Ready to Witness
By Pastor Jason Johnson
The other day I received an email from a friend. In this email he shared a true story about the way God works in powerful ways when we are ready and allow Him to use us. The story goes like this.
Sabbath afternoon began as planned. About 30 band students from Campion Academy, where I worked as a chaplain, distributed copies of Ellen G. White’s book “Steps to Christ” in a town located at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in the U.S. state of Colorado. After that, we returned to the local Adventist church, where the students earlier had performed, and changed clothing for a hike in nearby Rocky Mountain National Park.
As so as our bus stopped at a scenic lookout spot near the mountaintop, I immediately wanted to turn around and leave. Dozens of people dressed in long robes greeted our eyes. At first glance I thought they belonged to some sort of pushy Eastern religion, and I didn’t want to argue with them. But the band members pleaded for five minutes to witness to those people. I reluctantly agreed and announced that I would take pictures of the scenery.
After a few minutes, one student came over to me and said: “This is not an Eastern religion. This is a Hawaiian wedding.” I was surprised. “Why is a Hawaiian wedding being held in Colorado?” I asked. It turned out that the groom was originally from Hawaii, so the wedding ceremony had a Hawaiian theme. But, the student said, the bride and groom had a problem: the minister was 45 minutes late. “Aren’t you a minister?” the student said. “Yes, but I don’t know these people from Adam and Eve,” I said. “I don’t want to do anything illegal.” “They really need help,” the student said. “Why don’t you go over and talk to them?” I assured him that the minister would arrive. The student wasn’t so sure. We finally agreed to wait 10 minutes. The minister didn’t show up. We saw the bride crying near a car. I approached her. “I understand that you have a problem,” I said. The woman tearfully explained that the minister had been involved in an accident and could not come to the wedding.
The bride had won my sympathy now. “All right,” I said. “I guess I can have your wedding.” She looked surprised. “What makes you think that you can have my wedding?” she said. “I am a minister,” I said. “You don’t look like a minister.” “Lady, I wouldn’t lie to you,” I said, pulling out my wallet to show her my ministerial license. Her eyes grew big. “You really are a minister!” she said. “I told you I was.” “Can you do our wedding?” Now I was not so sure. I said to her, “I want to see your wedding license.” I carefully examined the piece of paper. It was in order. “I guess I’ll have your wedding,” I said. “So what are your names?” The band members saw what was happening, and they became excited. Several band members played music for the couple before the ceremony began. Then the bride’s father escorted his daughter, now smiling, to the front of the crowd. The groom played a guitar and sang “The Hawaiian Wedding Song.” The Lord gave me a few things to say, and then I pronounced the couple husband and wife. Afterward, the groom’s mother said something to me that still sends chills up and down my spine.
“I don’t think this was an accident,” she said. “I think this was meant to happen. Look at your shirt.”
I looked down at my clothing. I was wearing jeans, tennis shoes, and a powder-blue shirt. Stitched over the shirt’s pocket was the word, “Hawaii,” and a colorful rainbow. I had bought the shirt while vacationing with my wife in Hawaii several years earlier.
When they put the lei around my neck, it was as if my participation in the wedding had been meant to happen. We gave the newlyweds a wedding gift: a copy of “Steps to Christ.” The couple had never heard of Seventh-day Adventists. As the wedding party headed down the mountain for a roasted pig luau, the band members and I rejoiced that we had been able to participate in the wedding. If the story had ended there, I would have been happy. But it didn’t.
Two years later, I was living in Texas and received an early Sabbath morning phone call from a veteran literature evangelist in Colorado. “Benjie, are you sitting?” he said. I sat down. “Do you remember that couple who you married in Rocky Mountain National Park?” he said. “How can I forget?” I said. “A wedding in jeans. I had never had a wedding in jeans before.” The literature evangelist said the couple had read “Steps to Christ” and reached out to the Adventist Church for more information. “So we sent them more literature,” he said. “Then they wanted Bible studies. And I’ve been studying the Bible with them for the last six months.” He said: “You’ll be happy to know that today they are being baptized into the Greeley Seventh-day Adventist Church.” Two more years passed. Campion Academy invited me to return to give a week of prayer. As I stood up to give the Sabbath sermon, I saw the literature evangelist walk in with the married couple and their toddler. After the church service, they told me the rest of the story. After being baptized, the couple had invited their friends to evangelistic meetings in the Greeley church, and three of them had been baptized. In addition, the groom’s mother had been baptized and was working at an Adventist hospital in Hawaii. I hadn’t wanted to stop that day to argue with people in white robes. But the Lord was able to use a few academy students and a guy wearing a Hawaiian shirt to witness.
As you can see God is ready to work through us as he did through this young minister and kids, but this raises a question for us all. Are we ready? If God called you or me today would we be like Isaiah and say, …“Here am
I! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8) As our focus has been on the power of prayer, let us prayer that when God calls us to service, we will respond as Isaiah did. Will we be ready?