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Sunday, June 14, 2015

June 14th, 2015: Journey Off the Map

     We just finished up our Vacation Bible School with the theme "Journey Off the Map". I helped my wife Pam out with the crafts, and it was wild. She is a very creative person who comes up with some pretty challenging tasks that we have to help the kids with. We had four classes from the teens down to three year olds. The way things were structured, we had the teens first and worked our way down to the younger class, so the evening started out well and got more difficult with each new class.
     They were all blessing to us, and we loved having each and every child who came. If anything, we tended to push the children to do more than they were used to do, and they often rose to the occasion and impressed us with what they could accomplish. Some did better than others, as in the rest of life, but they all made the most earnest efforts and were proud of their outcomes.
     Basically, Pam asked them to "Journey Off the Map" which could be symbolic of exploring new ways of doing things and stepping outside their comfort zones. I had many people in my life who did this for me. There were teachers who convinced me that the work that I was doing was not up to my potential, and encouraged me to strive to do better. There was my friend Tom in high school who opened my eyes to the fact that the C level grades I was satisfied with would come back to haunt me in the future. He made me see how I was cheating myself from the riches of a strong education, and was the number one reason why I made A's when I got into college.
     Brother Byrd in my first Sunday School class introduced me to the ideas of Christianity, and though I did not accept Christ until later in life, it was the seeds that he planted that made me curious enough to check out the words of the Bible. Pastor Davey later taught me about sanctification and had the faith in me to allow me to become the interim Youth Pastor at his church. That was the most rewarding time of my entire life and the things I learned about myself and my potential were exciting.
     So where did that leave me? As a leader in my church, I was requested to take a test that was supposed to reveal what my talents were. The results did not particularly surprise me; it showed that I was gifted in teaching, preaching, and the thing that has always been a part of my life: encouraging others. I have always believed that we should do everything in our power to lift other people up. We should reach out to everyone that God brings across our path and find a way to raise them to a more positive outcome.
     I always felt this way, but there was an event in my life that drove it home to me. I worked for a small office supply and print shop back in the early seventies and there was a nice young lady who worked with me. I had been a Christian for only a few years, and I had a habit of witnessing to just about everyone that I met. The girl was named Melissa, but we called her Missy, and she had a party life style, staying up late and then dragging in the next day half asleep. She also had epilepsy which sometimes caused her to have seizures. I shared my beliefs with her when we had down time, and she listened intently to every word I said. There was one day that she was moved to tears and seemed to be just on the verge of accepting Jesus Christ into her life. I asked her if she wanted me to pray with her, and though she hesitated for a long moment, she finally said, "I just don't think I'm ready yet."
     I started to press the issue, but decided that most likely, I would have another chance to help her. A couple of days later, she did not show up for work, which happened from time to time. That day, she was quite a bit later than usual and was not answering her telephone. Having built a good relationship with her, it was suggested than I run down the street and check her apartment. I had never been there, so my co-workers gave me the address and I left. Arriving in the apartment complex, I approached her place and saw two disturbing things. Her door was partially open and there was a small dog in the doorway barking furiously.
     Not knowing what had happened, I walked tentatively up the steps and called out to her. There was no answer, so I stepped into the living room. Still calling her name, I walked around the corner to the bedroom and knocked on the door frame. Nothing. I stepped around the door and to my horror saw her body laying there on the bed where she had been strangled. Hoping against hope that she was still alive, I called for an ambulance, but when they arrived, they could tell immediately that she was gone. The police investigated, but I don't think they ever found the murderer. Suddenly, this dear young lady was gone.
     We tend to believe that we will always have tomorrow to tell someone about our life with Christ or make amends with someone you are at odds with. The truth, though is that our days are numbered and we may not ever get the chance to reach out to someone who is dear to us or someone who just needs a brief word of encouragement. I see some people saying it on Facebook and other places, but we tend to just read right over the words without letting them sink it. Call someone TODAY and tell them how much they mean to you before the time is gone. You may never know how much you have changed a person's life, but if you make no effort at all, then you have done nothing. Everyone can do something.
    Be an encourager for someone today.

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