Soccer and the Gospel
one to one: Lessons about life, ministry, and grandkids
by Keith Burden, Executive Secretary, National Association of Free Will Baptists
Baggin' for Support
Prior to what is now known as E-TEAM, Free Will Baptist International Missions sponsored a program for college students who were also prospective missionary candidates. The students went through rigorous application and screening before being selected. Once approved, they were assigned to a foreign field to work with a veteran missionary family for several weeks during a summer. They were required to raise funds to cover the cost of travel and related expenses.
My sister-in-law Kay was selected to serve in Ivory Coast, West Africa. She prepared her fundraising presentation, which included a brief overview of her itinerary and financial need. Not surprisingly, the first service she scheduled was in her home church.
On the appointed Sunday morning she sat nervously on the front pew as the congregation anxiously waited to hear her appeal. Before she was introduced, however, and unbeknownst to the pastor, an emotionally-disturbed, troubled young man sitting near the back of the church suddenly decided he wanted to minister in music. He sprinted down the center aisle, jumped over the altar, grabbed the microphone, and shouted, “Right on!” He then took his place on the stage and proceeded to sing every verse and the chorus of a song popularized by the group The Moody Blues.
Despite the pastor’s best efforts to regain control of the service, the young man insisted on completing his solo. When it finally and mercifully ended, the summer missionary was introduced. As she began to speak, the awkwardness of the occasion became even more acute. The young soloist lay on the front pew and made contorted facial expressions at Kay the entire time she spoke. Somehow, she managed to keep her composure and finish her presentation. Needless to say, she breathed a huge sigh of relief when she returned to her seat.
If things were not bizarre enough already, the story took another unexpected twist. Totally unannounced, an elderly gentleman adorned in overalls stood to his feet and asked the pastor for permission to speak. The old saint proceeded to make a passionate appeal for the summer missionary. He argued “this young woman should not have to go around baggin’ [begging] for money to go to the mission field.”
Drawing on his years of experience as an auctioneer, he commenced calling on various members of the congregation to make pledges of financial assistance. Within a matter of minutes he succeeded in raising the full amount needed.
Please don’t miss the point of this story. The intent is not to amuse the reader, nor speak disparagingly of the young man with emotional problems. Rather, it should serve as a powerful illustration of how God can, and sometimes does, use unusual circumstances and unconventional means to get the gospel to the ends of the earth.
This experience also reminds us that as followers of Christ we have a biblical mandate (and a wonderful opportunity) to participate in fulfilling the Great Commission. Thank God for those willing to “go into all the world and preach the gospel.” The overalls-clad saint was right. Missionaries should not have to go around “baggin’” for support. May we be as willing to send them as they are willing to go.
About the Column
One to One is a regular feature of ONE Magazine. Written by Keith Burden, executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, the column explores life, ministry...and the joys of grandchildren.