One day I got a phone call from James, the man who mowed my yard. He asked if he could come by the office to see me. I said, “Sure.” After I had hung up the phone, it occurred to me that I must have forgotten to pay him the last time he mowed. James came by, and I reached for my pocketbook. He said, “Paul, put that away. You’re up to date with me. I want to talk to you about something else.”
James shared with me that God had planted a vision in his heart. He felt called to create an outreach mission center to provide food and clothing for those in need, as well as offer Bible studies during the week. No such center existed in our rural county at that time, and he sensed that God wanted him to start one. There was humility in his voice as he shared this vision. James knew this would be the biggest undertaking of his life. But there was also a confidence in his voice. That confidence came out of a lifetime of living faithfully.
Despite encountering some setbacks including the jealousy of church leaders, James never deterred from the vision given to him by God. A year later marked the grand opening of the Doers of the Word Outreach Mission Center. The name came from his favorite verse, James 1:22, “Be doers of the word not merely hearers.” That Thanksgiving they hosted a dinner for anyone who wanted to come, and they delivered turkeys with all the trimmings to shut-ins throughout the county.
Over time, the church leaders who thought James was a competitor began to see him as a partner. In fact, they did more than that. They recognized his gift of quiet, faithful leadership, and affirmed God’s call of James to be a pastor. He invited me to his ordination. Then Ruthie and I were honored when the Reverend James agreed to officiate our wedding 14 years ago.
We have stayed in touch with him over the years. He is still preaching every Sunday, and every weekday he is still working diligently at the outreach mission center. And he is still just as faithful as always in listening and acting upon the voice of God.
This weekend Calvary’s vestry will gather for our annual retreat. It is a time for us to dream about where God is calling us in 2017 and beyond.
Paul, this is a very nice piece. Thank you for sharing this true story, and the inspiration it brings to all who are still figuring out ways to serve and worship with our fellow man.
Paula this really moved me. It is one thing to hear God's plan for you. It's an entirely different thing to trust God to hear these words and be willing to do God's will. What courage. What a gift to the community. Thank you for sharing.
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