Lord willing, today we are waking up back in Hutchinson, Kansas. I never thought I would take time out of my vacation schedule to visit Kansas. But in 2004, God led us to minister alongside some really awesome people in the heart of America. It was a formative time in my life personally and professionally. I am sure Pastor Rick could point out all the many things I did wrong. But I also know I learned a lot while I was there. I did some things that I hope I will never do again in ministry. But I also built some friends in ministry that will last a lifetime. For some reason, God chose to use our family in the lives of some people to encourage them to walk with Jesus.
As like no other place I have ever been in ministry, when we left Kansas, I had a sense of what the Apostle Paul felt when he left the churches that he was a part of. One of the greatest examples of his feelings comes from the book of 1 Thessalonians. One particular response we see from Paul is that he was deeply grateful for their response to his teaching of the gospel.
"And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers" (1 Thess. 2:13).
I felt like that with those we had the chance to minister to in Kansas. They received and listened to me as a preacher and teacher. But more than that, they saw through my words and listened to God through my message. The Apostle Paul wasn't content with that. He had been torn away from his ministry there and was fearful in his heart that some of the people he had ministered to might bail on Christ.
"But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you--I, Paul, again and again--but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy. Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions" (1 Thess. 2:17--3:3).
I was not really torn away from them. I was led by the Lord to a different ministry. But in many ways, I will always have a vested interest in the spiritual welfare of many back in Hutchinson. I would be the first to get on the plane to help someone out in the time of need. I talk to the pastors there regularly to see how they are doing spiritually. I care that they do not walk away from Christ.
I guess what I am saying is that we can't wait to see our dear friends in the faith. We can't wait to spend part of our vacation checking up on the lives of people that have meant so much to us in the past. We can't wait to share how God has been using us in our new ministry. And we can't wait to hear how they are pursuing Jesus even more than ever. It is our joy to drive 16 hours to spend time ministering and being ministered to by friends in the faith. It is way better than sitting on the beach by ourselves collecting sea shells.