I believe the most convincing evidence of the truth of the gospel of Christ is to let your children see you speaking it to friends, neighbors, and absolute strangers.
I wanted to voice my earnest appreciation for the articles you write in the NGJ magazine. Though I always glean help and encouragement from all of the articles, it is refreshing to hear words of life and experience from another young family that is in the thick of child-raising. My husband and I have been outside the conventional church system for years now and have struggled to find like-minded (not perfect, just like-minded) people to grow with in the Lord. . .
We have prayed for four years for fellowship, friendship, sharing with others of like mind – it is hard to not feel desperate sometimes. Yet we know others do exist out there from reading No Greater Joy. I have to trust and hope more in the Lord. I know this. But I must also admit that the feeling of Christian community and family that you all seem to have appears to be distant and evasive for us. We know we cannot compromise our children by joining ourselves to the lawless “church,” but we long for others to fellowship with, even just one family who shares the same precious faith and child-raising principles that God has given us. Please forgive me for carrying on. Just needed to reach out toward someone who seems so much like myself.
A young sister in Christ,
As I read your letter aloud to my husband, he said “Man, I know how she feels… I wish people could see our church here in New Mexico. There’s not a person in it remotely like us… but that’s where folks are getting saved.” At Gabe’s words, my mind flooded with childhood memories – memories of being different, but not alone.
“Have you ever met Jesus?” I heard my Dad say to a big black man who was climbing off of his backhoe at a city construction site. Dad had met the man once before, only briefly, just long enough to get his name and location in order to buy some cross ties from him. Now, Dad and I (nine years old at the time) had gone downtown to pick them up.
The big man smiled at Dad and nodded a gracious and shining bald head. “I shorely have, shorely have, hallelujah, I shorely have.”
I remember being surprised at his happy sing-song response. I had heard Dad ask that question of strangers literally hundreds of times. He rarely (if ever) got a response so positive. But it never deterred him. Out of every 20 or 30 people who got the question, one or two would be interested in talking about God. Dad always started off telling them how good God had been to him, sometimes giving his testimony, sometimes telling them about the conversion of Peter, or the Apostle Paul. He talked about the man Jesus and the cross of Calvary, the blood that was shed to pay for our sins. When Dad was talking about Jesus, his eyes would shine and his biker-beard would wave around in the breeze, parting right down the middle to reveal the blue T-shirt he’d silk-screened for himself, with the verse, “I am the righteousness of God,” on it. Pretty soon, the conversation would lead to plans to have a Bible study in the stranger’s house or in a park somewhere. “They’ll be more comfortable in their own house,” Dad would tell me, “and we won’t have to hope and pray they’ll show up.”
One of us kids (at least one) always went along. Our presence seemed to help Dad’s 6 foot 4-inch, black-bearded figure appear a little less intimidating. Dad sat at kitchen tables, on porches, and in living rooms all over the place. The first Bible study was always spent just answering questions the people had. Sometimes the questions seemed dumb to me, but Dad never let on that he was thinking the same thing. He acted like every question was a good one, and showed the people right from their own Bible answers to things like “what was the unpardonable sin” and “was Satan Jesus’ brother”? And, he was always careful to never mention other religions, lest he confuse the truth they were hearing. Pretty soon they would gain enough confidence in his practical “Here, I’ll-show-you-the-answer-in-your-Bible” method. Finally, when he suggested teaching them through the book of John, they were happy to agree. It only took a few weeks from there. Once a Bible study was established, the family almost always “got saved.” From there, Dad would bring the whole family over – and Mom would bring dinner. We would play with their kids (properly cautioned as to the potential dangers) and witness to them just as Dad had done with their parents. We were all aware, from the youngest on up, that this relationship between our families was for an eternal reason; there was no place for foolishness or pretense in it. Mom would be in the kitchen with the lady, sharing her strength and joy about being a wife and mother. Tips about child-training and husband-wife issues were offered freely, and unreligiously, in an open and frank manner.
Mom and Dad were careful not to be shocked or superpious about the worldliness in a family, at the same time being open and uncompromising in their own lives. The new believers were always anxious to learn a new way of life, and it wouldn’t be long before they were, more or less, like us in faith. Before the first family was ready to “fly on their own”, Dad would be taking the man with him to Bible studies with other people that he’d just met. The presence of the man who was now born again and learning to walk with the Lord was a testimony to the new listeners. And, so the chain of believers was built.
You see, what I’m trying to say in all of this is that we didn’t “move” to a community of people like us here in New Mexico. My husband says, “Apple trees don’t uproot themselves and go find other apple trees to stand next to. They “cast” their apples, and new trees grow around them.” Adam and Eve didn’t hike around the world till they found more humans to live near. They had kids. I’ve often heard Mom and Dad say that “you’ll know them by their fruit,” and that fruit is “after its own kind.” The fruit of a believer is another believer.
I understand the longing to be near people of like mind. Since marrying Gabe and moving to New Mexico, I have desperately missed the Cane Creek “community.” We go to a church here that reminds me of a downtown Mission. Although there are many believers, it is mostly full of lost and needy people. Many of the children have been sexually abused; there are unwed mothers and people still dealing with alcohol and drug addictions. No, I don’t leave my little ones in the nursery, or even let them out of my sight. Instead, I teach them to smile and shake hands with every man, woman, and child who stands before them. I tell them that their smile is a gift that people need to receive. We pray for people whom Daddy talks to about Christ, and we interact together with other children on the playground. At home, we turn up the music and sing to God as loud as we want, after Daddy tells us Bible stories with his own unique dramatization. As a family, we are still learning to “make our own community.”
I believe the most convincing evidence of the truth of the gospel of Christ is to let your children see you speaking it to friends, neighbors, and absolute strangers. I never doubted that God was real, because my parents freely and boldly spoke of Him to people they might never meet again, and because they often prayed for first-time acquaintances behind closed doors. What other reason would cause them to do this, except that they were convinced of Heaven and Hell and the God who made them? Why should a child choose Christianity if it means spending his/her life hiding and dodging other people – as if the gospel were ineffectual to either save or keep?
There is a day yet coming when we will fellowship in safety with other believers who are united in spirit and truth. A day when it will be safe to let our children mingle with other children, when there will be no tares among the wheat, and only truth will be spoken from the “pulpit.” That day may not be in this present dispensation, but until then, we will cast our fruit and pray for a great harvest. We will labor with our children side by side to build the body of Christ, believing in a community that will exist at the end of our journey.
Beka Joy (Pearl) Anast