It was the summer of 1998. I was leading a private camp and awaiting the arrival of my assistant. She arrived with her blonde ponytail, blue eyes, and bubbly spirit. She was a few years younger than I -- and seemed it. Not that she was immature, she wasn't, but there was innocence about her that poured out as she spoke and interacted with the campers. Our first meeting would be God's way of changing the whole course of my life.
That girl was Elizabeth Plewniak (Moore at the time). She and I were polar opposites. I was black and she white. I was in college and quite academic and she had decided to leave college early to do campus ministry. Later I would find out that she came from a fairly wealthy family and I was poor (we would have been considered poor to lower-middle class). Most importantly, she was a Christian and I was not.
Growing up I only attended church on major holidays. When I did find a church my junior year in high school it didn't end so well. I ended up falling for an unbeliever and left the church. That wasn't the only reason, I was also aware that there wasn't something quite right with the doctrine. Nevertheless, I said goodbye to church and vowed never to return. I didn't want to have anything to do with organized religion.
But that was not God's plan.
A Roommate of Faith
So here I found myself in an odd series of events that only God could ordain, rooming with a Christian girl during a private camp. Our first night of camp she plopped down on the bed and broke open her Bible.
I was seated on the adjacent bed wondering if she would mind if I turned on the television as she began to read to herself. When I glanced at her I could feel the blood rush to my face. My guard immediately went up and I spoke frankly, "What are you doing?" All I could think was what she might say to me.
By the end of the night, we were both crying over my past church experience and my fears. By the end of the night she had also shared the gospel of salvation with me.
It took me some time before I would visit her church. Elizabeth and I would meet together every now and then; but finally in the spring of 2000, after a broken engagement and humiliation over my sin, I came to her church and I stayed.
The Gift That Gives
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a Sunday morning and I hadn’t been back to this church in possibly a year. While singing the worship song "Rock of Ages" the Lord began to soften my heart and reveal His grace to me. After the meeting Elizabeth and two friends (Paul and Carrel) prayed for me. And I was saved.
I recall later reading Ephesians 2:8–9: "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." The Lord revealed that He saved me not by my works or anything I had done or anything I could ever do but by His grace, His free gift, His own power!
And it is the same power that saved me that enabled my friend, Elizabeth to boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to me -- a stranger and different from her. And it is the same power that will enable you to share cross-culturally too.
The Race-Transcending Gospel
What struck me about my friend Elizabeth was that she wasn't at all concerned that I was black and older and the leader of the camp. None of that mattered to her. She admits intimidation but not because of my race or ethnicity.
[Read the rest of the article at Desiring God.]