Seeds that Sprout


            Do you remember a certain gift you wanted for Christmas? You probably could hardly wait to see if it was under the Christmas tree. I remember my wish for a cowgirl outfit, but that changed when I learned that in those days cowgirls did the cooking and indoor work and not the glamorous riding outdoors.

            The Lord is a wonderful gift-giver. Long after seeds of faith are planted through campus ministry at All Saints Lutheran Church and Student Center, they continue to grow. The phone rang after supper. The voice was familiar but didn’t quite sound the same. It was an odd time for this former student from China to call from Texas.

            At first, she asked the usual questions: How are you? How is Mister Mennell? How are the students? But her voice sounded so different. Finally, she couldn’t hold back her emotions. She apologized for being emotional. She struggled to speak clearly so she could explain what was hurting. She gained her composure and explained that a young professor and mother from Japan had died without a chance to live very long. She had been ill and so had gone to the hospital. A day later she was released, yet slipped into a coma and then died.

            Although my former student is a Christian, she was so stunned that she could hardly continue with her classes or with teaching students how to speak and teach Chinese. She feels so hurt that she can hardly breathe at times. She can’t see what the purpose of life is. After all, this young professor had worked incredibly hard, yet had died. My student friend felt she had lost the meaning of life.

            What a gift that she called. We talked about her purpose in life. She described how God has opened so many doors for her. He gave her help coming to teach in Texas and to be able to take classes so she will be able to teach students Chinese. Then they will be able to teach others Chinese so that then they can teach the Christian faith in China. The student said God has given her so many opportunities. The problem is that she feels this is a burden she must live up to: she must never stop working or take a rest; she must pay God back by doing her work well enough to please Him; she must treat her faith like a rigorous examination that she could easily fail unless she tries hard enough.

So the death of her friend hit like a hammer. She wondered if she is working hard enough in her faith. She is wondering if she will work and then die in the midst of the effort. Her faith feels like an endless treadmill walk all dependent on her own efforts.

Finally, her pain was out in the open. She could then listen to some guidance. We went to Psalm 23 looking at her “sheepness” and her Shepherd. We went to the free gift of salvation that Jesus Christ gave on the cross. We went to the need for rest even though she is an extremely busy student and teacher. We went to the heart of the Gospel: God’s unconditional love for her.

One problem for her is that her Christian denomination emphasizes what she must do. It does not stress the great loving God she has. Her phone call was a gift because we ended our conversation with the encouragement to believe that she can lean on God and that He loves her unconditionally. When she calls again we will pray again for God’s peace. It is a common Christian mistake that we owe God something that can be paid for by working to become perfect.

At Christmas and all through the year she, like all of us, needs the gift of love. We cannot survive without the assurance that He will carry us and that we don’t carry Him. God loves her as she is. The seed of faith was planted years ago in Bible class at campus ministry. This seed will continue to grow, praise be to God.