Each of us have experienced the stunning impact of a “literal, incarnational moment,” occasions I’ve come to describe as: “an inescapably convincing personal awareness that a given event or ministry season has been dynamically and precisely fulfilled by an actual flow of the Holy Spirit ‘living out’ Jesus’ (God’s Word) through you.” One of these happened to me over a three day period two weeks ago.
For 10 hours a day, I stood before over 650 pastors from all over China—having been asked to “disciple the disciplers” of urban and underground networks of churches with a constituency of well over 35 million believers. While teaching those hungry, ready, receptive servants (all giants to my view—at least 20% of them having been imprisoned for the gospel), my five-daily sessions of ministry brought me to “an incarnational moment” when I felt I “became” John 4:38! Let me give you the back-story.
It was summertime, 1948 at Old Oak Ranch when Luanne, a 10 year old from the San Francisco Bay area, attended the Foursquare Church children’s camp—one of the first at this then recently opened campsite. Like any kid, she actively entered into fun, games, swimming, hiking, etc., but she was most impacted by a class offered every morning—simply, straight-forwardly titled, “The Holy Spirit.” Wise and mature pastors taught the children the spectrum of the Spirit’s work—from His drawing us to Jesus as Savior, to His calling us to surrender ourselves to God’s will for our life.
It was about the fourth day of camp that, as Luanne later describe it, she was “baptized in the Holy Spirit and called as a missionary to China.” The most notable memory in that regard was her testimony that, as Jesus overflowed her with His Spirit, she began to speak with tongues in a language which an adult present who was familiar with Chinese recognized and describes as Luanne’s worshipping God in a crystal clear dialect of that language. I know this story well, as more than hearsay, because Luanne was my sister (four years younger, and the first in our family to receive the Spirit’s fullness).
In her early 20s she married Duane Chumley, and while they both actively served in local churches wherever they lived—Minnesota, Indiana, California—the “China call” seemed out of reach until the door opened for them to go to Hong Kong as Foursquare missionaries in 1976. Less than two years later, Luanne was buried in Southern California—barely turned 40 years of age and ushered into heaven, leaving her cancer-ridden body behind. Though she had never forgotten and had always pursued her sense of “call,” when her life ended so soon after arriving in Asia, it seemed too brief a time to have “fulfilled” it.
For my part, I never doubted the “success” of her life, but in a remarkable way I was shaken to the core with a depth of perspective I have never felt so keenly—a sense of how totally and completely we “enter into one another’s labors.” That took place two weeks ago, as I stood with an utter and overwhelming amazement at what transpired as I ministered to and felt such a depth of partnership with these leaders who are so pivotal for impacting China at this time of the Spirit’s breakthrough there.* I wept openly in that moment. I wept because in that moment I was tingling with a sense of “being” these exact words as Jesus spoke them: “I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors” (John 4:38).
I felt I was literally “being” those words—that I was joined into a timeless team of those who have gone before me and others presently beside me, impacting those leaders. Their “momentary” sense of impact related to my “person,” but what was really happening was The Person of Jesus was achieving a “30 years later” imprint of Luanne’s life and intercession (if she was anything, believe me, she was the latter). And I knew it all went farther and involved more than my sister and me: I thought of others, for example, like our own founder who buried her husband Robert on a hillside not 5 miles from where I was teaching there in Hong Kong, and how their ministry there also seemed “cut short.”
So I’m writing with a new depth of awareness of how all ministry any of us render is but a part of a massive blanket of love and power Jesus is spreading across the earth. And in that light, I wanted to shout to every leader, especially when it seems your role is being unproductive, with little hope of impact, or seems so small in time or effect: Never doubt the worth of your part! It’s a portion of a “whole” in which you have an equal role and reward!
So today, as we pray for one another, let us each with humility thank the Father for the unique place we have each been given—each so profoundly significant as “the Lord of the Harvest” converges and choreographs what each of us bring to Him in the sacrifice of ourselves to His service.
May each of you rest in the confidence of His purpose through you …
and may each rejoice in the assurance of His value of you.
* Editor’s note: The seminar in China reflects an interdenominational open door provided to The King’s Seminary; facilitated by Peter and Gaby Van Breda (Foursquare Pastors, Bellevue, Wash.), David Wang of Asian Outreach (Hong Kong) and Jack Young (president of the Hong Kong YMCA and a widely recognized attorney in China).