February 4, 2007

What a Time in Boston! Here's What Happened...

Greetings from on board the Amtrak train from Boston. Much to my surprise, “Vision New England” was a good conference for Banner to have attended. I couldn’t believe the number of people who approached our booth with the recognition and appreciation for seeing the works of Owen, Edwards, and all the rest, especially with us strategically located next to the “Holy Huggables: The Talking Bible Doll” booth. But I also spoke with an incredible number of people who had never heard of The Banner of Truth, but left with at least a list of books if not a book itself. My prayer in attending this conference was that one of them, 10 years from now, might meet me again and say, “Steve, ten years ago I bought a Banner book in Boston and God used it to change my life!” Did we sell books? Yes, we sold more books than I would have thought. But if you have a minute, let me tell you about the people I met. I’ve changed their names … just because.
(1) Jimmy shines shoes, every day, in the hotel lobby. I walked past him several times, like hundreds of others, but couldn’t pass him again. So I sat down, and we talked. He is from Uganda, attends Mass every week. He is saving money to return to see his daughter, but sends some money to a Ugandan orphanage because he was an orphan. He told me of his mother being shot by soldiers when he was one year old and how dad returned from the city 24 hours later to find his crying little boy and his wife’s body. He also told me of his father being shot by soldiers several years later. And he told me of the question he has asked ever since, “Why, God, am I still alive?” He has acquaintances, but no good friend. I am thankful that I met a young believer who works in the hotel restaurant who will hopefully carry on my conversation with Jimmy. I also hope to send him Banner's short book, "The Promise," a great evangelistic tool that reveals God through 31 Bible readings from Genesis to Revelation.
(2) Billy is 22, has lived on the streets since he was 8, grew up fast but not in a good way. “But God…” – Don’t you love that verse in Ephesians? But God saved him in his late teens and he is, today, so incredibly excited and thankful for what God has done. His passion is God! I mean PASSION. Visibly so. No pretense. No embarrassment. So refreshing. So challenging! I introduced him to Valley of Vision for the first time.
(3) Mark has been praying for God to give him an older Christian brother, a mentor, a godly man in his life, for two years. Mark opened his heart and we had a good time of prayer together. (4) Jonathan is on staff at a church, but also has no one close to him. He doesn’t feel as if he can really be open with others on staff, nor can he expose his heart issues to anyone in the church. So common. So sad. I tried to encourage him as we stood in the exhibit hall aisle.
(5) Pastor Rocco stood by me nearly with tears in his eyes as he told me how the Banner book, “Sketches from Church History” (I kid you not!) changed his life. He has read it through several times, along with Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, soon after he was saved.
(6) Eric is 29 and, while having been saved in his teens, has spent the last four years under the influence of alcohol, virtually ignoring his wife, his children, his God. But just six months ago, God said, “Enough!” Eric calls it a miracle. His relationships with his family have been restored. He mourns those four lost years, but cannot overly express his thankfulness to the God who has redeemed him and restored him to Himself.
(7) William approached the exhibit booth like all of the rest, but it seemed to me as if something was on his mind. I looked him in the eyes and asked, “William, are you doing ok, really?” He paused. “We buried our daughter 14 months ago. It was the second child that we’ve lost over the years.” My heart instantly ached with a hurt that I couldn’t imagine. We talked some, and as he was about to leave, I handed him a free copy of “Elizabeth Prentiss: More Love to Thee.” I pray that God uses Elizabeth’s similar experience and faith, to encourage the souls of William and his wife.
(8) Joni Eareckson Tada (ok, this name is not fictitious) was surprisingly “excited to be in the presence of The Banner of Truth” (her words, not mine). I had previously sent her the new Banner of Truth release, “Elizabeth Prentiss: More Love to Thee,” and she had graciously sent me a note of thanks. But it was good to meet her, to give her a hug, and to hear firsthand what The Banner has meant to her over the years. What a love this godly woman has for the work of The Banner of Truth! She is now in the midst of reading the biography of Elizabeth Prentiss.
(9) And then there was my time with Phil. Unlike the others, it was nine months ago when I first met him, also at a conference much like this one. He was/is a young college student who didn’t have someone in his life who new what was in his heart. Since he lives near Boston, I asked him to join me as a Banner volunteer, working the exhibit booth together. We had only spent 20 minutes face-to-face last May, but this time a good number of hours. It was a good opportunity to challenge and be challenged, to encourage and be encouraged, and to pray.
So, there you have it, I guess … Did we sell books? Yes, we sold books. But as is so consistent with the reason why The Banner exists, I feel as if we ministered to the body of Christ and carried forth the gospel. As I now traverse Connecticut on my way home, my prayer is this – “Take the seeds that have been planted over the past few days, Lord, and please provide others to water them in the days ahead to bring forth a harvest for your glory! Amen.” May you enjoy the grace and peace of the Lord this day! Steve