God-Sized Mission

I am always amazed at how God plants a little seed in someone's heart and mind, lets that seed grow a little, and then sprouts out something more amazing than our minds could have ever imagined. That's what happened to our GA and RA groups at Northside Baptist Church in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

My name is Tiffany, and I am the GA director of our group at church. As the director, I plan out all the missions projects during the summer for the coming year for the GAs and RAs of our church. Last summer, I planned for our kids to memorize 6 salvation verses to help equip them to talk with their friends at school or in their neighborhoods about the love of Jesus and the gospel story. We planned several projects using these verses to help the kids with memorization. One of these projects was marking 50 Bibles with salvation verses. At the time, I didn't have a plan of whom we would give the Bibles to. I just felt a nudge that this was a project we needed to work on. And I knew God would show me who needed them and once again nudge me at just the right time.

We ordered 50 Bibles online. We printed the 6 chosen verses on bookmarks and labels. At our local craft store, we purchased rolls of thin ribbon to match each of our 6 colors. We bought pony beads in coordinating colors, as well. We made bookmarks using a 12-inch piece of ribbon with a pony bead on each end. Each Bible had 6 bookmarks in all—one for each color.

  • Black is for SIN.
    • "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23 NIV).
  • Red is for JESUS' BLOOD.
    • "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8 NIV).
  • White is for FORGIVENESS.
    • "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow" (Psalm 51:7 NKJV).
  • Blue is for BAPTISM.
    • "We were therefore buried with him through baptism" (Romans 6:4 NIV).
  • Green is for GROWTH IN JESUS.
    • "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18 NKJV).
  • Yellow is for ETERNAL LIFE.
    • "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10 NKJV).

Our GAs and RAs put the stickers showing each color, meaning, and verse in the front of each Bible. They then found each verse, highlighted it, and marked that page with the appropriate color-coordinating ribbon. Again, I didn't know whom God wanted these marked Bibles to go to, so the plan was to store them until God showed us who needed them.

In the meantime, another piece of this story was unfolding. God was using different groups of people in different circles of friends and even on different sides of the country to weave together a beautiful masterpiece for His glory.

My sister, Rhonda, who also teaches GAs with me at our local church, leads a weekly Bible study for some women in our church and community. One of Rhonda's friends, Fran, is a member of a different church in town, but attends the Thursday night Bible study led by Rhonda. Fran's 25-year-old son, Matthew, moved to Los Angeles, California, a couple years ago. He was not making the best choices, and Fran pleaded with him to come home. Fran asked the Bible study group for prayer each week for her son to come home, but Matthew chose to stay in California. His mom would talk to him on the phone every other day or so. He would tell her about his job and his apartment there. His mom thought he was doing okay, but knew he still needed Jesus in his life.

God planted more seeds, and a year and a half ago, the group of ladies in the Bible study changed their prayer for him. They began to specifically pray that if he wouldn't come home, God would put someone in Matthew's path to draw him closer to the Lord—someone to show him God's love and lead him back on the path to Jesus that he had learned as a child. The Bible study group continued to pray this prayer week after week. The ladies didn't know if God had sent someone to Matthew or not, but they continued praying, keeping faith that God would hear their cries for help, intervene, and bring Matthew back home.

On December 2, 2016, Fran got a phone call no mother wants to get. She received devastating news that her Matthew had died on the street in Los Angeles. Fran began asking many, many questions as to what happened to her baby boy. That day, Fran learned that the life her son was living was quite different than she had been told. You see, though she knew her son desperately needed the love of Jesus, she thought he was physically taken care of. She thought he had a job and an apartment. Fran discovered her Matthew was actually homeless in Los Angeles. He didn't have a job. He didn't have an apartment. In fact, he lived on the streets of Skid Row. He slept in a tent or a cardboard box. He struggled to fill his body with enough food to make it through the day. He didn't have the luxury of a warm bath or a warm bed to sleep in each night. Not only had she lost her son, but Fran also learned the reality of his daily life and routine. Her heart was broken.

But God is GOD! He can make beauty from ashes. He can take something so broken that man cannot imagine making it whole again. He can use our deepest sorrows to fulfill His plan. Remember the Bible study group's intentional prayers that began about a year and a half before? Well, at that same time, God was planting seeds on the other side of the country.

God was planting seeds in the heart of a young lady named Summer. Summer is a wonderful, bubbly, full-of-Jesus'-joy, on-fire-for-God, unique, and talented young lady. She works for a Christian organization that helps find sponsorships for children in under-privileged countries. But on the weekends, she is part of a ministry group called The Cadets. The Cadets go out to Skid Row every week to share the love of Jesus and the gospel message with the people in the homeless community there. Skid Row is a 54-block area in downtown Los Angeles with a very large population of people who are homeless.

Summer prayed before going out to Skid Row one Saturday (about a year and a half ago—interesting timing, right?). She asked God to show her ONE person she could pour His love into. She wanted one person she could talk to, listen to, and be a friend to. Summer said that when she got out of her car that day at Skid Row, she began to look around. She was standing by her friend's car while he was passing out clothing. Matthew walked up to the car to get a T-shirt, and that's when Matthew and Summer met. God planted her on the right street, on the right day, at the perfect time to run into Matthew.

Summer was drawn to Matthew. She felt a tug at her heart that he needed God’s love. Everyone needs Jesus, and the people in Skid Row need His love during each visit from the Cadets. But Summer said this visit was different. She felt God nudging her that Matthew was the person she had prayed He would put in her path. That day, Summer met Matthew. He went by the name Casper, as many living in Skid Row use fake names to hide their real identities. A year and a half ago, God answered the prayers of the small ladies' Bible study. He answered the prayers of a young lady in California whose desire was to share Jesus' love. And God began a beautiful work in the lives of everyone involved.

Matthew spoke often of Summer to his mother, Fran. Fran didn't personally know who Summer was. Fran only knew what Matthew told her. Matthew said he was going to church, and when she begged him to come home, he would always say he couldn't leave Summer. You see, Matthew sheltered his mother from the reality of his choices. Deep inside, he felt that the pain the truth would cause was more than his mother could bear. It wasn't until the day after Matthew died that Fran found out the truth.

Summer searched and found Fran. She reached out to Fran, and their friendship began. Fran discovered what a wonderful person Summer was and that Summer was the person Fran and the Bible study group had been praying for. Summer allowed God to use her in big ways to love Matthew. Fran learned of the timing of their friendship and began to put the pieces together with the timing of the prayers from the Bible study group. Though she was broken by her loss, she began to see specks of beauty from the ashes. She learned that Matthew had come back to Christ. He had made a decision to follow Jesus. He had wanted to break the chains that held him captive. He had wanted to have a fresh life in Christ. Fran learned he had been attending church with Summer and the other Cadets.

Sometimes when we pray and ask God for a big miracle, we have no idea what the answer to that prayer looks like. The Bible study group prayed God would send someone to Matthew to share the love of Jesus with him. He did. He sent Summer. The ladies prayed Matthew would come back to Christ and crave a relationship with Him. He did. They prayed God would bring Matthew home. Though their prayer was to bring Matthew home to South Carolina, God answered their prayer by taking Matthew home to live in eternity with Him. Through the brokenness and sadness and sense of loss, Fran was able to see God's masterpiece. She was able to see beauty in the ashes. She was able to find peace knowing her baby was sitting at the feet of her Lord and Savior.

After conversations over the phone, it was arranged for Summer to fly to South Carolina to meet Fran and to attend a memorial service for her dear friend Matthew (Casper). During her visit, Fran fell completely in love with Summer. She had lost her son, but gained a daughter. Summer was able to share story after story with her of her visits with Matthew. Summer is a musician, and Matthew had a love for music. God was able to use the talent He gave Summer to speak to and connect with Matthew. Matthew had wanted people to know his story. He had wanted them to find hope in Jesus. He had wanted people to know there is always something better for them through Jesus. Summer wrote a song for Matthew about his life. She recorded the song and played it for him many times when she took her acoustic guitar down to Skid Row. He loved the song and it brought him so much comfort. Matthew was happy people would get to hear his story through Summer's song, which is scheduled to release in the coming months. It is a song about hope and a tribute to Matthew's life.

The story doesn't end there. God was still planting seeds. He planted seeds in Fran to help those in need. When she took a shower each night, Fran thought about her son not having a hot shower. When she ate a good meal, she thought of him being hungry. Thoughts of his desperation haunted her. But instead of allowing Satan any glory from Matthew's life, Fran chose to listen to Christ and follow the nudges to actively give back. Fran began visiting the local homeless day shelter in our town. She began collecting items they needed there and taking them with her. She began sharing Matthew's story with those around her. But as a mother, she still needed some closure. She needed to see where her son had lived. She needed to meet some of the people she had talked to on the phone who lived where he had lived. So, Fran decided to plan a visit to Skid Row in Los Angeles this coming fall on the weekend of Matthew's birthday. She wants to share the hope of her son's story with others who live there. She wants to love them and share Jesus' love with them.

Fran asked my sister, Rhonda, to go with her so she would not have to travel alone. Rhonda agreed. Fran told Rhonda that she wanted to take bags with her to provide items for the homeless there. It would be her son's birthday, so she wanted to give gifts of hope and love to the people living in Skid Row. They began to brainstorm and decided to get 100 drawstring bags and try to collect goodies to go in them to distribute. Rhonda shared their ideas with me, too. Remember those 50 Bibles that had been marked with salvation verses? Remember how we didn't know when we would need them or whom God would want us to give them to? Well, the brainstorming of Fran and Rhonda's ideas took place only a week or so before our GAs and RAs were scheduled to mark the Bibles. God's timing is impeccable! Immediately, we knew God wanted us to use the Bibles for the bags. So, we ordered 50 more, giving us a total of 100 Bibles for 100 bags.

God planted more seeds in our leadership team for GAs and RAs. We began calling around to local businesses to see if they would make donations for our bags. We had a local business donate 100 toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste, and another dentist gave dental floss. Local hotels gave us little bottles of shampoo and lotion, as well as bars of soap. We collected pens, pencils, hand sanitizer, mints, fans, and more from local banks and other businesses. Local grocery stores pitched in and donated enough deodorant for all 100 bags. Another big retailer gave us a gift card to cover purchasing 100 flashlights for the bags. Restaurants gave us cases of hand wipes to include. A friend at a different local church heard about Matthew's story and the project. The church donated 100 hand-crocheted prayer patches for us to include in the bags.

In addition, our GAs and RAs were asked to each bring in 10 envelopes with 2 sheets of folded paper inside them and a stamp on the outside. Fran wanted to include these in our bags so people could write a letter home if they wanted. Church members heard Matthew's story and wanted to help, too. Our church agreed to pay to ship the bags to California. Every need we have encountered with these bags, God has picked up the bill and paved the way. We were so encouraged by the overwhelming support from our church and our community for Matthew's blessing bags. GAs, RAs, and Mission Friends met and packed the 100 blessing bags on Mother's Day. Fran joined us to pack the bags. The kids all circled around her and prayed for her after packing them. What a wonderful way for Fran to spend her first Mother's Day without her son—working on a project to pay tribute to his life and giving glory to God for providing such a story for her to be able to share.

As if that didn't show how big our God is, the story gets even better. I told my sister that if they needed help with this trip, I was available to help. Originally, I had blocked off 2 weeks of vacation to go on a missions trip to Africa with a team from my church. But that trip got canceled due to our missionary friends moving. It's funny, because the trip to California falls during the same time I had already requested off from work for the other trip. God is good, isn't He?

As Matthew’s story has been repeated, more and more people are drawn to the story and drawn to help. What started as a trip for Fran to gain a little closure from her loss and offer hope to a community her son called home has turned into a full missions trip with a team of 8–10 people. With the support of our church, community, family, and friends, we will travel to Los Angeles this fall and share Matthew's story of hope in Jesus. God is using ordinary people to share His extraordinary message. This is only the beginning. We know God will continue to use Matthew's story!

 

Tiffany Staton is the GA director at Northside Baptist Church in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

 

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