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Unconventional Connections

Every profession offers different opportunities to reach out and connect.  Sometimes it’s on-the-job contact, sometimes it’s intentional street contact.  All the time, God is present to use the platform of a skill, a work situation, or simply a resource-of-trade to touch another life.

PRAYER SKETCHING

A young girl watches intently, but at a distance.  As an artist, I’ve stopped along the side of the street and honored her two friends by asking to draw their portraits.  It is an opportunity to befriend two young strangers and to encourage them with a sense of their value, their uniqueness.  It is my privilege to affirm them, to treat them with honor.

I don’t know if my work is for them or for me.  I suspect I simply long for the chance to reach out and relate.  I suspect the two young boys, who sit still long enough to be sketched, will never forget the few moments of  attention and care of an artist.  The little girl I’m sure will never forget watching a familiar face emerge out of the rough sketching paper.  Someday I hope we all learn of how God answered the prayers that went up while I worked, of the seeds God could grow in the wake of such small, prayerful regard.

Such memorable events are the building blocks of a child’s soul.  I’m privileged to offer them.  Too many of their experiences are traumatic, heartbreaking.  But a few moments of kindness, the personal attention–and the creativity it produces–are powerful memories for God to use.  –BM   Adapted from Transplanted & Called, Spring 2015, produced by MENA Total Employment Tentmaking Initiative

THE BOOKSHELF

       I was young and athletic, so the cold rain didn’t really bother me.  In fact, I was enjoying the winter shower as I headed to my friend’s house to get a good deal. He’d promised to sell me his old Karate suit, since it didn’t fit him anymore.  

    He wasn’t home.  His mother was, though.  She stood in the doorway, eyeing me through thick glasses as she plied me with questions about why I wanted to see her son.  Our visit felt far too long before she finally motioned down the street, as if I was a detective being sent to search a stranger’s house for a suspect. “He’s at the neighbor’s.”  

    I knocked timidly.  I was only 15 years old, a nervous kid wanting a Karate suit.  

    A pleasant, middle-aged man came to the door.  Maybe he was amused that he found anyone at all, my knock was so soft. Maybe it was the unexpected sight of a soaking wet boy.  He smiled and asked me if anything was wrong.

    “I want to get a Karate suit from my friend and his mother said he’s here.”  For my culture it wasn’t a very polite way to meet a grown up I didn’t know, but I was young and intent on getting what I wanted as fast as possible.

    Then I saw the professor’s library.  In the shadows I could tell he owned shelves and shelves of books.  Even at 15 I had already learned that books open up an endless world of discovery.  If I was abrupt with my host, I was rude to my friend. I forgot he was even there, I forgot about the Karate suit.  I’d hardly stepped into the warm, dry home before I was scanning book titles. 

    “Do you like books?” the wise man asked.  

    “Oh, I love to read,” was my immediate reply.  I should’ve been more polite, but I just couldn’t resist an unexpected thought.  “Hey, do you have a Bible?  They say it’s distorted.”  

    He didn’t respond right away.  “Have you read it?”

    “No.”

    He looked at me seriously. “Never pre-judge a book you haven’t read.”

    I took the challenge without hesitation.  “I would like you to allow me to come and read it in your library.   And the other books too.  Could I?”

    He picked up a Bible sitting nearby and stood quietly for a moment.  Then, looking straight at me, he spoke slowly:  ““Read the New Testament, because there is a wonderful story that you must know.”  That was all he said.  But it was the beginning.

    Amazing things have happened in my life since I stepped into that kind man’s library.  The wonderful story has become my joy and my assurance.  The Bible has opened up an endless world of discovery for me.  Today, 20 years later, I believe with all my heart that the Bible is the book of life, the only book that will open a sinner’s heart to Jesus and refresh the life with Living Water.  –MK  From Transplanted & Called, September 2014, produced by MENA Total Employment Tentmaking Initiative

A BETTER WEAPON

       I held the retired officer’s prized possession, a Winchester sniper rifle, in the air.  That night he had told us story after story of all the people he had killed with this weapon while perched in trees and hiding among rocks along the high mountain passes.  He was deadly, and dead earnest, in describing his “heroic” deeds.

By chance or Providence I was staying in this stranger’s home in the mountains, on his floor, next to his bed, intent on fulfilling my assignment as a writer-tentmaker.

We had no electricity.  But we ate goat stew and drank lot’s of tea together.  I also heard far too many stories of killing.  Each story finished with “Allah is great!”  My traveling companion, a Turk, whispered in my ear.  “Very radical man.  Don’t say anything about Christ here.”

The night passed and I couldn’t ignore the conviction, though:  I must say something.  Over the morning’s fresh tea, my mind searched to absorb the context I saw.  I sensed my moment or, rather, God’s moment.  I didn’t know how it would be accepted but, praying that the Holy Spirit would fill in the gaps of my logic and sanity, I cleared my throat and spoke, “Brother, if I were to cut your sniper rifle into four pieces and give you one fourth of it, would you be happy?”  My host and my Turkish traveling companion both flinched.

The mountain man’s black mustache began to quiver.  He was definitely not happy with the thought.  I second-guessed my risk, but I was in too deep to back off, so I continued, “Friend, why wouldn’t you be happy? Because it would no longer be powerful!  You can’t shoot with only one-fourth of this weapon.  You know better than I do that this rifle is a whole: stock, barrel, chamber, trigger, scope.  It’s all essential.”

Then I began preaching in earnest.  “Dear sir, you have told me that you believe in God’s four holy books, and yet I feel compelled to tell you that you have been living with only one-fourth of their power!  You wouldn’t ever allow anyone to rob you of three-fourths of your sniper rifle.” The old man leaned forward, riveted on my every word.   “Yet, you have allowed tradition, culture, and circumstances to rob you of all of God’s word!”  I paused before the appeal I felt compelled to give.  “Brother, I want to give you the Torah, Zabor, and Injil so you will have the full weapon of God!”

His coal-black eyes snapped.

“God is great!” he declared and, beaming from ear to ear, he got up awkwardly from his corner, shuffled over to me, and kissed me on both cheeks.  –BP   From Transplanted & Called, Fall 2015, produced by MENA Total Employment Tentmaking Initiative