You’ll soon begin to notice more and more stories of God’s transforming work in the lives of our Journey alumni in this blog space. We have trained over 700 leaders worldwide and we want to create space to hear their stories! As Paul Jensen artfully conveys when he teaches on organizational transformation at the Journey, great leaders tell the stories over and over that reflect the culture they are trying to build in their teams.
Well, Jimmy George’s story is a great first start for us! Jimmy George is a Generation 23 Journey Alum and the Connecting Pastor at Relevant Community Church in Elkhorn, NE.
These past few days, Jimmy went on a personal prayer retreat to a secluded area near a small town in central Nebraska where he could enjoy an EPC (extended time alone with God we call Extended Personal Communion). Jimmy was tired and knew he needed refreshed but Jimmy didn’t expect to run into someone even more tired and even more in need of living water refreshment. Jimmy’s story is a great reminder that all of our ministry action, even evangelism, pulses best out of an abiding relationship with Jesus. As Jimmy got alone with God, he could hear God’s footsteps better and go where God was leading, even if that meant to a scene right out of a horror movie. — Troy Walling
Sunday evening, I headed to a small town in central Nebraska for a personal prayer retreat. I stayed in a barn next to a lake next to the Platte River. Yes, a barn.
I spent my first evening kayaking around the lake, enjoying the stillness of the water while the sunset took place before my soul. I say soul because that is where I felt it. That is where I needed it. I sat there on the kayak for about 30 minutes, doing nothing but listening to the frogs talk while the sun “lowered” itself another day. I’m always amazed how beauty comes to us so humbly, lowering itself so we can see it more clearly. It was beautiful.
I spent the morning reading slowly through Acts. Acts is a book about Church history. It starts from the moment Jesus ascended to heaven. I like this book because it reminds me how focused the disciples were in spreading the Gospel. It gives me purpose, focus, and keeps my mind on the number one thing…telling others about Jesus.
For lunch my second day, I decided to check out a small cafe. A mom-and-pops-type cafe. It made me laugh when I pulled up because it had the old cafe-style seating next to the windows, but also had a modern bar area that you can sit at and eat as well. But what really made me chuckle was that, just as you see in the movies, there was a man around 45 to 50 years old standing there at the bar, paying his tab, and he was wearing worn dusty blue jeans, a ball cap with the vented backing, a fishing hook attached to the bill, and here it comes….a button up old flannel shirt with the sleeves cut off at the shoulders.
When I walked in, as they do in the movies, the sound of bells clanked as the door slammed behind me, and everyone in the cafe looked up and basically stared until I sat down. (Queue the waitress with the coffee pot.)
But that’s not why I’m telling you this story, though there already is a movie theme.
After I finished my lunch, I hopped back into my dusty pickup truck (because everything is dusty in central Nebraska) to head back to the barn. On my way back, I stopped to pick up some better coffee than my host had provided. (Sorry, I don’t like coconut-flavored coffee.) While leaving the parking lot, I saw an old man, probably in his 80’s, dragging a dolly up the street with two old black TV’s precariously stacked. These weren’t the flat screens we have now, but the old black goliaths that are much deeper than they are wide. He would take a few steps, stop, take a few steps, stop again…look around, take a few more steps.
Because I didn’t feel the rush of the clock, I drove over toward him, opened my window and asked if he wanted me to haul those somewhere for him. He looked around for quite some time, scratching his head, and then accepted the offer. He had just pulled them out of a full dumpster, he said, and wanted to see if they worked. But, he had to take them to the other side of town about a mile away over where he lived.
He directed me to an old, run down motel on the east side of town, where on the side of the street stood the kind of sign that proclaimed FREE HBO where the letters probably blink all night incessantly in competition with the intermittent buzzing old wiring on an old sign makes. When we got there, I lowered the tailgate to gain access to the TV’s, which I’m sure still worked, what with most folks these days moving to flat screens for no reason other than they are cool. I’m sure my new friend was counting on that to justify all the effort.
He allowed me to take them into one of the motel rooms. The room reminded me of an old movie where “bad things happen.” It looked like a scene straight out of a horror movie. Insert whatever vision just came to your mind right now and you would be correct. And creepily, the TV on the wall was on, as if the vacant room wasn’t so vacant after all, which shocked him, too. His surprise gave me no small amount of discomfort.
After I unloaded the ancient tv’s, I took him back to the other side of town where I spent some time with him, asking about his family, past, current, whatever I could find out. He talked about hunting, his son, cancer, his current projects, basically any bunny trail that his mind let him run down.
There was a moment where he seemed to have run out of things to talk about, in which I bantered back some simple talk, but then asked….”Do you have a relationship with Jesus?” He looked at me for a moment before he dropped his head. His answer was what I hear most of the time, ”Yeah, I know who He is, and I do everything I can to be a good person.”
I asked if I could explain more about what I mean by that and he accepted the offer to listen. At some point, I told him that Jesus will do everything he can to get our attention, and that he may even be chasing us our entire lives before we acknowledge his prompting. At that point, Jim started crying, tears running down his cheek, rubbing his eyes. There was a long moment of silence, as he stood there looking down, with me wondering what is happening here, or what he may be thinking — while all the while trying to not think about that vacant, horror movie hotel room with the tv on.
“Oh boy,” he muttered under his breath.
Another long pause. “My brother talks to me about Jesus, too.”
He went on to tell me how hard he tries, how tired he is, how he tries to do good, as good as he can.
“Oh boy…” he mutters again.
I went on to explain how the burden of Jesus is light, and that salvation is as simple as deciding, repenting of sins, and making Him the leader of his life. I basically was living what I was just reading in Acts earlier that morning and was reminded how out of abiding comes mission.
We spent some more time together, with me talking and him listening while looking down in contemplation. More time went by, more conversation, more loading things and taking them to the other side of town for him. The last stop was his shed he was cutting wood in. There was a point when I was ready to go, but not without extending an offer to pray so I asked him if I could pray.
We prayed for his health, for his motel business to bring in more income, and for him to be able to decide whether or not he is ready to put his faith in Jesus. Jim is on the fence. Just in the short time that we were together, it seems as if Jim has been contemplating this decision his entire life. So I am going to commit to praying for him. And I would ask that anyone reading this, write Jim’s name down, and pray for his salvation as well. We exchanged phone numbers because someday, and I hope soon, Jim is going to call me to tell me he has put his faith in Jesus. I gave him my card with those instructions written down along with John 3:16.
Pray for Jim in central Nebraska.
Follow more of Jimmy’s writing at his personal blog.