Monday, February 16, 2009

Changed Life Story :: 31 years later

Many times in student ministry we don’t get to see the full impact of what God is doing with those we work with.  The following letter from a former student named Don reminds and encourages us to reach out to teenagers with the life changing message of Christ.  The whole course of this man’s life was changed.

Just think – your partnership with Student Venture may be touching a student, just like Don, who will still be following Christ in a great way 30 years from now.  God is using you to make a lasting, significant difference in the lives of others!  How exciting is that!

Down through the years
by Gary Wood, SV staff on international assignment

From Gary ----
You might wonder if this winning, building and sending works.  It is an important question to ask. When I was in the States, a few people asked me if I knew what had happened with some of the first students I worked with when I joined the staff.  I said I knew of a few who were doing very well and still having an impact for the Savior, but I had lost track of too many over the last 34 years.  
Recently, I unexpectedly heard from one of those guys from my first few years in Cincinnati – one I really enjoyed working with, but had lost contact with soon after I left there 31 years ago.

Hello Gary -
Wow, it has been a long time (30+ years?).  I finally found a way to reach you.  I hope you don't mind.

On Friday, October 8, 1976, my freshman year of high school, you took me to a football game and shared the 4 (Spiritual) Laws with me, and Jesus changed my life - for eternity.  Do you remember I bawled my eyes out in the front seat?  I do...and with great joy as I look back.  No doubt your famous penetrating follow-up questions drove home the significance of a decision that had brought me to the arms of a loving, forgiving God for whom I had been searching.  I have no repayment plan to you, but only to say, "thank you."

From those first days of faith, you laid the foundation of the importance of evangelism and the Great Commission.  You inquired if I thought any of my friends needed to know about Christ (it was a set up, and I knew it!). You had me make a list of those who needed to know, and prayed with me over it.  You trained me how to set up an appointment and how to go through the booklet.  And so, that's how we ended up on my friend, Bob's, front porch.  I was so nervous, but you graciously and firmly nudged me on.

Bob's life might not have been changed that day, but mine was - once again.  You infected me with a heart for the lost, for evangelism and for the Great Commission.  You made me actually think that God could use me to communicate the glorious gospel of grace found in Christ.  You gave me a passion - a conviction - that I must be about this work.  
I have never thought myself very "good" at the work, and have a list of those I "should have" shared with and regret that I did not.  But here I find myself today - 33 years later - taking high school students up and down Route 38 in DeKalb, IL to find groups with whom we may ask if anyone has ever taken the time to share with them the message of the Bible, etc.  I have no greater joy than seeing a teenager share their faith for the first time, and rejoicing in their reaction as they see God use them.  Last summer, while debriefing with a small group of our teens after an amazing evangelism moment, one 15 year old boy exclaimed, "Wow! God used me and it was so easy."  I remember thinking the same thing after walking off Bob's front porch.  
I have seen God open doors to share the gospel in jails, prisons, a university president's office, and various places in between...and yes, even other front porches.  It has never ceased to be scary, but it always amazes me how God takes our simple step of faith in a fearful moment, and blesses it so much so that we say in hindsight, "Wow, that was easy."  With God all things are possible!
Again, thanks for having such a profound influence in my life.  I hope God continues to give you opportunities to serve and train others.

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