The middle-aged man thanked me as I handed him an ice-cold Pepsi and a Gospel tract. He then asked me what church we were with. I said, “No church, sir. We’re just a family that is trying to encourage people to think about where they are going to spend eternity.” He seemed surprised but genuinely grateful, smiled, put the Gospel tract in his pocket, and walked away.
The people that we met at our booth at the Leavenworth County Fair expected us to be part of some church membership/outreach program funded by a church budget. Once they learned that this was a project paid for and staffed by a family, the defenses seemed to crash down. They appeared to truly appreciate it. Through the week many came back each evening, and the conversation deepened, becoming more cordial and open. It was the most incredible opportunity to love our “neighbors” and give them a cup of cold “water” in Jesus’ name (Matthew 10:42).
As the week went on, we would question those we recognized as to whether they had read the tract we gave to them earlier, and most everyone said, “Yes.” We would then dig for a different one and query them to see if they had read the one we were holding. Often, we would ask them if they felt they had passed the good-person test, which was described in the first tract we always handed people. That would open the door for sharing Christ with them without being pushy or offensive. After talking about Jesus with someone who, by their own admission, indicated they were headed for hell, I would often ask them if I had offended them in any way. They always answered, “No.” Our goal was to clearly establish the need of a Savior but not to get someone to pray a quick prayer. The desire was to sow Gospel seed, which would spring up into true, life-changing new birth.
Nathan, my married son, and his wife, Melanie, had initiated the idea of renting a booth at the fair, feeling God’s direction, and he sought my counsel about it. Even though it sounded pretty incredible, I had peace about helping in any way we could. There were many questions about how and what was to be done, but few answers. We could hardly address the questions systematically because we had never done anything like this before. We had no way of knowing where the booth would be located or what kind of traffic there would be. Would people be suspicious or too proud to take a free drink? There were many things to pray about.
The logistics alone were quite staggering – purchasing, cooling, and transporting hundreds of cold drinks for each of five nights and one full day. Normally, as the dad, I have to pray though all of the issues of a project and then make the decisions, but it was wonderful because this time my role was not in leading but rather in undergirding. Nathan, my oldest “arrow,” was the head of this operation. I was greatly blessed to see not only his love for others but also the way the whole family worked together.
It was great to watch the children, young and old, all participating in various ways to make this happen. Nathan, Christopher, and John worked through some scenarios in trying to cool the drinks without having to purchase an iceberg every day. Eventually, they decided to split the drinks between four refrigerators each day and then put them in coolers with ice to take to the fair.
Transporting many extremely heavy coolers was another challenge. They decided to use two vehicles to move everything to the fairgrounds. The boys made multiple trips using a dolly and hand truck to get the coolers from the unloading area to our booth. Again, it was delightful to watch how the children worked “arm in arm.” That is the kind of teamwork that sports can never teach young people.
Since we didn’t know what we would encounter and wondered whether eleven people in front of a booth might be overpowering, I decided that the younger children would stay home with Teri and help as part of the support team. One big job that needed to be done was hand-stamping thousands of tracts with the www.FamiliesforJesus.com website that we would use for follow-up. Jesse, Mary, and Anna spent several hours stamping and repackaging the tracts. Then every night, Teri would have a special time of prayer with Anna, Jesse, and Mary for us and those with whom we were sharing Christ.
Life is short, and even shorter is the time we have with our children. We only have a few years to disciple them and prepare them for life in Christ. Opportunities like we had during the fair week are rare and valuable for all. Striving together with a common mission was a blessing. Because so many people came to our booth, each of us had the opportunity to learn to be more comfortable sharing Jesus when there was only a short amount of time for a conversation. I wonder how long it would take to have the same amount of witnessing experience if it were spread throughout the year.
The gentleman who was manning a booth next to us said he felt what we were doing was fantastic. He related that he had been watching the faces of those we talked to, and he believed many were under deep conviction through what was shared with them. He said he had traveled thousands of miles away from home on a youth mission trip for an experience that didn’t compare with what he saw going on at our booth. He felt most Christian teens think they have to go away somewhere to minister and what a shame that was. He wished he’d had an opportunity like what he was observing.
Youth mission trips are very popular. I know many have been greatly blessed by them. However, I also know mission trips are quite expensive, especially when the benefit is for just one person in a family to have a witnessing or mission-type experience. Unfortunately, while away from their families, some have also begun boy/girl relationships that have been undesirable. When considering a youth mission trip for your children, may I encourage you to pray about whether there might be something better in which all of the family could participate? Perhaps the Lord Jesus might be directing your family to minister together and, as a result, have a far greater impact than sending just one in the family away. Remember the response from the man I mentioned at the beginning when I told him, “We’re just a family”? I’m convinced that there is a far greater witness and power when things of this sort are done as a family.
Families are in shambles these days both in and out of the church. People are amazed when they see a family that is strong and serving together in a spirit of love. If our vision is to be used by the Lord Jesus Christ and serve others as a family, we will have the joy of being used by Him.
What is our purpose in being here and raising a family? Dads, may we each be committed to building arrows that are used for the Lord Jesus Christ. “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth” (Psalms 127:4). May we each have a Christ-led family. May we each experience the joy of seeing how powerful the witness of a united family is when we are following the Lord Jesus Christ.
We have more about the fair on our Titus2.com blog.