Humbly, he came to visit a church full of mostly caucasian and Filipino people, but he was African American. He shared with me he was an ex-convict who was incarcerated in Sheriff Arpaio’s jail in Arizona. He told me he while in jail he utilized American Rehabilitation Ministry’s material and straightened his life out with a genuine relationship with Jesus. He asked if he could help serve the church.
I jumped on that opportunity. One of the ways I used his help was having him tag along as I helped families and individuals in need with dispensing supplies. He watched the church and me help people. Most of those we helped were people of color. The whole time we worked together like that in the first year, I didn’t realize this person was African American because he was light-skinned.
Then I met his father and realized my ignorance.
Since I had been accused of being racist at times, I knew I had an opportunity to find out what I needed to work on in that area. So, I asked him what things I need to work on to not be racist. He informed me he hadn’t seen any racism in me -- that blew me away. I was humbled and honored at the same time, and praised Jesus He had been utilizing me in a truly unbiased and unequitable service to Him.
The man became a true friend as he demonstrated servanthood, humility, genuineness, and scholarship. In order for him to serve in our church and school, he had to do annual background checks, which always came back flagged due to his felonious past. It was easy for me to sign off on his flagged background checks because I knew he was the real deal. He absolutely proved himself as a totally sold-out follower of Christ.
Over time, he became a deacon in our church and set such a good example. He consistently served the church, humbly and willingly sacrificing time, energy, and resources. He became a solid fixture in the church and the church depended heavily on him. He continues to serve as a model deacon to this day (many years later).
I consider him a true friend and brother in Christ. Although I have many friends whom I really trust, there is only one I introduce the way I introduce this brother. I say, “I trust him with my life.”
It’s true. I do.
What a statement! Here’s a guy who once did so many horrible things, he wound up in one of the most difficult and notorious incarceration facilities in the country. Yet, through a genuine relationship with Jesus, he turned it all around, and is now a productive member of society.
He actually works in and around the Yelm area. One day I saw him out in the county between Yelm and Rainier. I stopped and talked with him, and as I drove off, prayed for him, and thanked God he is out in the community displaying what real Christianity looks like. Without asking him I knew he prayed for me, too, as he often does.
Now, he’s the first one to say he’s not to be propped up as a good example of a Christian. He will tell you he has a long way to go and is constantly working on himself to set a better example. I didn’t ask him if I could share his story, so I have chosen to not name him to honor how I know he thinks about this sort of thing. This is how all of us think who are close to Jesus.
The reality is there are people like him dispersed throughout our community. No, they’re not all ex-cons, but there are many who once were so lost, but now are found; they used to live selfishly, but now live selflessly for Jesus; they used to be takers and are now constant givers; they used to wander, aimlessly, and now are focused; they used to be depressed, anxious, and without hope, but now are perpetually positive, at peace, and full of hope; they used to drain others with their drama, but now encourage and motivate others. They used to do things they ought not while others weren’t looking, but now they do everything with great character and strive to please their Father, whom they know is always watching.
They used to only depend on others’ prayers, but now look for opportunities to pray for you, me, and others.
In a world that is so full of uncertainties, I am thankful for the genuine Christians all around us. In a time when normal seems so out of reach, I find comfort knowing there are consistent Christians in my life. As the surge of COVID-19 cases, increased lockdowns and quarantines, and abundance of negatives bombard us, I’m grateful for the positive Christian servants dispersed throughout our communities. Praise God for the good examples of Jesus-followers in our lives. I hope and pray you are one, and if not, I hope and pray you become one.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[a] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV)
Pastor Jeff Adams is a professional Christian counselor who travels the world teaching but serves our community. His column appears weekly. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.