We all have gifts. Oh yes, we do. Don’t sit there and forlornly shake your head at me. Even you have a special talent, my dubious friend.
Yep. Gifts given to us by Papa God, that we can choose to mine, sharpen, polish and use … or simply leave buried. I’ll agree that it’s easier and cheaper and a heap less stressful to leave them lying dormant and unrefined. But how will we ever know the fulfillment of being our first best selves during our ever-so-short lifetimes if we just keep settling for second best?
So today, especially for those of us who may not yet have discovered our customized gift, or maybe stubbornly refuse to believe we actually have one, I want to dedicate this inspiring story about my BBF Jan and her ordinary gift that she has faithfully used with extraordinary results in leading people to Christ.
Jan will never preach to an auditorium of 10,000 souls like Billy Graham. She won’t sing praise songs like Amy Grant. She won’t make the New York Times bestseller list writing books that minister to hurting, abandoned people like Lysa TerKeurst.
No, Jan’s gift is a lot more … well, shall we say … low key?
Jan is a storyteller. That’s it. A simple storyteller. But she has the ability to welcome you inside her overflowing heart and infiltrate your spirit with God’s love. It was evident long ago (we met in 7th grade) that storytelling was Jan’s forte; in fact I attribute the honing and development of my own storytelling skills directly to Jan. I’d sit and listen to her for hours on end (I still do every chance I get), admiring her plain-spoken word weaving ability although she never considered it anything special.
But the point is that although it didn’t seem extraordinary to Jan, she recognized that ordinary storytelling was a way to spread the Good News of Jesus to others. So she did. Year after year, decade after decade, via Sunday School, VBS, and as the beloved Bible Club lady since 1990.
And that last one is the focus of today’s post. Did you know that there are still fearless (Jan would use the word “crazy” here) people who venture into the battleground of our public school system to jump through all the fiery hoops necessary to obtain permission to offer an afterschool Bible Club option for elementary-age children? Yep, believe it or not, they do exist. And Jan is one of them.
But thanks to our nonfriend Covid, Jan hasn’t been allowed to conduct a Bible Club since March, 2020.
Jan wasn’t able to get all the tedious approvals necessary for 2022 until a week before the first tentatively scheduled Bible Club (can you say PANIC time?) and then found out 59 2nd – 5th graders had signed up (I think that’s a miracle in itself). She madly rushed to complete the full 9 weeks of lessons, secure commitments from volunteer workers (she needed 4 and they’re tough to come by), and prepare the location allotted to her at the rear of the school library, currently cluttered by towering stacks of boxes.
Problems rose … problems were solved, one by one, as if by an unseen, powerful hand. Not even the devil could prevent Bible Club from happening this year.
At the final Bible Club of the year just a few weeks ago, Jan and her regular faithful workers, plus 7 additional volunteers prepared an honest-to-goodness Feast of Purim in honor of biblical Queen Esther, whose story was the nine-week focus. Do you know how hard it is to find volunteers to do anything these days? But these believers willingly stepped forward to help. Elaborate triangular-shaped foods were elegantly served in commemoration of Haman’s traditional tri-shaped hat (in case you don’t recall, Haman was the mortal enemy of Esther and the other Jews in the kingdom but ended up with a noose as a necktie).
One dear woman made 150 triangular cookies for dessert. Another came to help serve the food and clean up. Another took off work so she could come dressed as the beautiful Queen Esther, making a surprise appearance as the star-struck children reacted as if she were a rock star. Yet another snapped photos of each child with Queen Esther as a keepsake of the exciting event.
Each woman used her ordinary gifts that allowed Papa God to create extraordinary results for His glory.
Nineteen children (nineteen!) came forward after the Feast of Purim to pray to receive Jesus as their savior. Seven more children who had already accepted Christ recommitted their lives to Jesus. Now if that doesn’t light your fire, my friend, your wood’s wet!
In Jan’s words, “It was a GLORIOUS day!”
But the next day, reality set in and Jan realized she would need to communicate with the parents of these children about their decisions. GULP. These were certainly not all believers. Would the parents be supportive or demanding? How many would be resistive or even angry?
But Papa God had apparently already prepared their hearts for the news. Here are some of the replies Jan received:
- “Oh, my goodness, you got me almost in tears … my daughter didn’t tell me but that is just awesome! Thank you so much for being there for her and teaching her the way. I’m so excited to talk to her after school today. Again, thank you.”
- “Thank you for messaging me. I have talked with my son and we are going to follow up with baptism. I appreciate what you are doing for these children, including mine. Thanks again.”
- “I will definitely talk with my son. Thank you so much for letting me know. He has been having lots of questions lately and has said he’s been “learning how to repent” of his sins (his words). This is wonderful news! He’s been learning so much from church and from Bible Club – we appreciate all the hard work you have done for the kiddos. It’s the best kind of outreach … going to the schools!”
- “Thank you for letting me know. He has not yet told me but his dad and I will talk to him and then we’ll talk to the pastor on Sunday. I’m crying happy tears!”
So dear BFF, have you unwrapped your gift from the Lord? What kinds of extraordinary things will Papa God do with your ordinary gift?