January 4, 2014
by Maria Fontaine
Jesus interacts with each of us in a tailor-made way. I believe that He tunes in to what we find interesting or what means a lot to us. He loves to minister to us in ways that show His care for us as the unique creations that we are. He loves us that much. I believe He expects us to have that same love for others.
Over a period of several months, Peter interacted with some of our friends in ways that developed a connection with each one on a personal level. He went with a friend to a concert. He was able to help another with their move, driving a truck and transporting furniture.
He went with another person, upon his invitation, for a ride in the mountains, where they simply got to know each other’s background and experiences, punctuated at times with periods of relaxed silence. A part of the time they listened to some music of the sixties, which had nostalgic memories for both of them. Peter used several opportunities after this to reinforce their friendship with small deeds of kindness and words of encouragement. He was open about his faith but not to the point of pushiness. It wasn’t until sometime later that the impact Peter was having became apparent. While he was attending a party that this man was hosting, in front of all his guests and friends the man put his hand on Peter’s shoulder and said, “If only more pastors and priests were like my friend here, I’d become a Christian.”
Another time Peter went to a birthday party where a man buttonholed him and talked nonstop to him almost the entire time. Later the man commented to Peter about their interaction, “I really enjoyed it because you had something meaningful to say.” Well, yes, Peter was able to say some meaningful things, but the main reason this man enjoyed the time so much was because he was being listened to, something that he obviously needed.
Peter’s goal was to build a connection and to understand this man so that he could find ways to draw him closer to Jesus by witnessing within the context of things he was interested in.
Several weeks later Peter again met this same man. But this time instead of being focused on talking about himself, he had many questions about the things that Peter had shared with him before. Peter’s investment of time listening had given this man a chance to clear out the things that were burdening his heart, leaving a vacuum. The few things that Peter had been able to share with him in their first conversation had had a chance to take root and he was ready to receive more.
As we minister to others, the Lord can show us many different ways to connect with those around us. Our words and actions can help those we meet to understand and experience a touch of God’s love. When we make the effort to relate to someone on a personal basis, this can touch people deeply and mean a lot to them.
One opportunity that came up for me to do this was when I met a lady who had just organized a woman’s discussion group. Knowing that I was a witnessing Christian, she invited me to lead one of their get-togethers. Since I wanted my remarks to relate to their needs, I asked this woman if there was any particular subject that she would suggest I talk about. She told me, “You could start by asking the women some questions.”
The Lord gave me the idea to ask them what the biggest burden or challenge is in their everyday lives. The response was immediate and open. They mentioned a wide range of issues, such as the pressure and stress of their jobs, finding meaning in their lives, how to make time for God, and their many concerns about their children’s safety, interactions with their peers, and the influence of music and computers.
Just expressing to one another the burdens that were weighing on them seemed to encourage them that they weren’t alone in what they were facing. Though I had expected to give a little talk touching on their answers to my question, the Lord instead showed me His customized plan to fill the need in these women’s hearts. I suggested, “Let’s pray for these things you’ve shared.” I was expecting them to pray for each other, but they asked if I would pray.
The Lord led me to pray for each one individually. Fortunately, I had written down both their names and their needs as we had gone around the circle, so I was able to personalize the prayers for each woman. The Lord had answered my prayer to be a blessing to them in the way they needed most: being able to share their burdens with each other, and most importantly, with the Lord.
Even though I’m unable to go out much, there is always plenty of ministering I can do on Skype and email. For example, I had a wonderful praise and prayer session with my ninety-year-old dad. We sang some of the beautiful old hymns together. It seemed to fill his heart with such peace to have someone to enjoy Jesus with in a way that he loved. This was just weeks before he went to his heavenly reward.
I was able to talk to an elderly woman who wanted so much to do more for the Lord, but her body no longer had the strength and stamina to do even the simpler tasks of studying the Word and ministering to others through the mail or prayer without dozing off in the middle.
She felt frustrated because, even though she could see the need and her spirit was willing, her body no longer possessed the strength to keep up with the physical tasks she wanted to do for Jesus. I reminded her that she had dedicated her life to having a beautiful relationship with the Lord and helping others, and studying the Word.
I told her: “You need to stop struggling, thinking that God is going to be displeased that you’re not doing enough. Jesus knows when you have done what you can, and that’s all He asks. These are the times when your best may be just to rest, to rest in Him. He says that He remembers our frame, that we are dust. He knows how much action your body is capable of, and beyond that He only asks you to snuggle up to Him and let Him take care of the rest. When your body simply can’t go any further, His joy is to just hold you in His arms. Trust Him that that is exactly what He wants most.”
A relative of mine is involved in hospice care and carries a huge workload, while suffering from constant chronic pain in his legs, yet he is passionate about pursuing this work with elderly people. I recently prayed with him for a close and active relationship between him and the Lord that would give him the strength and love that is so needed in such a sacrificial task.
While visiting a Christian chiropractor who was in a lot of pain himself at the time, I had the opportunity to pray for him. This led to his explaining his own deep interest in helping his patients, not just through manipulation techniques but also by praying for their healing. I encouraged him that praying for his patients would enhance the natural healing methods that God had given him to offer people. This seemed to give him a boost to act on what the Lord had been showing him to do.
Peter and I try to take the time to write letters of commendation for people who have done work for us: doctors, dentists, workmen, etc., and birthday letters telling people that we’re praying for them. I also sometimes phone or email people to pass on something nice someone said about them or their work. We have found that these unsolicited commendations can really touch people’s hearts, and several have framed the written notes and hung them on their office walls for all to see.
There are many opportunities to connect with people in ways that they value and that relate to their interests. I’ve found that showing that you appreciate their unique individuality can be a powerful way to connect with others and can often lead to further interaction with them. They see that you care about them and their needs. This often endears you to them and motivates them to want to hear more from you about the one whose Spirit enables you to be the good friend that you are.
“Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”—Theodore Roosevelt