The desert is beautiful and dry and prickly and hot in the summer. My husband was asked before we knew of First Baptist Church of Twentynine Palms, "So if you could live anywhere you wanted to, where would it be?"
He quickly quipped back, "Anywhere but the Mojave Desert." Oh yes, God does have a sense of humor!
So why are we here? I have a story to answer that--it's going to be kind of long. Sorry about that!
The first couple of weeks here, my husband was trying to encourage some of the kids to bring friends to church. He told a little boy whose parents are faithful members, "I'll give you a candy bar for each friend you bring." The following week the boy brought four other boys-all brothers. An alert Sunday school teacher shared the Gospel with them, and two of the boys (that's what we thought) were saved. The boys wanted to be baptized, so armed with newly made baptismal permission slips, Daryl and I went to their home to have the papers signed. Thinking that this would just take a moment, Daryl waited for me in the van. The boys had just gotten home from school and were whirring about the house rather chaotically. "So, which of you boys were wanting to get baptized?" I asked loudly trying to get their attention. All four boys rapidly turned their attention to me and nearly shouted in unison, "I do!"
Uh oh! I had understood that only two of the brothers had accepted Christ, and in order for them to be baptized, they had be able to give a clear presentation of the Gospel. What to do? I looked at their parents and said, "We would love for all of the boys to be baptized, but in order to do that, I have to know which ones have asked Jesus to come into their hearts, and I don't know who has, so could I talk to all of the boys?"
Their mom and dad agreed, so I took the boys outside and their mom followed. I stood out their and presented the Gospel story. Three of the boys very confidently affirmed that they had accepted Christ while in Sunday school; only the youngest one had not been saved, and right there he bowed his head and accepted Christ. Their mother then spoke out and said that she had been saved several years earlier. I asked her if she had been baptized, and she said that she hadn't. With the boys still standing there I said, "Wouldn't it be so exciting for your boys if you were baptized on the same day as them?" She agreed to be baptized.
As I was getting ready to leave, R.J. the oldest boy who is 11, said, "Hey, could you go tell my friends what you just told me?" Wow! Daryl and I took him to his friend's house, and both of them came to church and were also saved and baptized.
Meanwhile, I knew that the family with the four boys had a teenage sister, but she seemed very shy and I had only seen her at church one time. I prayed that God would give me the opportunity to share the Gospel with her too.
We had a Harvest Fest at the church about a week and a half ago. So many of the church members worked really hard to prepare games and food and pass out advertisements. We had a great turn out, and the four little boys, their mother, and sister came to enjoy the evening.
When they seemed ready to go home, I asked the girl, Allison, if she had ever asked Jesus to come into her heart like her brothers had. Her mom quickly spoke out, "Oh good! I was hoping you would talk to her!"
I led the girl to a quiet place, took my Bible, and showed her how she could go to Heaven. She's a good girl, and we got a little stuck on the part about her being a sinner, so I had to explain to her thoroughly about what sin is and that we are all born sinners. Once we got past that speed bump, everything else fell into place and she bowed her head and accepted Christ.
Sunday rolled around, and I got a call from the kid's mom. She said that her daughter Allison had two friends that wanted to come to church too. No problem!! It took two vehicles to pick up everyone that morning. After church, I asked Allison and her two friends if I could give them a ride home, and they all piled in our van along with R.J. He sat on the back bench along with his Allison. The two visiting girls sat right behind me. I didn't even have to set up a chance to witness to the two new girls--one just spoke out and said, "My brother and his wife are Christians."
In my head I was thanking Jesus for the opening, "How about you? Have you ever asked Jesus to come to come into your heart?"
"No. I haven't done that," she replied.
"Well then, how about I show you while I drive you home?" and I proceeded to share the Gospel story as I drove them home. When I pulled into the driveway, I had one last verse to share: "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." "Wouldn't you like to do that right now and know for certain that one day you can be in Heaven for eternity?"
The girl who said her brother and sister-in-law were Christians said, "I don't know if I want to do that. My mom is into witchcraft, and I've been thinking about getting into it too." She went on to explain how she had seen her mother cast a spell on someone that kept their arms bound together like there were unseen ropes on them. I agreed with her that her story was scary, but told her that God is not scary. I said, "Last week Allison accepted Christ as her Saviour, and she loves you so much that she wants you to be in Heaven someday with her." From the back bench, both Allison and R.J. spoke up and strongly urged their friend to accept Christ. R.J. said, "You've got to listen!"
I told her one more time, "The choice is yours." Finally she agreed, and both girls accepted Christ.
These children are so excited about learning about Christ. They are so excited to be in church. They want so much for all of their friends to hear what they now know. This is why we are here.
(I have changed the names of the participants of the story, but the story itself is absolutely true.)