More than course credits
As part of their Winterim course in urban outreach, middlers Jesse Johnston and Thomas Moldenhauer — along with five other students — traveled to Florida to work with Pastor Phil Huebner and the members of Christ the King Lutheran Church.
Palm Coast, Florida, has been home to Christ the King Lutheran Church for almost two years. Starting with a group of about 10 souls, the small congregation has almost quadrupled in size. By God’s grace, Christ the King has started a preschool that serves nearly 20 children. God’s Word has touched many hearts and plans for ministry expansion are growing.
That’s where we came in. In January, Pastor Huebner invited us to assist his congregation in asking the community, “Are you interested in Christian education?” So, we put together a list of questions, got a few clip boards, put on our walking shoes, and went door to door. Going door to door is not always the easiest thing to do. Some people won’t come to the door (there are three cars and nobody’s home?). Some don’t care. Some have dogs. Really big dogs.
But then there are the few who make all the time spent walking the neighborhoods worthwhile. Perhaps it’s the Pentecostal who just lost his job. “Ted” was more than willing to answer my questions about the school. In fact, he had a daughter in 5th grade who attended public school because he could not afford to send her to a Christian school. Ted worried that the world would have a negative pull on his daughter’s life — a pull away from Christ. So we talked about the sinful ways of the world and how difficult it is to avoid them. As a Pentecostal, Ted worried about his sins. He had a lot of guilt because he thought that he had to live a perfectly sanctified life to earn heaven. I asked him, “Do you still sin?” “Yes,” he said, “but not too much anymore.” I was able to remind Ted that while even one sin condemns, Christ justifies. Christ paid for all our sins on the cross. “Be free of your guilt, Ted, trust in Jesus.”
Talking to Ted about Jesus and what the Bible says about grace really made my day. That morning had been a little rainy, and it seemed every doorbell brought only another grouch to the door. But talking to Ted reminded me that Christ put us on this earth for a reason — to share the hope we have in Christ.
Fast forward to that afternoon. The rain is gone, the sun is shining, and there is more hope to be shared. As I approached another house I was nervous. Inside I heard heavy metal booming out of the stereo. I rang the doorbell, gulped, and wondered silently, “What kind of guy is this going to be?” The door opened and out stepped “JD”— who turned out to be a pretty awesome guy! He answered all the questions on the survey and expressed his thanks. We got to talking and he told me, “Hey, I can’t believe that you stopped by. I’ve been looking up churches in the phone book and calling them. It’s time for me to get my life right with God.” I could not believe my ears! God presented me with yet another wonderful opportunity.
JD felt guilty because of the life he had led in the past. He was now searching for the “truth.” God allowed me to share simple law and gospel with him that day. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. Jesus died and took away all your sins, JD.” “Thanks,” he replied, “that’s just what I needed to hear.” Whatever he did in his past didn’t matter. It didn’t matter to me, and it doesn’t matter to his eternal salvation. Jesus paid for every last sin.
Let me just tell one more story. It had been a quiet day on the streets. So when I walked up to the door of a rather unkempt house, I had no reason to think anything exceptional would happen. The Lord had something else in mind. “Jan” came to the door. Jan was an older woman who really didn’t have much pertinent information for my survey. After I was done getting the few answers she had, I asked her opinion about church. I left her house an hour later.
Jan needed to hear that sin and hell are real. She knew it from her childhood, but I could tell she had some guilt and conflicts that were causing her strife and pain. I shared with her the gospel message of free forgiveness and our heavenly reward through Christ. She needed to hear about the love of Jesus.That day was a reminder that I don’t have all the answers but that God can still use me (and all believers) to share the message of Jesus.
Pastor Huebner invited six seminarians to Palm Coast to ask the community if they were interested in Christian education. We learned the answer is yes. The members of Christ the King plan on building a church and school within the next year. We also experienced first-hand the blessings of sharing Jesus Christ with others. What an experience to walk up to the door of a total stranger and start a conversation about Christ — whether it be Christ in the classroom or Christ’s relationship to the one standing at the door or Christ on the cross or Christ outside the empty tomb. What a privilege to share in the work of spreading the gospel!
We are glad to have helped out at Christ the King. It was great to travel to beautiful Palm Coast and enjoy the sunny weather and warm hospitality. We hope that our visit was beneficial for the mission of the church. It was certainly beneficial for us. Though it was part of our curriculum, we went home with more than just course credits.