I hadn’t seen Bob in over 30 years, but there he was – his name showing prominently in email inbox. Richard and I used to hang out in college, but years, miles, and the dredges of life halted communication – until that day I heard “hey buddy, give me call…” on my voicemail. Rachel I had never met before in my life, but she happened to be sitting across from me in the coffee shop one day and decided I was as good a candidate as anyone to share her story with. What do all these people have in common? Somewhere along their journey life kicked them in the gut and brought them to their knees.
As a young minister I always wondered why other people seemed to have more success in reaching their communities, setting up Bible studies, and sharing Jesus with their friends and neighbors. I attended personal evangelism workshops, learned new techniques for home Bible studies, but there just weren’t any opportunities for me. Then one day the scales fell off my eyes and ministry opportunities where everywhere – they were disguised in hardship, adversity and sorrow.
Why did Jesus come to the aid of the woman caught in adultery, or sit and visit with the woman at the well? Why was Jesus known to eat with tax collectors and sinners? Jesus had the unique ability to look past people’s circumstances and see the spiritual need deep within them. Whether we choose to admit it or not, in the dredges and darkness of sin and separation there is often a longing, a thirst, a voracious hunger for something more meaningful to grab onto.
I heard preachers quote John 4:35 since I was a kid; “There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” Now I understand! Broken homes, inner-city poverty, addictions – these are all fields that are white to harvest.
I remember Bob telling me, “I don’t know how to pray anymore. I doubt God is listening.” Richard told me, “I’m not the guy you remember in college. I don’t go to church, suffer from PTSD and more addictions than you can imagine.” Rachel just want a sympathetic ear (and maybe a few bucks), after she lost her job and was two months behind on the mortgage.
The problem never was that there are four months till the harvest, the problem has always been that my eyes have been closed.