Not long ago, I wrote a short prayer about how prayer helps with contact work. Carleene and Heather starting praying for me as I go to the Rec Center weight room (to exercise), to Starbucks (to work) and to the bus stop (to meet my daughter) and it has made a huge difference.
So I want to share a story. And, I’m changing the names of the people involved.
First, let me briefly explain “contact work”. I’ve borrowed the term from Young Life. Basically, it’s about meeting people without an agenda in order to express Christ’s love. Here’s a bit of how it works.
1) I go out and meet people because Jesus loves them. There is no bait-and-switch. As I meet people, I am openly Christian and honest about who I am, that I am a husband, dad, follower of Jesus, pastor who is planting a church. No artificiality. I am genuinely interested in people because Jesus is. Even if they never come to a missional community gathering (although I hope they do) I’m going to try to remember their names, be interested in their lives, and love them with the love of Jesus.
2) I need to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in terms of who I talk to. The Spirit arranges a lot of conversations through circumstances or through introductions by mutual friend. Sometimes, I just get a clear prompting or nudge to go speak to someone.
3) I just talk about everyday stuff – keep it positive – and keep ears and heart open.
So a few weeks ago, one of my neighbors was there working out. I stopped by to say hi to him, and he introduced me to one of his work-out partners: a muscular young man, whose first name is “Wallingford.” “Wow,” I said, “I don’t know that I’ve ever met a Wallingford.” He went on to explain where his name came from. We talked about weight-lifting, shook hands, and went our separate ways.
Today, I saw a guy who looked familiar. I said, “You look familiar.” He popped his ear buds out and we tried to figure it out. He asked what I did. I said I was a pastor, and finally asked what his name is. “Manchester,” he said. “Wow”, I said, “I don’t meet many Manchesters. I think I’d remember that name.” We returned to our work-outs.
A little later, an idea popped into my mind. I should ask Manchester if he had ever met Wallingford. I walked over and said, “Manchester – right. Have you ever met Wallingford? He works out here, too, and both of you have such noble sounding names.” He laughed. Told me his full name Manchester Sinclair Guggenheim, II. His friends call him Manny. And he told me his son was Manchester the III, a young man who’s doing quite well. And then he said, “Hey, would you mind praying for my daughter. Just recently, she lost a baby when she was three months pregnant…” And I said, “Wow. That must be really hard. Tell me what happened.” And I was privileged to hear a guy share what was really on his heart.
I asked him if I could pray for him and his daughter in the weight room. He looked a little nervous. I said, “Relax, just keep your eyes open and I’ll pray for you.” I prayed that God would give him strength as a dad to be there for his daughter in her hard time and to be with her and her husband as they grieve.
He said thanks and we shook hands and returned to our work-out. But that weight room certainly is starting to look like holy ground. What a privilege to be a part of God’s work.