Why don't you go out and visit with your husband today? We'll take care of your children." This welcome offer came from some of the girls on the evangelistic team. We were nearing the end of a thrilling series of meetings in the Philippines, and I had been wishing I could visit some of these people in their homes. Now the way was open.
That afternoon we visited a lady who 'had been coming regularly to the meetings and who had almost accepted the message. We appealed to her to give her heart totally to the Lord and be baptized, but through the translator she expressed her fears. She was afraid of the many sacrifices she would have to make, afraid that her family would disown her and she would no longer be a part of the family. We prayed with her and left.
The next Sabbath she was in church. At the conclusion of the sermon my husband, Mark, made a strong appeal. As the congregation sang "Just As I Am," many responded, but she hesitated. I was standing in the back of the church, and I noticed that this lady was going through a real struggle. So I went over and put my arm around her and said, "I know the Lord will help you to make the right decision." She looked at me and smiled.
After the song was finished, I noticed that she had gone around to the back and up by the baptismal tank. I followed her to see what she was doing. She looked over the situation and then came back out and said to me, "Are you going back to the States soon?" I responded, "Yes, tomorrow. " She said, "I have made my decision. I'm going to be baptized today."
It was thrilling for me to realize that just the little caring act of putting my arm around her and letting her know that I understood was one of the things that helped her to make a decision that day.
For the past fifteen years I have worked with my husband on a ministerial team. My greatest joy in ministry comes from working with people. Many people around us want to know about Christ, but because I have small children, I can't always leave them to give Bible studies. But I still have the opportunity of working closely with these people at the public meetings or in my home. I love to meet the needs of other people.
One of the ways I help here at the Lake Union Soul Winning Institute is by holding nutrition classes. When we first began this ministry, I didn't feel this was my field. My training and background were in elementary education; the community nutrition classes were a whole new field of endeavor. But I began by sharing with others what I know about nutrition and some of the things that have been successful in our own home. There is a great interest in nutrition today, and these nutrition classes are a wonderful bridge between the health programs and the evangelistic meetings.
Anyone who has held nutrition classes knows they require a lot of work and take a lot of preparation. From purchasing the food to preparing the samples and setting up trays, the preparation is phenomenal. I can remember thinking, "I wonder if this is important. Is it worth all the time and effort that must be put into it? "
When we were working at planting a new church in Burbank, Illinois, over 100 attended our nutrition series. A young woman named Valerie Talbot came night after night. During the last nutrition session we invited those attending to come to the evangelistic meetings. Valeric and her husband, Doug, attended the Prophecy Lecture meetings each evening. After attending church every Sabbath for about a year, Doug and Valerie were baptized. Was all my work worth it? Of course!
I love being actively involved in evangelism, and specifically, the work of the Institute. How can I do this with three children? I've always said there are two things I don't want to sacrifice my children, and my husband and his work. I believe they can be combined, but certain conditions must be met. For example, it must be convenient for me to be close to our work in order to work with my husband, but at the same time my children must be involved. We bring our children to the cooking schools, and at times they help. During the evangelistic meetings I organize children's meetings both for the children of people who attend and for my own children. (Our entire program is planned like a Vacation Bible School.) Many times our children have helped collate and staple materials, worked with us in door-to-door survey work and Ingathering, and cooperated with us in producing tapes. It's exciting to view children as part of the ministerial team. I think this is one of the things that have kept our family unified.
Of course there are also times when we do things with them to meet their needs take them some place they want to go, have a family picnic, or engage in an activity they enjoy. We want to make sure our children are involved with us in whatever we do.
I believe God has given me the gift of hospitality, and throughout our ministry our home has always been open. In fact, for eleven of the thirteen years we have been married we have had people living with us, training for evangelism. I think of Brad Thorp, who lived in our home for three years and now is in British Columbia with a team of about twenty people actively working in evangelism. Tony Moore and Helen Cooper, who are now husband and wife, got to know each other on our team. They are now actively working in evangelism and have a team in their home. Mike and Penny Sczekan lived in our home, and they are now pastoring and carrying out an aggressive evangelistic ministry in Chicago. There are many challenges in having people living in one's home, but these young people working in evangelism far outweigh the trials.
Of course every minister's wife should not try to do exactly what I have done opening up my home, at times having eight or ten people living with us, participating in cooking schools, taking care of campaign business and finances, doing organizational work for my husband.
The Lord has given different people a variety of talents and gifts, and each needs to know specifically what her gifts are. Some people may be gifted in music. They can sing beautifully or play the organ or piano and be a real asset to their husband's ministry in that area. (That doesn't hap pen to be my specific gift.) Others have gifts in other areas.
Everyone can practice hospitality in some way. You may not have people living with you for long periods of time, but you can open your home to the needs of others. A bowl of hot soup and a chance to talk in a warm kitchen may be just what will meet the needs of a lonely person.
The One Thousand Days of Reaping evangelistic thrust has just begun. Nothing is more fulfilling than being a part of soul winning. Your part may not be to give Bible studies. It may be in evangelistic music, record keeping, planning children's meetings, organizing weekly mailings, typing, or a host of other ways. I believe that as ministers' wives we need to be eyes for our husbands. As people come to the meetings, we can recognize some of their needs and try to fill those needs.
Recently we had four Mormon missionaries coming to our evangelistic meetings. One night I went up to them and said, "So glad you're here tonight, I've noticed you coming night after night and would like to get a little better acquainted with you." As we talked I learned that these boys were living by themselves and cooking their meals every day. I asked them if they would like to come over for dinner. We had a wonderful time with them, and they came back to eat dinner with us on several occasions. It just happened to work out that we had a Bible study with them after the meal. This joy in ministry is hard to replace with anything else.
During public crusades I have two specific areas of responsibility. One is the children's meetings, which I have described. The other is organizing the names, which I feel is very important. You can have a good evangelistic meeting with tremendous preaching, but you also need to know who is coming to the meetings, because the dynamics of decision-making take place in the home. So I put the names on a master list and organize them for our team so they can visit these people. This is something I can do at home with the children.
It makes my husband feel a little more secure, knowing that I am the one who is organizing and overseeing the evangelistic names. He knows there will be no lack of concern, no complacency about getting the names out on time and having the list done accurately.
How can you, a minister's wife, become actively involved in the One Thousand Days of Reaping? First, you can encourage your husband to be actively involved in soul winning. Rather than wishing aloud that he were home more, work closely with him; involve your family as an evangelistic team.
Second, you have unique talents and gifts. Whatever those talents are, whether they be in the line of music, hospitality, health, or organization, contribute your unique talents to a more effective soulwinning program.
Third, pray that God will help you to find some person with whom you can share the message in some way whether it's by sharing it by your life or by opening your home to that person and letting him see you really care. The One Thousand Days of Reaping is not simply a General Conference program or your husband's program. It is Christ's appeal to your heart. Accept the challenge, and enjoy an adventure in ministry!