Patti Duckworth, Associate Executive Minister

Have you ever been going somewhere and got lost? Because of GPS, Google Maps and smart phones, it probably doesn’t happen like it used to. Unless there’s no access to them, as happened to me in January.

Having had lunch with friends from the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Amsterdam, I talked with one of them about how to take the public transit back to the hotel. I had a basic understanding of the system and had ridden into the city center a number of times both last year and this year. So we agreed I would to go down the block, get on #12, get off at Bilderjijkstraat, take #17 and get off at Jan van Galenstraat, right at the door of our hotel. That seemed fairly straightforward. I had an unlimited use 3-day ticket and knew if I got confused, I could get on a tram, go to the Central Station, get on #17 there, and go to the hotel.

We parted and off I went. It was a pleasant afternoon, the sun was shining, and all was well. In Amsterdam the stops are fairly regular. I was enjoying looking at the sights while keeping an eye on the screen that gave the next four stops. The names and the scenery were familiar... Rabobank, yes, modern art display, yes ... and then a turn. All of a sudden, things did not look familiar. Looking at the screen, the next stops did not look familiar either. A mild concern came to me. Well, okay, no problem. I’ll get off at the next stop, get my bearings.

Off I got and looked around. The street to my right went for another 3 blocks and curved so I could see no further. Same for the street looking to my left. The buildings on each side of the street for as far as I could see were exactly the same: neat, clean, apartment buildings. None were shops or businesses. I turned to look at the street / tram map at the stop and realized I did not have my reading glasses! I could read the names of the stops but not the tram numbers or time schedules. I was not sure which tram would take me back. Good grief! There was a pleasant-looking woman at the stop, but she was completely engrossed in her cell phone and gave every signal that she was not the least bit interested in my presence or in speaking to me, even if I made the attempt. As I squinted at the map, another tram with a different number came, but heading in the direction I did not want to go. The uninterested woman boarded, and I was now alone. It would be dusk in an hour. 

I did not stand there long, though it seemed like forever. Technically I was lost: I did not know exactly where I was or exactly how to get where I wanted to go. Even if there was someone else there, I did not know what “locals” called the place I wanted to go.

Obviously I made it home, and safely. On my way, I encountered 3 other people who clearly knew where they were going AND how to get there. None gave any signal of being approachable or willing to help.

I’ve thought a lot about that experience during these past months. It hit me how easy it is to slip into negative thoughts like “why didn’t someone offer to help? Why didn’t those folks talk to me? Was I that much of a stranger?” What has hit me harder was this realization: how many people come into our “church world” and have exactly the same experience?

As a consequence, I’ve been trying, though not always successfully, to pay more attention to people signals or nudges from the Holy Spirit that someone might be spiritually “lost.” For example:

  •  “Casual” talk about “important” or complex things like the future, social issues, family problems;
  •  Someone “being around” more than usual;
  •  New people in my circle of experience.

These signals may be indications of someone’s openness to religious or spiritual things and opportunities help someone encounter Christ. You may know other signals. I’d like to hear about them.

If these encounters aren’t a part of your weekly experience, I urge you to pray for them. Ask the Lord to make you aware of encounters already in your life. In last month’s post and recent newsletter, Dr. Charles Revis urged us to pray “specific prayers that are focused on seeing people far from God come into a faith relationship with Jesus through your church's evangelistic and outreach efforts.” View Article

I couldn’t agree more.

If prayers for others’ “lost-ness” aren’t a regular part of our lives, something is really missing. Have we lost touch with our own “lost-ness” without Christ?

True, some of us have grown up in the church and always known there is a God who loves people and been aware of Christ’s presence. Others of us grew up with “God” as a vague idea, and church or religion were only for weddings or funerals, if that. Either way, each of us intentionally following Christ now have in some way encountered the possibility of life without Christ. We have each made a conscious decision to make Jesus not only Savior but Lord of our lives. It is vitally necessary to remember the time when we realized that without Christ, we would be lost, lost forever to all that is good and hopeful without God and God’s love for us in Christ. It is vitally necessary to remember the times when we had a clear encounter, a moment of clarity, in which we made choices to turn away from our self-centered, self-run and self- destructive lives and turned toward Christ.

If we don’t regularly remember our own lost-ness without Christ, we simply will not care about the lost-ness of family and friends without Christ. We will find ourselves in the same place as Simon, hearing Jesus say, “But whoever has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47b). Simon had lost touch with how desperate his condition would be without the Lord of the universe. However, as we remember our own “lost-ness,” praying for and caring about people far from God will become a natural part of who we are.

As you enjoy the Independence Day holiday, remember your political and spiritual freedom and be thankful. But also remember your “lost-ness.” Be prayerfully attentive to those around you.