Last week I was contacted by the Chaplain leading the Protestant services at Camp Johnson. He had a surgery and needed me to fill in and run services there for the next three weeks. I prepared a sermon for today, and this morning Patty and I headed over. We got to the Chapel 15 minutes early. 45 minutes later there was no one there. This isn’t too unusual because Camp Johnson is a training camp with a rotating population. Building a regular, steady attendance has always s been difficult, more so since the Chapel building was destroyed by Hurricane Florence- we meet in the old Officer’s Bar. We began locking up and I texted the Chaplain to let him know our situation. I hit ‘send’ and Patty said “Dave, someone’s at the door.” I opened it and Jesse was walking away, thinking Chapel was cancelled.
We had met Jesse many times over the last 5 months. He graduated from his schoolhouse back in November, but was in a holding pattern waiting for his assignment to the Fleet. I called him in. He told me he was late because he had some medical duties to finish before he could deploy. Patty and I were glad we didn’t head out just a few minutes earlier. Jesse is heading to Okinawa this week and we wouldn’t have seen him again. We sat and talked for about 15 minutes about his new assignment and I answered a few questions he had from his Bible reading this week. Then I preached to him and Patty for 15 minutes.
After I finished preaching we sat around the Chapel for another half hour. He told us about his faith journey. I gave him some suggestions for study materials and promised to help him get involved with a Bible study and church once he got to Okinawa. We never made it to a “proper” service at our local church or any another in the area this morning. There was no time. However, Patty and I wouldn’t have today go any other way. We had church. Just the three of us.
As Missionaries, we send out regular “prayer letters.” My only struggle with these is numbers. As a Pastor who knows many other pastors, I know that numbers tend to matter. Missionaries want their letters to be filled with “biggest service ever” and “This many saved this month.” But as a Missionary I know this…
One is enough. Jesus said a good shepherd will leave the 99 to save the One. We’ll take a small crowd any day, even just one. The small, especially the One, give us the opportunity to spend real time with those we are teaching. Discipleship IS the Great Commission. We are not to only reach the lost, but we are to teach, disciple, and help young Christians grow.
Patty and I will always treasure the hour we had with Jesse this morning. We thought the morning was a bust because no one showed for the first half-hour of Chapel. But God had a plan. Oh, and I texted the Chaplain back after the service.