Friday, June 11, 2010

A Story

Gilbert Bilezikian, in Community 101, tells a story that is worth repeating. It happened in the Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. This is a church where ministry is recognised not as the privilege of the few, but as the divine call for all to invest themselves fully and joyfully in the work of the kingdom. Under the broad ministry umbrella of the church, more than a hundred subministries are in place, functioning around the clock or ready to respond to emergencies at a moment's notice. Most of those ministries were started because someone in the congregation saw a need, gathered a team of believers with similar gifting and passion around herself or himself, and, under staff coordination, launched a new dimension of outreach or community care sustained by volunteer lay workers.

One Sunday, as Bilezikian was standing at the back of the auditorium watching worshippers making their way out of the building, someone tapped him on the shoulder. Turning, he saw a shy, plain-looking woman with two small children standing quietly beside her. She said, "Dr. B, I want to thank the people of this church. It saved our lives." Intrigued by her statement, he asked her what she meant. In a flat monotone voice, without show of emotion, she told her story.

She had attended the church with her children and they had loved it. As a result she had received Jesus as her Saviour. Then, eighteen months previously, her husband had left her for another woman. He took the car and they had two months rent due on her apartment. There was no money and almost no food. She didn't know who to go to for help and all her neighbours went to work every day. She sat alone in the empty building crying all the time. She became sad and could do nothing. All that came in the mail was bills and letters from lawyers asking for money. She thought they might die and hoped that all three would die at the same time. Eventually she had the idea of going out in the middle of the night and searching her neighbours' garbage bins for food. Then, she said, a miracle happened:

One evening, the buzzer rang. When I opened the door, an angel of the Lord was standing there. She came in, saw my predicament, and left. That same evening, some people came in and brought a beautiful hot meal. A man and his son brought bags of groceries and children's clothes. They said it was all from the church's food pantry. Two people came with a little stack of twenty dollar bills and said the money was ours. I couldn't believe my eyes, for they were complete strangers to me.

The next day, the rent was paid and the phone reconnected. Two ladies came in, put a set of keys on the table, and said there was a car parked outside that was provided by the car ministry of the church and that it was mine. In the following days, they arranged for child care and gave me leads so I could look for a job. I did find a job and now we're standing on our own feet. I know we're going to make it. You see, Dr. B, this church saved our lives.

Bilezikian made a discreet inquiry and found out that the "angel" in the story was none other than the Sunday School teacher of one of the children. She had noticed the child's absence and had tried to reach the family on the phone. Upon learning that the phone had been disconnected, she assumed that they had moved away and removed the card from the file. But it was her habit to pray through the roster of children periodically. Each time she came to the name of this child she felt a strange unrest. Finally, she got up one morning, pulled out the family's address, located it on the map, and in the evening, after work, drove over - just in case.

Taken from

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