Bethel Days – Michael

passion-2168797__480Soon after experiencing God’s love and forgiveness to me, I decided I would really like to share this wonderful gift and experience. I felt so free and happy to know Jesus in this way. I figured since God had so changed my life and filled me with His purpose and love, that I was interested in learning more of the Bible and how to effectively share the Gospel with others. So I began to meet with fellow Jesus followers at church on Thursday evenings to learn how to do this.

The group I joined went out to visit those who had come to visit the church – we wanted to see if we could pray for them or help out in some way. That part was relatively easy, but talking to complete strangers about my new found love for Jesus, how do I do that? I wondered. I would later realize that this became a very important stepping-stone for me to hear God’s call to full-time ministry, but at the time it was a scary proposition.

I learned shortly after giving my life to Christ that I had a very real enemy in the spiritual realm that was out to destroy me and as many souls as possible. John 10:10 tells us that Satan has one goal and that is to: “kill, steal and destroy” us, but God created us for relationship with Himself and an abundant life through this relationship.  It is our Heavenly Father’s delight to love us and know us intimately.  Once I began to understand the battle I was entering through personal evangelism, I soon realized why I became “ill” on Thursdays! One week into our classes, Harry, our teacher, explained that if on Thursday we noticed that work doesn’t go well, a headache develops, you start feeling sick in some way, tired, or overall like you just need to stay home—don’t! but rather, recognize what’s happening.  It was amazing to see how often this would occur among our praying, evangelizing group.  If we simply denied these feelings and made it to church, prayed together, and proceeded to go out and share the gospel, we were fine.

Dale and I married in the fall of 1982 and continued in this ministry. As time went by I became a teacher in our group and began leading a team of three; myself and two others. After a teaching time, we would split into groups and with addresses in hand (no GPS back then) we would go visiting various homes in the Milwaukee area.

One Thursday evening we knocked on the door of an older architecture-1834813__480woman named, Ruth. She pleasantly greeted us at the door and with some hesitation invited us in. We were conversing about how it was that Ruth visited our church. After getting to know Ruth a bit, I wanted to begin sharing my testimony of how Christ had come into my life, granting me eternal life and freedom from my sin. Before I began, I asked her, “Is there anyone else home that may also like to hear my story?” Ruth said there was, and left the room momentarily. When she returned she had a young man on her heels.  His name was Michael; it was apparent he had Down’s Syndrome and he looked to be in his late 20’s.  He shyly entered the room and sat down.

After spending a bit of time conversing with Michael I proceeded to share about my encounter with Christ. Then, after sharing the gospel message of Christ’s purpose in coming to die on the cross for our sin, I asked if they would like to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. They did. It was a beautiful scene as we prayed together confessing our need for deliverance from sin and expressing our thankfulness for what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross.

Ruth and Michael were soon attending church whenever the doors were open.  Michael became involved in the “youth” group, even though he was about 10 years older than the norm, and he was accepted by the youth and really flourished.

Dale was a youth sponsor/teacher and he kept an eye on Michael. And Michael kept an eye on me! After a bit of time it was revealed that Michael loved me. Problem for Michael was that I was married to Dale. But that didn’t hinder him from believing that I was the girl of his dreams. So we did our best to handle the situation in light of his understanding. Whenever Michael saw Dale he’d say, “Wh-wh-ere’s Na-nan-cy?”  Dale would smile and answer, “Oh, she’s around somewhere…”  I taught the 10 to 13 year-old girls on Wednesday nights, near the youth room, so Michael would usually come and peek in my classroom to say hello.

cross-2488005__480Those were teaching days for us too. Dale often relates the story of how much we learned from Michael. His simplicity in receiving the Word of God, and his profound understanding and appreciation for what Christ did on the cross amazed us.

Dale relates a time when one Wednesday evening for the youth meeting, Pastor Troy and Dale had brought in a large, life-size rugged wooden cross that Dale had constructed; looking much like the one Jesus could have been crucified on. They had laid it at an angle near the platform with a spot light on it. This cross was marred with red paint to resemble the blood of Christ and had been built for use at public events as a focal point of consideration while Dale and others would preach the gospel. (There are so many stories to share of the unusual events that surrounded this visual aid!) On this particular evening after the meeting, Dale had left his Bible in the youth room and went back to pick it up before heading home. He entered the room to find Michael, on his knees, with his arms around the cross crying. The room was dark except for the lone light shining on the cross. And there was Michael, this young mentally-handicapped man expressing sorrow at what our sin did to Jesus. He was crying and saying, “He did it for me, He did it for me.” How profound, that Michael with his limitations could see so clearly what many cannot, or will not see.

Michael and his Mom, Ruth, went on to grow in all God had for them. They were a blessing to our church family. And God used Michael to glorify Himself and often teach us lessons about life. Thank you Lord, for bringing Michael to us.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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