Juan is my father-n-law. He is from Puerto Rico and 89 years old. He is a retired school teacher that will retire from his second career later this year, as a pastor of a small Hispanic church in Central Florida. As I write this, I am sitting in his hospital room spending the night to help him.
A few days ago, we arrived in Florida so my wife could spend time with her parents as I jet off to Sweden to teach at a Chinese discipleship retreat. Yet, the day we arrived, my father-n-law was taken to the hospital. While going to the hospital at anytime has a level of stress, this day made it especially stressful for us.
The day we arrived, the day Juan entered the hospital, was the first anniversary of my sister-n-laws unexpected death. The day she died, my family and I were 1.5 hours away from arriving at in-law’s home. We had planned to spend three weeks with them and relax. Yet with only 1.5 hours from arriving, we received the dreaded phone call that my sister-n-law was rushed to the hospital, where she died before we arrived. The pain of that day together with the phone call about Juan being taken to the hospital caused a lot of fear and stress.
Juan is entering his 4th night in the hospital tonight. His nights have not been restful nor have I gotten much sleep while staying with him. While hospital stays are no fun, it has been encouraging to see members from his church visit him. In fact, I have experienced a few divine moments that only God could create, during their visits.
Juan’s church is largely made up of blue collar workers, with a few exceptions. Most of them are immigrants who do not speak English. Most of them work on farms. Not many of them have Anglo friends. It is a mixture of those born on the mainland USA, Puerto Rico, Mexico and a few other Latin American countries. It is a beautiful mixture of God’s people who come together to worship their creator.
Two days ago, nine members of his church showed up to visit Juan. These nine were some who cannot speak English, and I cannot speak Spanish. Yet during their visit, it was clear as day what was happening. They were glorifying God.
You could see it on their faces as they conversed together. They prayed for him. They read God’s word over him. They laughed and encouraged him. This is the fruit of all the time my father-n-law has poured into their lives.
Tonight, another gentleman from his church is visiting. I am told he has a sketchy past and almost died at one point. From what I understand, my father-n-law is the first pastor who wrapped his arms around this man and discipled him. My father-n-law has loved and treated him as an equal brother in Christ. When other churches snubbed their noses at this man, Juan loved and poured into him. From my understanding, my father-n-law is the first pastor to ever invite this man to serve as a lay leader in any given church.
Over the years I have followed Christ, I have had the privilege of meeting many believers like my father-n-law. I have met them in China, India, Turkey, around the USA and beyond. These are the kind of people who sacrifice a lot to serve God and love people in the name of Christ.
Some of them are missionaries serving cross-culturally while others are serving in their home culture. Some are pastors, like my father-n-law, while others are lay leaders who sit in the pews and serve their culture in every day life. Regardless of who they are or where they live, they are brothers and sisters in Christ who seek to make Christ known, even when facing difficult circumstances and possibilities.
These people are not seeking comforts or the American Dream. They do not choose their ministry based on what is easy, trending or safe. They are not seeking to be famous, write well known books, or become social media sensations. All they want to do is love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and make Christ known to a lost and hurting world, whether that is among friend or foe. These brothers and sisters inspire me far more than any well known Christian or celebrity pastor.
These brothers and sisters inspire me to persevere. They inspire me to focus my all on God and His Kingdom. They inspire me to serve and love people who are considered my enemies. They inspire me to love Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Americans, Chinese and every person who walks this earth. It is because of what Christ did in me and the the examples God has graciously given me, through them, that I am able to do what I do. For that, I am thankful!
I am thankful to God that I am blessed to know so many like my father-n-law in so many places around the world who seek to imitate Christ to the lost world and the body of Christ.
Steve Schirmer, President of Silk Road Catalyst and co-Host of Missions Talk. Least Reached Advocate. Dedicated to No Place Left.