Tears streamed down her face. My heart was screaming to have just a few more days. There was simply no way to stay any longer. It was past time to go. The past two weeks had just been a beginning with an end that came much too soon.
For several years after the six-month whirlwind begun by a trip to Thailand, I couldn't sing the closing words of the devotional song, "Jesus is Lord." The last words of the chorus hung in my throat. I couldn't make my heart believe them. My voice wouldn't say them. Tears welled in my eyes every single time I heard those around me sing them: "Lord, come quickly. Hallelujah!"
Inside in the core of my being, my spirit cried out to heaven, "No, Lord, please don't come yet. Please wait...
Wait until Melody is in your family!"Wait until our foster grandsons are part of our family and your family!"Wait until we can get a bunch of these Peruvian orphans better food, a better place to sleep, and a better chance to put their faith in Jesus!"
I've been blessed for most of my life to have those closest to me — those in my family and most in my circle of friendship — to be part of God's family. We knew that every goodbye was, at worst, only temporary. We trusted that we would all be together again for the longest part of our eternal experience of Jesus' grace.
When I said goodbye to Melody and a group of her friends from China as we flew home from Thailand, they hadn't come to faith. Our little group of dads on mission had loved these "kids" like we loved our own children's friends. Only this time, these "kids" weren't part of our forever family. We weren't sure we'd meet them again, much less get to see them a part of Jesus' family.
Then, a few months after the Thailand trip, Donna and I spent our first week with orphans in Peru. These kids gripped our hearts. When we left Peru to return home, we were both plagued with a similar frustration to the one I had when leaving those precious Chinese college freshmen in Thailand. Donna and I would look at each other and knew the other was wrestling with the same troubling question: Did we help these orphan children see enough of Jesus to stir them to keep seeking Jesus after we were gone? Would they ever find their forever home in Jesus' family even if we never were able to see them again this side of eternity? Saying goodbye to these children was torture. Some of the goodbyes were especially hard. They had to tear Aureceli, not quite three years old, from my arms. I had to walk away hearing her scream in heartbreak knowing that we were leaving. Would she and any of our other fifty or so little girls join us at Jesus' table of grace forever?
A few weeks later, we began the soul-shaking experience of entering the world of foster grandparenthood. We listened as our son and daughter-in-law wrestled with how to leave what they called a "God imprint" on their foster kids. They were looking for a way to leave memories that would help these kids know they are loved. They also wanted to help imprint memories that would help them want to look for God and his people when they were older and could choose their own family. In every quiet moment, our hearts whispered the question that became our second skin: How do we help these precious children we loved find their way into God's forever family?
Yes, "friends are friends forever if the Lord is Lord of them" — as Michael W. Smith sang for decades. But what happens if he is not the Lord of them? Ah, that's the rub... and the heartbreak over every time you have to say good-bye to someone precious who is not a part of Jesus' family.
Now, maybe, you understand the urgency for Andrew to find his brother after meeting Jesus!
The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!"
When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?"
They said, "Rabbi" (which means "Teacher"), "where are you staying?"
"Come," he replied, "and you will see."
So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.
Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus (John 1:35-41)
Focus on five words: "The first thing Andrew did..." These are not just words of sequence in John's storytelling; they are words that describe the priority of Andrew's heart. Once Andrew knew Jesus, nothing was more important to him than connecting his brother Simon Peter with Jesus. "The first thing Andrew did..." My heart understands the urgency and emotion behind those words! I've been there with Melody, with Peruvian orphans, and with foster grandchildren.
If we are going to have "The Andrew Effect"* on the lives of others, then we've got to share Andrew's priority. If we are going to leave a "God imprint" on the hearts of unbelievers we love, sharing Jesus has to be "the first thing" for us. If we are going to help those we treasure to see enough of Jesus to seek him after we are gone, we're going to have to connect those we know with Jesus!
So how do we do that? I want to share three things that I have found helpful for me. I've also included a YouTube video at the end of this post for you to watch to explore some of these ideas from a different point of view. So here are three sets of actions that I've found helpful in having "The Andrew Effect" on those we know and love.
First, we have to get outside our Christian cocoons and step into the world of the lost and the broken. Jesus modeled this for us when he left the Father's side and came to earth (John 1:14-18). We are called to do the same (Philippians 2:5-11) and follow Paul's example in doing all we can to connect with others (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). This step means that we've got to risk leaving our settled comfort to reach others who need Jesus' love. We've got to see others with the eyes of God. We've got to long for them to find their way home to the Father's searching grace.
Mission trips can be a good place to start living "The Andrew Effect." However, "The Andrew Effect" is a lifestyle. It is not an occasional mission vacation where we focus on people in one way, only to return home and fall into our routines and forget the lost around us. So we begin by praying that God will lead us into the lives of those around us — where we work, where we live, where we go to school, where we play. We are constantly alert for those seeking Jesus, even if they don't know it yet. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we learn to have eyes to see the heart of seekers and hear their subtle cries for his grace.
Second, we begin to pray specifically for two or three people we know need Jesus. We pray to leave a Jesus imprint on their heart. To use the apostle Paul's language, we want to be the aroma of Christ to them (2 Corinthians 2:15). We pray to be given opportunities to step into each person's life in a way that is Spirit-led and not forced. We pray to be authentic friends. We ask the Holy Spirit to help us see and hear those special moments when these people are open to us sharing our hope in Jesus (1 Peter 3:15). We also pray for courage, tenderness, and wisdom to step through those open windows of opportunity with grace.
Third, we pray for our heart to ache until the people we know become part of our forever family. We want to be moved by the same love that led the Father to send the son to our world (John 3:16-17; 1 John 3:16-18). This attitude makes life in our Christian cocoon more troubling. Yet as troubling as this can be at times, we learn to see those around us through the lens of forever. We are motivated by the love of Christ to leave the cocoon and enter the world of the lost and broken because our hearts ache for them (2 Corinthians 5:14-21). We want the lost around us to be forever family!
It's Saturday night as write this. What were our two foster grandsons are now our "real" grandsons. They are part of both our physical and our forever family. Now our job is to help these grandchildren prepare to pass on their faith to their grandchildren!
I just finished a visit with Melody over WeChat. She was on her way across Bangkok to be with God's people on the Lord's day, half a day ahead of us on the other side of the world. I also visited with Melody's older sister who is in the states. She translates VerseoftheDay.com into Chinese so her people can know more about the Lord Jesus. Her translation work is proofread by her father in China, who is being drawn ever closer to Jesus because of the influence of his two daughters.
These days I can sing, "Lord come quickly. Hallelujah!" a little more easily. However, I still think of others who I want in our forever family... some of them in Peru, China, Thailand, Madagascar... some of them much closer to home. I still leak a few tears as we sing those words, only now I thank God for the special blessing of being troubled for those who don't yet know his love and rejoice in those who have come into the family of grace. Most of all, I have tears of joy thanking Jesus for making "The Andrew Effect" more real in these last decades of my life than they were in the early ones. As those tears come, I keep praying that the angels have to stay busy setting more places at our table of grace for our forever family. I hope each year brings the need to have a bigger room for all who will celebrate God's goodness in unbroken joy and celebration because I learned from Andrew the importance of connecting people with Jesus.
If the first step in learning to live "The Andrew Effect"* is to connect personally with Jesus, I'm thankful that the second step is to make connecting those we know with Jesus the first thing priority in our lives.
This article is message three in a series called "The Andrew Effect." These are the two previous messages:
Here's video to help you focus on at least one person God has placed in your life so that you can have "The Andrew Effect" upon them: