I love the way his church grows in the world. On a recent trip to Kentucky and upstate Ohio, someone from Cincinnati figured out I was probably passing through Cincinnati as I made my way up from Lexington. He wrote to say there were some people in Cincinnati that would be interested in meeting with me if I had time for lunch passing through, or even an evening if I could stay. Over a few days I began to feel that this might be something in Father’s heart about that and contacted the people who had invited me to Ohio to see if they had anything planned my first evening there. They didn’t and said they’d be happy to share one of their nights if it looked like something was happening in Cincinnati.
So, instead of passing through, I spent an unplanned night in Cincinnati. What’s more that time allowed me to connect with someone I’ve known but never met south of Cincinnati, to meet a businessman in Cincinnati that I worked with years ago from a group in Las Vegas, NV, and to have an evening with those who wanted me to stay over. They also encouraged me to invite any other folks who have read or listened to my things in the area. So on very short notice I sent an email to those on my Travel Notification list for that area. My hosts planned an evening meal around a campfire and perhaps 12-15 people showed up. From the first connections it was obvious that this was a special night for people to connect with each other. I was surprised at the depth and honestly that people shared some of their struggles on this journey with complete strangers, but one said later that the environment felt so safe she plunged right in. Others obviously felt the same, and the connections that were made that night still reverberate on Facebook. I love that. When people discover they are not alone in their hunger, with people who live near them, some amazing things can happen.
I went to bed that evening grateful for what those people got to experience that evening and overwhelmed by the generosity of a family that would let me and strangers from the Internet gather in their home that evening, and for a brother in Ohio who was anxious for me to get up there but was willing to delay that a bit to bless others. On the verge of sleep I felt nudged to share with the host home the next morning that their generosity had expanded Jesus church in the world. It didn’t take much, just a willingness to ask and provide a place for others to gather. I love that. I also got to tell the man who picked me up the next morning that his generosity to give up one of the nights I was going to be with them also expanded his church in the world. Later we found out that there’s a couple I’ve long corresponded with living 22 minutes from them out in the Amish country of Millersburg, OH.
I am convinced that one of the most important reasons Jesus asks me to travel around a bit is to help people who otherwise wouldn’t know each other, begin friendships that help knit his famly together. Often the most important thing someone takes away from a gathering I’m in is a relationship that soon grows into a friendsip. I get that email from people all the time and I watch those connections grow on Facebook from places I’ve been in the past.
I love the simplicity of how relationships can grow if people will be true to the nudgings in their heart and live with a hospitable heart toward others. That’s really all that’s needed for people to connect, for hearts growing in Jesus to be knitted to other hearts. And his church grows in the world. It is really that simple.