The Voice of God: A Walmart Cashier Named Mary
This month I have had an opportunity to reflect on how God often reinvents and redesigns us to do new things for His glory that we have never done before. Sometimes, these even involve a personality change, resulting in our loving things previously repulsive or uninteresting to us. March 13th will be the 20th anniversary of Him remaking me from a grocery store assistant manager into an addiction recovery counselor. I would have never dreamed he would take something I had absolutely no interest in doing and make it one of the great passions of my life. This reinventing of Martin has been repeated on several occasions in my life, but I have to admit I would have never dreamed at this late stage in my calling He would decide to remake me into a children’s pastor!
A few weeks ago, I was sitting at one of our local elementary schools visiting with one of two kids in our Junior Warriors program I had gone to have lunch with. Three of his friends were all loudly talking to me at the same time about totally different subjects! Before I could address what any of them were trying to talk to me about, they had all changed to three more completely different subjects! I thought about how just a year before I would have never had any desire to be in that place. Here I was that day feeling joy about what God has been doing in our kid’s program, and happy to see their desire to relate. How did God get me to this place?
The little church God sent me to in Pascagoula back in December of 2012 simply had nothing for teens or children. I well knew that the church family that has no children has no future, and its legacy won’t be pleasing to the Lord on Believer’s Payday. Having worked with teenagers many times over my ministry years, I decided to start a youth ministry. Being the only staff person made that a bit of a challenge, but after working with some great kids for a year and a half, God saw fit to send someone with like passion for reaching young people. Jesse Ferrell started with the youth last February, so my thought was to start something during the same time on Wednesday night for age 12 and under.
I started working to put together a curriculum to help these younger kids learn the Bible. However, it wasn’t long before I ran up against a major obstacle: I didn’t have any experience working with younger students, didn’t really have the patience for it, and felt that I would be teaching way over their heads. I prayed about it, thought about it, and finally concluded that if Yahweh wanted it done, he would send someone to do it. One Saturday, I told Him I didn’t see where He had made me with the gifts or talents for it and I was uninspired to do it myself at this point. I would do something with it when He sent me someone to help. Meanwhile, I was going to drop the class and forget about it. Then, I went to Walmart to get the groceries.
In the checkout line, the man in front of me kept looking at me as if we were somehow connected. Behind the register, a cashier named Mary was talking away to him in a friendly manner as she rang up his items. Finally, he spoke up and said, “Where do I know you from?” I jokingly said perhaps it was from the FBI wanted posters in the post office. Un-distracted by my stale humor, he persisted that he must know me. I next suggested it might be from my 20 years of working for Delchamps Grocery Stores. Still not impressed, he said it wasn’t that but he knew me. Finally, I suggested the 15 ½ years I spent at Home of Grace Addiction Recovery Program. “That’s it!” he exclaimed, “I graduated in 2009 and went through your spiritual warfare class!” He went on to explain how the class had helped him in his personal Christian walk and in his sobriety, and was proud to say he had been clean for all 7 years since then. As he walked away, I was feeling pretty good about being used to make a difference in someone’s life and especially in their Eternity. Then Mary spoke up.
After drawing a big breath of contentment as he walked away, I looked at Mary. I could tell by her responses during our conversation that she was also a fellow believer in the Lord. “Things like that make you really feel like you are making a difference in people’s lives.” I said with confidence. “Yeah,” Mary responded, “but you know what we really need?” Her question threw me off! What could we, the family of God, possibly need more than someone who helps people overcome addiction and come to know the Lord? The answer wasn’t long in coming. “We need someone to teach these kids the Word of God while they are younger, before they get up older and get into drugs. We need Bible teachers to step up and make a difference with these kids because they are already getting introduced to drugs while they are in elementary schools. That’s what we need.” I was stunned, not only had my balloon of confidence I was doing all I needed to do for God been popped, but God had plainly weighed in through this willing vessel named Mary to tell me the very thing I used to preach while working in admissions at the addiction program. So many of my interviews with clients I had asked them when they got introduced to alcohol and other drugs, and it was often in single digit ages, while others said they were tweens and early teens. I went home and asked God to give me whatever gift it takes to work with the kids he would send me!
One year later, to the three original kids we started our program with, Yahweh has added over 30 more! And I am praying He will show us how we can teach other churches to start their own Warriors for Christ program to teach younger kids the Word of God. Most of those he sends us aren’t being raised by their two biological parents. Many are children of addicts. For most, only the godly heart of a grandparent who knows the value of God’s Word is the cause of their being able to come to our program. Watching them march to “The Armor of God” and other songs about being Warriors for Christ, listening to them eagerly learn Bible verses and facts in order to earn prizes, my heart is just filled with joy. Every once in a while, I look at one of them and try to imagine what kind of man or woman they will be after really being taught the Word of God rather than just being entertained in some entertainment-focused children’s program with no real Bible education focus. I wonder how many have had their history changed from future addict or future prison inmate to amazing woman or man of God and Godly parent!