But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, AND in all Judea AND Samaria, AND to the ends of the earth. - Acts 1:8
Back when I was on staff at Lifepoint Church, our pastor used to quote Acts 1:8 to us all the time. He always emphasized the words - AND AND, and, well, AND - as in - we are called to serve those here AND there AND everywhere - whenever and wherever the Lord puts the opportunities in our path. I always appreciated this lesson and it helped me expand my mind, but it wasn't until earlier this year that this passage actually hit home.
When Leah and I were asked to lead a workshop on Disability Inclusion at The Church of the Nazarene General Assembly, we said yes without hesitation. While neither of us had ever attended General Assembly before, we trusted that it would be a great opportunity to pour vision into our denominational leaders. We figured that there would be a couple of hundred people from across the nation there (for anyone who has ever attended General Assembly before - I hear you laughing.). Turns out, there were over 20K people from all around the world there and that was just the beginning of the surprises.
We were told to prepare for about 50 people to attend our workshop, but because we are optimists, we prepared for 75. Surprise! 75 handouts disappeared in a matter of moments as the room filled to near capacity. We estimated about 150 people attended our talk, most without handouts. We had some people attend who came from close to home AND people who came from other places around the nation AND we had people who came from the literal ends of the earth. In fact, one person in the audience spent the entire talk translating everything we said into another language for one of the attendees. It was truly an Acts 1:8 kind of a day, where we had the opportunity to pour into people from everywhere, telling them all about why disability inclusion at church matters and how to overcome obstacles to get started. If that had been all that had happened, that would have been enough. But, surprise, there was one more thing...
At the end of the talk, a man stood up. He was a pastor from the Virgin Islands. He called the entire room to pray for us, sharing that our talk had changed his heart and that his church would begin doing things differently when he got home. He shared about his ministry, which works with prisoners. To be honest, I am not even sure if he meant to sign up for our talk or somehow just found himself there by accident. But, whatever the reason he was there, he was meant to be there, because he then shared how he realized how important it was that the church loves and accepts everyone who wants to be part, even when it's hard.
He said that he could see what a difference love from the church may have made for the prisoners he works with, if only they could have had a chance for seeds of Christ's love to be planted in them when they were small. He talked about how important it was for the church to learn how to love, accept, and support children who have challenges, including challenging behavior, because everyone needs the church. He then took my hands and led the whole room to pray for Leah and I, our families, Wonderful Works, and the disability ministry mission. He let his whole heart out as he prayed and the power in the room was thick. It was a moment that I will always treasure and never forget.
That is when I learned what Acts 1:8 really means. It means, be ready. God loves surprising us, especially with opportunities to pour into people and places that we never imagined, and to be poured into by people in places that we never expected. It means we need to keep stretching AND growing AND keep believing AND keep praying. Because His mighty works are without bounds.
AND I learned one more important thing. If we are just willing to be ready when His timing comes, we can be without bounds too.
Do you have an Act 1:8 story? Share in the comments below.