Monday, May 13, 2013

What a few Scottish schemers did for a Georgia redneck

I climbed out of the backseat of a small car into the dark and cold of the evening -- big streeeetch, "man, it feels good to be out...." my eyes were drawn to the large snowflakes floating into and out of the amber glow of the street light. Beautiful!

Whatever complaint I was mumbling left my mind in a hurry. I shivered and marveled and thanked God for allowing me to be in Scotland -- and now it's snowing. Romantical! "Man, I sure miss my wife."

We'd had a full day of visiting several scheme communities/ministries and now we had been driving for about an hour to reach the James Ramsay House, "a Christian family home that offers a safe haven for vulnerable people in need." Mature Christians from Niddrie Community Church come alongside to offer high accountability through intensive investment in the discipleship of these new and undiscerning converts living at James Ramsay House. Wonderful!

We were there at the invitation of the men living in the house, Ricky (age 20) Ralphie (32) and Paul (42). They were tag teaming cooking supper for 10 visitors from America who came to look over the ministry of 20schemes. These three men are what 20schemes is all about, and little did I know that I was in for one of those rare moments when God would so deeply challenge me that He would catapult me rather than creep me forward in terms of my own sanctification. Cool!

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The house was beautiful but not ornate. It was modestly and adequately furnished, and thngs were clean and tidy. Obviously, the guys had done some housework and were laboring to make us feel at home. We gathered in the living room after piling our plates high with "bangers and mash" -- sausages and mashed potatoes. Delicious!

After the meal the men began to take turns informally sharing their testimonies. I wasn't prepared for what I heard or for what God did in me. Ralphie first, then Rickie, and finally Paul, and when they were done I was stunned, first by the weight of the hardship and sin these men had lived under and that they survived it, and second by the sheer power of the gospel to save and of the truly amazing grace of God to overcome every obstacle standing in the way of someone's salvation. I love these guys! I love Jesus! "Man, I wish Suzanne could have been here, she'd love these guys too."

I had never really met or talked with anyone like these men, and that was a problem, my problem. All of my adult life I had mingled with my own kind, the middle class. Sure, as a pastor I had dealt with people in crisis and counseled others with all kinds of problems -- some really serious problems. But all of those people pretty much looked and lived like me -- middle class. These men had lived a very different life from me, and yet they were also like me -- sinners in need of a Savior.

Their collective testimonies so inspired me that I was ready for the hymn to be sung so that I could walk the aisle and get saved again. The highlight was when Paul leaned forward on the sofa, and with tears of gratitude he told us of how not long ago he was living in a graveyard, drunk, high, without hope and with feet so badly blistered he could barely walk, and if he had died no one would have cared, and now he had a bed and brothers who loved him and a new life -- all because of Jesus. Powerful!

What did these guys from Scotland do for this Georgia redneck? They humbled me, blessed me, challenged me, served me and loved me as they told me about their Jesus and shared with me from the bounty of His grace in their lives. I love these guys! I love Jesus!

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