I was ‘looking in the rear-view mirror’ this week, as I recalled days travelling all over the Diocese of Brandon with my friends Bishop Malcolm Harding and Agnes Flam. We were trekking to each church in this sprawling area as a part of Malcolm’s farewell tour. He wanted to have an evangelistic event in every local during his last year of episcopacy.
One of my roles was to gather everyone in a great circle to listen to each other. I asked the gathering to gaze into their own rear-view mirror and identify the one person without whom they would not be who they are. Sometimes it is difficult to get people to share in such gatherings, but this was a topic that folks found easy. People spoke about parents, teachers, grandparents, pastors, and friends.
Afterwards I would sum up the conversation, pointing out that quite ordinary people had been used in extraordinary ways to touch our lives and affect our eternal trajectory. I would ask people to aspire to do the same. I would invite people to pray for God’s strength and guidance for a ministry of influence on children, grandchildren, neighbours, and friends. It would often be a late night before we were through praying with people about their personal ministry of evangelism. Those were memorable days!
As I look in my rear-view, I see Miss Crump (yes that was her real name). To my young eyes she was incredibly old, though I do not know how old she really was. She was wheelchair bound in the late 50’s and early 60’s, long before mobility rights were a thing. Each Sunday as we stomped our way down the stairs to Sunday School, she was magically already there. I do not recall a word she said but as I gaze through my mirror into the distant recesses of my life, I know that but for her I would not be who I am today. It could not have been easy to descend into the basement of that church and wrangle a boisterous bunch of boys (Sunday Schools were full in those ancient days!). She had a host of legitimate excuses and yet for the love of God and children she persevered. Though she had great personal wealth she humbly served! I did not know at the time the impact she was having, and she likely did not either. Perhaps she knows now. I hope so.
I think this is a valuable exercise for each of us. It stirs us to thanksgiving for those God placed in our lives and it can inspire us to emulate them. Sometimes the challenge of being like Christ is so daunting we despair but we can certainly aspire to be like those frail humans that we find looming so large in our rear-view mirror.
I never got to tell Miss Crump of the difference she made but I thank God at every remembrance of her. Perhaps the one you see in the rear-view mirror is still alive, if so please tell them. You can make a difference in their life as they made in yours. Best of all, though, pas it on! You have it in you to be such an evangelist. Your creator put it in you, and He is calling it out of you. Evangelism is really not the daunting task you have imagined it. Pray that one day someone you meet today will recall you in their own rear-view.