I met John one summer at camp. It's crazy to think that if either one of us had chosen a different path that Summer, I may have missed out on one of my most treasured friendships. I remember one particular week of camp when the youth revealed to us beyond a shadow of doubt the propensity towards wickedness in all mankind. All have sinned and fall short of God's glorious standard; try sleeping in a cabin of boys for a night and you will be convinced of that truth. They stole and hid our clothes, put toothpaste in each other's shoes, ran our boxer's up the flag pole (and through poison ivy...I won't explain how we found that one out), pushed a counselor's refurbished, collector's car down a narrow wooded path scratching the paint on the way, snuck out at night, and used my car shocks as their own personal trampoline. When we said one thing, they challenged us to our faces; practicing deliberate disobedience without a hint of remorse. Yet, when it came time for games and hanging out, we became their greatest buddies. The strong confidence we entered the week with had diminished to jello. We were exhausted, and as is the case at camp, we didn't have much free time. In fact, our only moment of peace was hitting the showers. One evening, as we stood in adjacent shower stalls, the hot water easing the stress from our aching muscles, we talked about our campers and the way they were treating us--the utter disrespect wearing us down. I don't know how that train got into the men's shower room, I swear there were no tracks, but it plowed us both at the same time. We saw with heaven sent clarity that we were those campers before our God. There, standing naked in our stalls, we revealed our darkest sins to one another; the ways we each were spitting in the face of our Saviour. Two sinful servants standing in the shower room. John was half dressed by the time I stepped out of the shower, wrapped in a towel, tears falling from our cheeks as we realized who we were and what we had done to our Lord. We embraced each other and prayed.
That's when one of our campers walked in.
It is a bad idea to hug in a shower room while wrapped in a towel (or any state of dress for that matter). It wasn't until later that John and I even considered what our moment of embracing prayer must have looked like to a horribly confused (and potentially scarred) camper. Its fun to look back at the awkwardness of that situation, but even more so, it is amazing to look back and see God grabbing the hearts of two friends, convicting them, and preparing them for the plans He has for each of us.
John inspires me like very few do. At the age of 23, he has already helped form a church, having lay pastored and preached there for over 2 years. Though he has never gone to a Christian college, his passion and utter excitement for learning, growing, and seeking our faith supersedes that of just about anyone I know, as does his knowledge. John loves God, and loves people. Period. God will use him, because he is willing to be used by God.
Three or four summers ago, my sister had a bible study that John's wife made the over an hour long trek from their home town to attend every week. This gave John and I a good chance to meet, play at the park with his little boy, and catch up. One week, John told me of his dreams to plant a church some day. I casually mentioned to him how Winnipeg might be a good city to plant a church, and we (somewhat) jokingly began to dream how wonderful it would be to be in ministry together some day.
Two weeks ago John quit his job to focus full time on preparing for a church plant; his current thought being in Winnipeg! John has his church planting assessment with ConvergeUSA (our church conference--formerly called the Baptist General Conference) in January. It is so exciting to see a dream beginning to sprout some legs. I share these stories to invite you to pray for John as he prepares for this next step, and makes his final decisions as to where God is calling him.
John has also invited me to consider joining him in this church plant. At this point I couldn't even tell you the likelihood of such a possibility becoming reality; only that I am seriously and prayerfully considering it. I beg your prayers for discernment and wisdom in this very important decision. I believe that God can, and will give us each a very clear sense of where he is calling us, and where he can best use us. I do not want my excitement for working with a beloved friend in a familiar city to distract me from any other path God may have planned for me. It would be easy to stop looking elsewhere for ministry positions. Please pray that wherever God takes each of us, that we will humbly follow his lead in obedience and that we will love him and love people. Period.