shuffle around so that I could go to my knees and join them in prayer.  Some guys and girls around me grasped my hand in welcome and a few patted my back.

A red headed fellow wearing a white shirt and blue tie motioned for the students to bow their heads.  “Let’s pray.”

In the far corner there was a noise.  I looked up.  Was it a laugh?

The fifteen-year old Bennett jumped to his feet. I followed his gaze to the corner where two boys who looked to be about eighteen years of age looked up guiltily.

“You two,” he pointed at them.  “You need to get out of the room.”

One of them raised his hands apologetically.  “We’re sorry, we really are.”

“No,” said Bennett firmly.  “You need to go.  Now.”

I watched them get to their feet and pick their way through the crowded room.  They both stood a foot over Bennett’s height and outweighed him by a good thirty pounds each.  They could have torn him apart, but he stood firm as they passed him and went out the door.  Nor did I see them show any rebellious attitude; they were submissive to his directive.

I looked up at him.  “Wow,” I said.  “Pretty harsh.”

Bennett’s face softened as he got to his knees.  “You need to understand, sir, how serious we are.  We cannot have any compromise when we go to God to ask for His blessing today.  We don’t want any levity or lightness about prayer.”

“I understand.”  And I did.

The prayers that went up were sweet and sincere.  Students grouped in two and threes, begging God for His power to rain down in the service to come.  They held hands and shared quiet but sincere prayers of faith, hope, trust and boldness.  It was all about the power of Christ.  It was a prayer of denying self and shutting down ritual or hypocrisy.  The plea was for God to search each heart and show any sin so that the teens might recognize it and repent of it, asking for God’s forgiveness and guidance.

I left the room stunned at the power of corporate prayer within those four walls.  I had never experienced such a fervent time of prayer in my life

And now it was chapel time.

The students filed in, and I’d like to say that the energy in the room was like the minutes leading up to the kickoff for the Super Bowl, but that’s a terribly inadequate comparison.  Few things in my life compared to the anticipation that electrified that chapel room.

The students sang a short opening song, after which the   principal gave a short opening prayer in a simple but direct prayer:  “Lord, take over the service.  Take over.  Direct in a way that will glorify You.”

Dennis Sparks called me up to the pulpit. ‘And now our speaker for today.”

I walked up with a deep sense of empowerment that was nevertheless blanketed by a monstrous feeling of inadequacy.  Yet within these conflicting emotions came the spirit of sweet peace, held firm in the knowledge that none of this was about me.  God was about to move through the service.

“I want to speak to you this morning about the holiness of the Lord,” I said, “because of the many attributes of God, the one most often sidestepped by Christians is that of the Heavenly Father’s holiness, but here we see it, in the Bible, page after page after page. “  I looked down and read the list.

“In Exodus 15:11 the writer asks ‘Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?’”

“In Psalm 47 verse 8 we read that God sits upon the throne of His holiness.  In Psalm 60 verse 6 we see that He speaks in His holiness.”

“In Habakkuk’s first chapter, in verse 12 the writer asks ‘Are You not from everlasting, O LORD, my God, my Holy One?’”

That was as far as I got.

As I looked up, I saw students moving out into the aisles and coming forward.  Three, then seven, then twelve, then twenty… I stopped counting at forty.  The Lord nudged me and I shut my mouth.  I stepped back and was a witness to the moving of the Holy Spirit through the lives of the young people.  Children were praying deeply; some aloud, others quietly.

I guess it would be advantageous among many authors in Christian circles to insert their own actions and activities so that they might be able to put their personality in a strong light and even heroic light.  I cannot even think of approaching that idea.  When you have witnessed the power of God moving in people’s hearts, souls, and minds, the one thing you realize is that you are merely a spectator.  And that’s what I was, one who stood back and watched the Heavenly movement among God’s people.  Teens were making decisions for salvation.  Others were repairing relationships with fellow students and, yes, even teachers.  The word ‘exciting’ does not begin to describe the scene.  It was serene and yet stunning.  I was overjoyed and yet frightened.

The front of the chapel was blanketed with teachers and students alike, bowing in submission to a great and loving God, giving Him full reign in their lives.

These were the eido experiences I had been studying.  But it wasn’t over; that evening would complete the lesson that I was to learn when the Lord told me, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

That evening was a time of all-church visitation, to be held at the Sinai Church, the overseers of the school’s ministry.  The church had started the school year back, and many of the Christian school’s students were members of the Sinai congregation.

Church visitation has always been a challenging and rewarding night for me.  This was when the members of the church would gather at the church and receive information from the leadership about people in the community whom those members could visit.  Some visits were to be made at the hospital, seeing those with health issues.  Others were for those unable to leave their homes, known as “shut-ins”; these visits would be homey neighborly visit with news of the church, a Bible passage shared and perhaps a basket of baked goods delivered.  Still other visits were what might be termed “cold calls.”  These were visits to homes around the San Diego community in the form of invitations to the church or perhaps a more bold inquiry about the person’s standing in the face of eternity.  Cold calls were the most challenging, and the results are often unpredictable.

I was in the car with Dennis, on our way back to the church to join in on the church-wide visitation.  Dennis was a member of the Sinai church and was an assistant to the youth program; in fact, he was in charge of the youth portion of the evening’s visiting assignments.  As Dennis drove to we spoke little.

“Do you mind if we stop by McDonalds for a quick bite?” Dennis finally asked, and I nodded.   We’d easily run out of superlatives to describe the events of the day. Instead, we kept looking at each other and shaking our heads.  It would be a day we would never forget.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the continuation of the revival when we get back to the church.” I said finally.

“Oh?  You mean more decisions?”  He turned down a side street into a subdivision.

“No,” I replied.  “I mean the results of the scores of decisions that were made.  You said there were almost fifty decisions this morning?”

“Yes,” Dennis answered.  “Fifty six or fifty seven, I was told.”

“And most students attend Sinai Church?”

“Yes.”

“Well,” I said, “let’s see how far their new commitment goes.  Let’s see if they follow through on their decisions by coming out to visitation tonight.”

Dennis turned a corner and bobbed his head.  “Good thought, good thought.  Tonight the proof will be in the pudding, I guess, if that’s the phrase.”  He pulled up to a small home and waved to a young man who was trotting toward the car.  “I hope you don’t mind, but we’re going to have an extra guest coming with us to McDonald’s and then to the church visitation.  His name’s Steve and he’s fifteen years old.  He’s a student at the school and – “   Steve was pulling open the back door of the car.  “- there’s a story about him that I’ll share with you later on.”

We drove to McDonald’s and this fellow Steve was a bundle of energy, sparkling and crackling and ready to get to the church.  “Man, this is going to be a great time tonight, don’t you think so, Brad?”

“Yes, I do, Steve, you never know what exciting things will happen when you let the Lord lead.”

“Oh, yeah, good words, my man,” he said enthusiastically while looking out the window.  “Tonight will indeed be God in the driver’s seat.”

We pulled into the McDonald’s and Dennis insisted on paying, so he handled the orders.  Grateful, I set up the table with the napkins, condiments and whatever else you could set at a fast food booth.

Soon Dennis and Seven were sliding into the booth, doling out the evening’s eats.

Dennis looked over at Steve.  “Would you mind giving the prayer of blessing and thanks for our food, Steve?”

Steve’s eyes lit up.  “Oh, yeah, sure, Mr. Sparks.”  He looked down at the food, surveying it while keeping his eyes open and presenting his prayer:

“Hey, God, it’s good to talk to You.  We’re over here at a McDonald’s on – “ he looked up for a nearby street sign – “West Valley Parkway, and we’re having a little dinner before going out and doing ministry work for You.   Mr. Sparks has a Big Mac, some fries and  large Coke, and Brad here has  a chicken sandwich – grilled, I think it is – and some fries and a Dr. Pepper.  Me, I’ve got a Big Mac, some fries and a milkshake – it’s a chocolate milkshake.  Now, God, I know this isn’t good food and some people would say it’s junk, but I’m going to ask if You could bless it so that we can get the energy for tonight’s ministry.  And thanks that Mr. Sparks had the money for us to get this stuff.  Love you, God, and I love Jesus.”  And with that he leaned over and started plowing into the food, shoveling fries into his mouth at an incredible speed.  Dennis winked at me and motioned for me to wait.

“Say, uh, Steve, it looks like I’ll need some extra ketchup.  Would you do me a favor and go get me some, say about three packets?”

“Oh,” said Steve, looking up.  “Sure.”  He wiped his mouth on the back of his sleeve and headed toward the far side of the restaurant.

“I wanted you to see Steve up close and give you a quick background on this fellow.”  He leaned in toward me and cleared his throat before speaking.

“Steve had been a drug dealer for over a year on the streets of Escondido, moving narcotics of all kinds for his parents.  They ran a crack house that was the center of drug activity in this area, but they never were caught by the police.  Steve was one of the reasons.  He was young, innocent-looking and smart as a whip, knowing when and where to hide.  The kid was selling on the streets after school and on weekends, and I heard he was amazingly good at it.”

“Last summer, one of our church members was walking around the block on visitation and happened to come across Steve standing on the street corner waiting to make another sale.  Who knows how the conversation started, but God moved in like a lightning bolt whenever our man told Steve about freedom in Jesus Christ, the new life he could have, and the delivery from the bondage of sin.”

Dennis looked me directly in the eyes.  “Steve was bowled over by this message of Christ.  He fell to his knees next to the man, called upon Jesus to save him and change him, and stood up with his hands raised in the air.  He became a Christian.”

“Steve was so excited about the life Jesus offered him that he took out his pocketfuls of drugs and threw them down the sewer grating.  He ran back home and kicked open the door, shouting for his parents.  ‘Mom!  Dad!  Something happened!’ he yelled.  Remember, his parents ran a crack house and they immediately freaked out.  ‘What?  What?  Did you get caught by the cops? Were you robbed by another dealer?’ they shouted.  ‘No!’ he exclaimed as he ran into their kitchen.  ‘I just took Jesus in to my life and He’s changed me!  He’s gonna take care of me!  In fact, He can take care of all of us!  We don’t need this crack house anymore!  We don’t need to do anymore selling!  Jesus will take care of us!’”

Dennis looked over at Steve, who was waiting in line to get the ketchup, and turned back to me.  “They told me that his father was a big burly guy.  ‘That so?’ his dad asked.  ‘Jesus gonna take care of you?’  ‘Yeah!  In fact, I threw away all of the drugs, threw ‘em all down the sewer!  We’re free now!  Jesus will take care of us!’ Steve kept yelling.  They say that when he told his dad that he threw the drugs away, the dad snapped.  He beat Steven from one side of the house to the other, punching, kicking and slamming him.  He shoved him through the garage door and smashed him to the floor and took every can of paint and oil and poured it all over Steve.  Then he bodily threw him out the garage window – through the glass.  ‘Let’s see Jesus take care of you now,’ his dad yelled.  “And if you ever come back here again, I’ll kill you.’”

I sat back, shaking my head.

“Oh, wait,” said Dennis.  “There’s more.”  I raised my eyebrows.

Dennis continued.  “Steven picked himself up and checked his cuts and bruises, never complaining.  ‘Well, that Christian guy did say that Christians would suffer for the cause of Jesus, so I guess this is what happens.’  Steve then made some amazing decisions.  ‘I need to get a job so I can get a place to stay.  And I need to get an education about this Bible so I can understand more about what Jesus wants me to do.’”

Dennis tapped the table with his finger.  “Brad, Steven refused any charity, feeling that’s not what a disciple of Christ should do.  He met with an older couple and worked out a living arrangements and their overseeing of him.  Get this – this young man went out and got himself a job in the evenings so that he could rent a room in their remade garage for his ‘apartment,’ and he took on extra work so he could pay for his tuition at Sinai.”

“Wait,” I said. “You mean, he’s paying for his own schooling – and he’s not even sixteen?”

Dennis nodded as he saw Steven coming back.  “Yep.  He gives the money to the elderly couple each month.  He’s paid up to date. “  He tapped the table with his knuckle.  “I believe Steven is one of the key reasons revival has come to our school.”

After our meal we headed to the church.  As we entered the auditorium I smiled.  The effects of the revival were beyond emotion.  There were more than forty students standing in the auditorium, ready for visitation.

After a joyful prayer the senior pastor handed out the assignments for the night.  Adults played the part of chaperone and visitation leader for each car.  All vehicles were stuffed with enthusiastic teens ready to do God’s work and see His power in action.

My Aspen was also packed shoulder-to-shoulder with kids.  Steve was in my car as well, thanks to Dennis.  I looked at the map and got in line with the caravan of vehicles.  Our assignment was in a subdivision in San Diego that had not been approached by the church in years.  We were heading into virgin territory, as they say and Steven could hardly wait.

The traffic wasn’t bad, and the weather was great, but as we navigated the streets I could hear Steve mumbling, “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s get there.”   I didn’t find it disrespectful at all; in fact, I was humbled by the respect and submission that Steve showed to me throughout the evening up to that point.  He wanted to be taught in everything in the Bible, and he looked to any authority to help him in his quest.

We found the subdivision, and that’s where the action started.

I had not even brought the Aspen to a full stop when Steve burst open his door and  sprinted to the first house on our route.  I mean, he sprinted – took off and dashed towards the nearest house, leaving my car door still open.

As the other teens piled out and I went around the car to close the door, I looked up and saw Steve vault onto the porch of the nearby house.  With both fists he impatiently pounded on the screen door.  A forty-something pudgy man in a T-shirt opened the door, eyebrows raised.

“I need to ask you something, sir,” said Steve, with an  urgency in his voice. He pointed at the man’s face.  “When you die, are you going to Heaven or Hell?”

The man paused for a second and looked up at the clouds.  “Well, now, that’s an interesting question that really has no answer.”  He closed his eyelids halfway.  “You know, there are many different routes to take to answer that –“

Steve threw up his hands in disgust.  “Aaaaaahh!” he groaned, frowning as he turned off the porch and vaulted over the man’s flower bed, running to the next house.

The man stood speechless.  I can’t say I blame him, either.  How else would you respond if, on a quiet evening. you were startled by a wide-eyed who teenager pounded at your door, pointed in your face and demanded to know about eternity?  How else would you act if that same teen leaped off the porch and ran away before you get a full answer out of your mouth.

“I’m so sorry, sir,” I said as I scooted up to the porch with another teen.  “We’re from Sinai Church down the road, and that fellow’s a bit overenthusiastic.  Here’s Tanner – he’ll tell you a little bit about us.”  I pushed Tanner towards the puzzled man as I leaped off the porch in pursuit of Steve.

He was already at the second house, pounding away on the screen door.  As I scrambled up the steps, he was met by a lady who was holding a dish towel in her hand.  He gave the same introduction:  “I have one question to ask you.  When you die, do you know if you’re going to go to Heaven or Hell?”

She rubbed her hands on the towel and squinted.  “Well, I look at it this way.  Nobody can really know these things.  I call myself a relativist, and I feel that the afterlife is mostly guesswork –“

Steve again threw up his hands in disgust.  “Aaaaahh!” he yelled, turning and vaulting off of the porch.  She stood frozen, trying to comprehend what had just happened.   I slipped in quickly with a deep apology and produced another teen to introduce the church in a more civil manner.

This time I caught up with him as he was leaping onto the porch of the third house.  “Steve, Steve,” I gasped as I grabbed his shirt and pulled him back.  “You can’t approach people this way.”

He stopped and looked at me blankly.  “Why not?”

“Because,” I said, catching my breath, “there’s a more gentle way to introduce the Gospel to people.”

He shook his head.  “They’re playing around, man.  If they’re not gonna get serious about eternity, I don’t want to waste my time with them.”

“People need to be reasoned with,” I said.  “They need explanations, and often that takes time.  You need to hear them out and gently take them through the Scriptures.”

“Ah, there’s so much to do, man, there’s so much to do.”  Agitated, Steve ran his hands through his hair and squeezed his eyes.  He took a breath, looked me in the eye and waved his arms toward the row of houses.

“Look, Brad, look way down here. Look at how many houses there are out there?  How many do you think?”

“Hundreds, Steve,” I said.  “No, thousands.”

Steve nodded, gulping.  “We have so much work to do.”  He looked down the street.  “So much work.  And I don’t have time to mess around with people who aren’t serious about their eternity.  I want to reach people who need to know, who are looking for  the Answer.”  He looked back at me.  “Doesn’t that make sense?”

And I slowly nodded my head.

Yes, Steve, it made sense.  Steven, you make sense in this crazy world of churches that are obsessed with numbers and programs and music-fests and brightly-lit stages and leaders who adopt an odd wardrobe and a puzzling lingo.   Unknowingly, Steve, you became my teen version of a John the Baptist image, flying in the face of ecclesiastical politics and one-upsmanship and pharisaical desires for glory.  I mulled all night over this boy’s urgency to get out the Word.  It sank deep into my gut and gave me new insight.  I was experiencing eido through one of Jesus’ children.

Steve, you’ll never know how much you made a breakthrough for me.

You showed me a heart intensely devoted to Jesus, and Jesus alone.  Your fervent desire for the Lord was a soul-gripping lesson for me on the road, opening up my heart to see the real reason we all do this work.

It was a defining moment in my life, brought to me by a fifteen-year-old boy.

Steve helped me see the pure, exciting, fervent work of the Kingdom once again.

—–

Once again, the week was too soon over.  The many other amazing things occurring that week will be reserved for me to tell at another time.

Now it was over, and I sat in my Aspen, turning over the thoughts of the most dynamic week I had experienced on the road.

Then I looked through my wallet.  I had no money, and I needed to get to Michigan.  The school had no money to give me.

Well, Lord, I guess I’ll see what You’ll do now.

I pulled my car to the edge of the gravel parking lot, my headlights pointed towards Detroit, Michigan.  Looking right and left to see that the highway was clear, I paused for a moment when a flicker of activity in the rear view mirror caught my attention.  I adjusted the mirror and saw a dust cloud coming toward me.  No, it was a person running, raising the dust.  Running with all their might.

It was Steve.

I put the car in park and rolled down the window.

He scooted up to the window and leaned in.  “Brad, I can’t tell you what it meant for you to come and be a part of this week. We’ve all seen God work and we’ll never be the same.”

“Steve,” I said with emotion.  “You’ll never know what your enthusiasm and Godly determination have meant to me.  I will carry the memory of my time with you to the day I die.”

He thrust his hand in the window and shook my hand.  When I pulled it away, I found my palm filled with ten dollar bills.

“No, Steve, I can’t take this money.”

“You gotta, Brad.”

“No, I don’t, and I won’t.”  I paused.  “ I… I know how hard you’re working and how you’re spending your money on tuition and-“

Steve set his jaw.  “Brad, God told me to give you that money, and I’m giving it to you. Are you going to go against God?”

No, I wasn’t.

I pulled out of that parking lot, waving my hand out the window and watching Steve in the rearview mirror, standing there grinning and returning my wave.

I cried for the next hour.

But I was also smiling.

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