Where I live I cannot receive a television signal from a local TV station. It is just too far away. My options for connecting to the world are either cable or satellite. We have chosen satellite for TV. I know that this is not a big deal except that to set up the receiver I had to speak with a technical person located somewhere in the world. This I was prepared to do.
Having made a connection with a real person I knew it was critical to keep the connection if I was to resolve the receiver issue and establish a picture on my flat screen. It could take hours. It did take hours.
At one point in the conversation, I determined that I could probably fix the receiver issue myself without assistance from around the world and it turned out in the end, that was the case. However, I had invested the time and I wouldn’t give up until I was done. So I followed the technician’s instructions. Still, it wasn’t working properly. He repeated the instructions over and over again without any solution. I decided not to raise my voice or to be frustrated with him but rather to listen and to follow his lead. At one point I did suggest that this was not very productive and that we should probably hang up. The technician said, “Why would you quit now? Let’s keep going.” I agreed and said “Okay.” During the next reset of the receiver which took about eight minutes, I told the technician that I really appreciated his time and his patience with me and that he was doing a great job of explaining things (which he was). And he responded in kind as I was not yelling and screaming at him. I’m sure he received a lot of yelling and screaming from frustrated customers.
Then he said something that caught me off guard. There was a pause and then he asked me “Are you a Christian?” I thought to myself “No. I’m a Lutheran.” but before I could speak something told me this is not the time to joke. I’m speaking with a young man who I learned was in the Philippians and he asked a question of eternal value. So I simply said, “Yes. I am a Christian.” Then I asked him the same thing. “Are you a Christian?” He answered “sometimes.” Knowing that we don’t jump in and out of faith this way I encouraged him to tell me his story. It turns out that he was born a Buddhist but was dating a girl who was Christian so he went to church with her sometimes. Not yet a Christian but investigating. He was not yet baptized, he was thinking about it. So we talked. As this worldly piece of technology called a receiver continued to reset so that I could get a television picture, we talked about Jesus and His love. We talked about forgiveness and peace and hope.
I cannot help but think of 1 Peter 3:15 where Peter encourages his readers as follows: but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.
I confess that I am far from what Peter describes. I was caught off-guard by the question of my faith, I wasn’t necessarily prepared. My gentleness and respect during the conversation may have been more self-serving, at least initially, than anything as I really did want a solution to my problem. And the problem is resolved. However, it strikes me that even from the remote location of the high plans of the Texas Panhandle a worldwide witness for Jesus can be made.
Today, the satellite technician from the Philippians is in my prayers and I pray that I will meet him someday in glory. In the meantime, I take Peter’s words to heart as I meet people next door, in the community, and around the world on the phone. Our common and daily witness will not only be seen but it will be heard. As we are prepared to speak of the hope we have, we honor Christ.
By Rev. Steve Misch
Mission and Ministry Facilitator, Area A