Mormons, Refugees, and Addicts
I am always amazed at who shows up for church on Sundays at Southside. On a recent Sunday, a whole new group of ladies who are recovering addicts came to our church as guests. These women were in a recovery program nearby and had been sharing in a Bible study that two of our ladies had been leading on-site. They appreciated the study and decided to visit our church. During our invitation time, three of them came up to me and asked for prayer—prayer to remain clean and sober, prayer for family restoration, and prayer for God’s will. Right before I prayed, one of the ladies looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “You know that baptism thing that you were talking about? I need to do that.” I was thinking, “Wow, God, you must be at work!”
That same day, I met a mother and her daughter. They too were guests. They had come to our church previously on a Saturday for our School Supply Store, a ministry where we provide a low-cost store for families in our neighborhood to get their children ready for school. This mother had heard about it, and when she came, she appreciated the gesture of mercy so much that she decided to come back on Sunday. Come to find out, she and her daughter were from Uganda; they were trying to start a new life in America after a traumatic time back home and a decision to flee. They knew they needed a church home in order to reconnect with God after what they had been through. So here they were, sitting close to the front, ready to worship and listen to the word. I was thinking, “Wow, God, you must be at work!”
That same day, in the middle of my sermon, two well-dressed young men walked into our service and found a seat near the front. Noticing their black name tags and suits, I deduced quickly, while preaching, that they were Mormon elders. It turns out they had been invited by someone in our deaf ministry. One of our deaf members had attended the Mormon church during a time of searching, but she had left confused. After finding Southside and learning of the truth found in Scripture, she invited her two Mormon friends to come to church and learn. They came! They wanted to grow their sign language capability and learn more of God’s word. When I heard this, I was thinking, “Wow, God, you must be at work!”
I wish that I could say that every Sunday had this wide variety of guests at our church seeking hope, love, and truth, but that is not always the case. Yet I am always surprised at who God brings our way. We have a saying at our church: “You are not here by accident, but God brought you here for a reason.” We believe that to be true: that every person has come to the assembly of God’s people for a reason. God has gathered us to learn of him, and we are to be expectant of what God will do in us, through us, and in spite of us.
The gathering of God’s people should bring anticipation for what God will do and for who God will bring. I often pray, “Lord, send us people this morning who need hope, and help us to be ready to receive them.” Sometimes the Lord sends us an addict. Sometimes the Lord sends us a refugee. And sometimes the Lord sends us a Mormon. In any case, we must be ready to receive them with grace and truth.