Good examples are indispensable for growth. When you are learning things, watching someone do it right, and having them teach you, is the best way of assimilating what you want to learn.
This past week was Missions Emphasis Week at South 11th and Willis church of Christ in Abilene, Texas. This congregation has been ‘doing’ missions for the 65 years they have been at this address. I don’t know about all of those years, but I can remember all of the examples we saw.
We arrived in Abilene on a Saturday and attended Willis the next morning. That Sunday we were asked out to lunch by at least two couples (if not more). We were taken on a driving tour of some nice areas of Abilene before being taken to a lovely meal. And it wasn’t even because we were such a wonderful new married couple (we had been married that very day before). It’s just how the family at Willis is.
When we arrived, the congregation had already supported a mission effort in the Northeast for a longer period. They were already active in missions in Africa and with the deaf. And they took care of their members and their neighborhood. They had young members who had done short-term evangelism in New Guinea, Africa, and Europe – and they continued to support them.
What does it teach you when you see a congregation set their budget in such a way as to make sure that they can continue supporting missions all over the world? And they are not picky. What I mean is – it is easy for a congregation to get focused on one area of the world. It makes a bit of sense, since the congregation can then gain a deeper knowledge of that area of the world. But Willis has always had a principle of supporting the person. They support their own members who are called to serve – no matter where they are called to serve.
I remember seeing funds raised in a special contribution – because it was needed. Above and beyond the budget. This could be for a chair for those sitting with a loved one through the night, for clothes for those who had less, or a missions need. When there was a need – voiced by any of the members to the family – all looked for a way to help.
In our own situation we were offered a place to stay, had a car loan co-signed (we didn’t have any relatives to help), and found jobs because of these family members who continually focus on the heart of Christ. I don’t know how many of these brothers and sisters specifically thought about their example, but they indisputably formed us through their example.
When one of the members started a Bible study in the neighborhood he asked for any members who wanted to join them in the effort – but he was quite clear: only come if you are willing to be active in sharing your faith. “If you aren’t telling people about Jesus now and here, what makes you think you will do it anywhere else?” That was a good question.
When we started getting ready to come to the Netherlands and Belgium, Willis was right there beside us. And they have remained there all along. But in the typical fashion and example we learned from them they have continued on. Besides supporting us in Europe, this congregation continues to have efforts in Africa, with the deaf (both local and overseas) and within the refugee community locally.
That was something I learned a long time ago from this family: the job is never done and it is not always about doing big things. Sometimes it is just about taking someone home for a good lunch.
We are so thankful for this congregation and all that God continues to do through them.
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love you have for all God’s people – the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. Colossians 1:3-5