“Thank you for praying! That was awesome!” Those were the words from a couple of college students my wife, Lois, and I prayed for last month. There were many other notable quotes from surprised and grateful students who had visited our WMPL display at the Beautiful Feet student conference at Concordia University in Nebraska. Five of us attended the two-and-a-half-day conference, including two members of our member care team and a participant in WMPL’s new Discipleship House in Minneapolis.
The theme for the event was 1 Peter 3:15:
But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. (ESV)
Reverend Greg Finke provided inspiring plenary sessions with approximately 200 students and exhibitors like us in rapt attention.
Who am I? What do I have of value to offer others? What’s my purpose in this world? These were three questions that Rev. Finke asked the group to reflect on. Getting our identity right and being convinced we are ‘lavishly loved’ is essential in conveying God’s love through us. How can we join Jesus in his mission? Not just going to church on Sundays but being the church every day. According to Rev. Finke’s wise words, we can include him by 1) Seeking the kingdom, 2) Hearing from Jesus, 3) Talking with people, 4) Doing good, and 5) Ministering with prayer.
As I reflect on the weekend we had with the students, I couldn’t help but think that we were a microcosm of the church doing all five of the steps mentioned by Rev. Finke. Stepping out of our comfort zones isn’t easy, especially if one is an introvert. Still, I was impressed with how our five different personalities were uniquely used as God brought inquirers with their unique views, questions, and areas of interest to our display table. As we prayed with students, it became easier and more natural. Isn’t it always like that when we do something for the first time, especially if it’s counter-cultural? College students who accept being prayed for in public are being counter-cultural, and their grateful and sometimes teary response to it was a sign that the Holy Spirit was at work.
One young man approached Dr. Richard Carter, a former professor at Concordia University in St. Paul and now a member care provider with WMPL. Throughout the conversation, it became evident that the person was struggling. Rich pointed out that sin was involved as the young man confessed, at which point Rich put his hand on his shoulder as praying took the way of providing absolution. It is a wonderful experience to take steps that bring healing and wholeness!
Jacob, one of the Discipleship House participants, was amazed by “the differences in students’ interests, their random curiosity, and that many of the young adults who attended weren’t there because of a sense of a call to global missions.” He said that “the Holy Spirit led them to participate in a message not just to the unreached but to be faithful to what God has for us now.” Jacob was further impressed that so many students wanted to be prayed for, commenting that they were calmer and at peace after prayer. It seemed to him that bringing God into the exchange changed the interaction entirely. From my vantage point, of all the exhibitors present, only WMPL’s booth was surrounded by people praying. As Rich pointed out, “That’s why we’re called the Prayer League!”
It made me grateful and proud to be a WMPL worker, working with an inter-generational team that loves Jesus and wants everyone to know him and participate in his mission.
As I reflect on how I can and should be ready at all times to give a defense for the hope I have within me, as stated in 1 Peter 3:15, I want always to have my story ready. The students and those in attendance were asked to write out what gives us hope as a closing exercise. Do we have hope and trust in Jesus? Let’s be ready to explain why.
In our farewell last month to Dr. Paul Gossman, WMPL USA’s outgoing Executive Director, Paul shared how he was one small chapter in God’s story for WMPL. Our stories are interwoven; he moves us around according to his wisdom. I praise God for Paul & Pris, who gave six years to WMPL as our leader, for dedicated WMPL workers, Board, and all our praying members and partners worldwide, and for this chance to serve him with a personal story that brings hope and salvation. Let’s share our hope!