How Long Does It Take?
It has taken ten years to get to this day — this day of baptism, dying to the old self and saying hello to the new. . . .
I met Nan* at an exercise class and found out that she was an English teacher. When some high school students vistaed from Texas, they asked if I could connect them with some junior high students with whom they could share their culture and faith. I remembered Nan and contacted her.
Much to my surprise, before I could even ask her about visiting her classes, she peppered me with questions about my faith and about the churches we had planted. She was disenchanted with the traditional faith that 98% of Croatians claim to follow. She had embarked on a journey for truth — for authentic faith. She checked out everything from New Age to Rakia and had started researching Protestant churches in Split.
After answering a multitude of questions ranging from what I believed and about the people who attended our church, I invited her to come with me. The sermon text was taken from Luke 15 where Jesus talks about lost things. The pastor said, “Many people pretend to be ‘found’ when, in reality, they are really lost. If you’re one of those people, maybe today is the day you are found.”
After the service, Nan admitted she was one of those people. I shared the Bridge Illustration with her, showing how Jesus’ death on the cross enables us to cross the huge gap to reach God. I asked her if she was ready to cross the bridge. I was sad when she said, “Not yet.” I reassured her that there was no pressure, and when she was ready, I’d be waiting.
A month went by when I next saw her. I asked her if she’d given any more thought about our talk. Nonchalantly she said, “Yes, I decided to cross the bridge.” She asked if Kent and our YWAM friends could come to her house weekly to read the Bible. She became our person of peace. She was the one who encouraged us to start meeting in our classroom where we offer English clubs for kids so that others could join. We started meeting on Friday nights, coffee bar style. Then she spurred us on to register our church.
Every time I asked her about baptism, she said, “Not yet. I’m not ready.” I wondered what would help her. . . . It was the Jesus stories from others in our church. She finally realized that she must walk in obedience and try to follow the Lord the best she could, knowing she must humble herself and totally rely on Jesus.
It doesn’t always take ten years. When we send a missionary off to an unreached place to introduce people to the gospel, how long do we expect that to take? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to get off the plane in some faraway place, stand and deliver a rousing evangelistic message, and then everyone gives their hearts to Jesus? They would turn around and lead others to Jesus and the missionary could go back to their home country and tell everyone what happened. If only . . .
If I, after being sent to Croatia back in 1993, would tell you that in 2020 I am STILL in Croatia, I would tell you (kindly, of course) that you’re nuts. I had dreamed of being a missionary since age six, but I also expected that when I finally got to where God was sending me, people would be ecstatic and very receptive to exchanging their own wills for God’s will.
God knows us so well. Those first two years in Croatia, many people really did listen to the gospel message, embrace it, and let God completely transform their lives. Watching that transformation is what has caught us — hook, line, and sinker to want to watch it over and over.
So how long does it take? As long as needed.