Tears streamed down her face. My heart was screaming to have just a few more days with Melody and her friends, but we couldn't. There was simply no way to stay any longer in Thailand. It was past time to go. The past two weeks had just been a beginning with an end that came much too soon. What would happen to her?
For several years after the six-month whirlwind of emotion begun by that 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 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 our foster grandsons are part of our family and your forever 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!"
"Wait until our Madagascar friends come to know Jesus."
"Please wait, dear Lord, until many of our Bhutanese refugee friends know you as the only true and living God and Jesus as you come in human flesh."
Those closest to me have been part of God's family for most of my life. We knew that every goodbye was, at worst, only temporary. We trusted that we would all be together again, with Jesus, eternally.
When I said goodbye to Melody and a group of her friends from China and 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 see them a part of Jesus' family.
When we left Peru to return home, we were plagued with similar frustration and heartbreak. Donna and I spent our first week with orphans in Peru. These kids gripped our hearts. 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 could 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 to 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 chose their own families. In every quiet moment, our hearts whispered the question that became our second skin:
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 every time you say goodbye 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 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 these five words in the passage we just read: "The first thing Andrew did..."
Those are not just words of sequence in John's storytelling; they're 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, Peruvian orphans and translators, and foster grandchildren. "The first thing Andrew did!"
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 see enough of Jesus to seek him after we are gone, we need to connect those we know with Jesus!
So how do we do that?
Here are three sets of actions that I've found helpful in having "The Andrew Effect" on those we know and love.
First, we must get outside of 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 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, live, go to school, and 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 God gives us opportunities to step into each person's life in a Spirit-led and unforced way. 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.
As I update this post, our two foster grandsons are now our "real" grandsons — and we now have another! They are part of both our physical and forever family. Our job is to help these grandchildren prepare to pass on their faith to their grandchildren!
Donna and I have worked on an upcoming trip to Peru to see our "kids" and translators. I've been blessed to baptize some of those teenage orphans into Christ as they confessed their faith in Jesus. I loved the smiles, hugs, and tears of welcoming them into our forever family. I'm a proud spiritual abuelo because they live for Jesus.
As I was finishing this article, I visited Melody over WeChat. She is married, lives in Europe, and is trying to learn how to live for Jesus. I also visited Melody's older sister, Karen, in the States. She is a strong follower of Jesus and has two daughters of her own. She has translated VerseoftheDay.com into Chinese so her people can know more about the Lord Jesus. Her translation work has drawn her closer to Jesus.
Since I first wrote this message, a sweet young lady from Madagascar came to Christ and has been helping translate VerseoftheDay.com into French. She is in the States working on her Ph.D. and living for Jesus. Over three years, I was also blessed to share Jesus and baptize 47 Bhutanese refugees into Christ as they passionately began their walk with Christ as Savior and Lord.
These days I can sing, "Lord comes quickly. Hallelujah!" a little more joyously. I still think of others I want in our forever family... some of them in Peru, China, Thailand, and elsewhere. I still leak a few tears as we sing, "Lord, come quickly!" 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. However, I thank God for the special blessing of being troubled for those who don't yet know God's love.
Most of all, I have tears of joy thanking Jesus for making "The Andrew Effect" more a reality in these last decades of my life than they were in the early ones. I hope each year brings the need to have a bigger room in my Father's house for all who will celebrate his goodness and salvation 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 kind of priority in our lives.
"The Andrew Effect" involves the four key pieces with an introduction. You can find more on the various components and movements of the "The Andrew Effect" in the following posts:
- Intro: Connecting People to Jesus.
- One: Connecting to Jesus Personally.
- Two: Connecting Those We Know to Jesus.
- Three: Connecting Those Who Want to Help with Jesus.
- Four: Connecting People of Other Cultures to Jesus.