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Beyond words


‘I had no idea’

LONDON — From my seat in the balcony, I could see musicians filing into the orchestra pit and London’s aristocrats perching themselves in the luxury boxes. It was my first Broadway-like musical, and I was soaking it in like a kid visiting an amusement park for the first time.

My observations were interrupted, however, when a college student shuffled down our aisle. She apologized for stepping on my toes, then let out a sigh of relief as she fell into the seat next to me.

“I made it,” she said with an American accent.

“Are you from the States?” I asked.

“Yeah, I’m here for the summer studying. What brings you to London?” she asked.

“I’m on my way home from a relief effort in Africa.”

Her eyes widened. “I’m studying international social work,” she said.

I sensed this might be a divine appointment rather than an inconvenient interruption. Over the next 20 minutes, the student peppered me with questions about the compassion work of the Assemblies of God and Convoy of Hope.

She confided that she had joined a church — one considered by many to be a cult — because she wanted to dedicate her life to helping people. Though she didn’t agree with the church’s teachings, it had afforded her an opportunity to help the poor.

“I had no idea other churches like the Assemblies of God were so committed to helping people,” she said.

It was obvious the Holy Spirit was speaking to her heart. But our conversation ended abruptly when the lights flickered, the music started and the curtains lifted.

After the cast had taken its final bow and the curtains dropped, I handed the girl my business card and encouraged her to check out Convoy of Hope’s Web site.

Several months later, I received an e-mail from her indicating that she was leaving her church to pursue “other doors.”

I never heard from her again, but the brief conversation confirmed what I already knew: Future generations of young people will connect with churches that are concerned about meeting the physical and spiritual needs of suffering people. They will gravitate to churches that proclaim the gospel and emulate Jesus by feeding the hungry and providing pure drinking water to the thirsty.

In turn, they will dismiss churches that preach love and compassion but ignore the plight of malnourished children, AIDS victims, drug addicts, the homeless and more. They have no time for “sanctuary-centered religion” when they’ve been called to be Christ’s ambassadors to cities and countries being infected with disease, poverty and sin. They have no interest in watching from a church balcony as their world implodes and people die. They would rather be on the world stage rescuing lives for eternity.

For most, their loyalty is not to a particular denomination or fellowship. Their priority (or loyalty) is to Kingdom-impact and opportunity. As a church, let us recommit ourselves to preparing our young people for service, creating ministry opportunities, and sending them to touch the world for Christ.

HAL DONALDSON is president and co-founder of Convoy of Hope.

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