By Rev. Merv Budd, Senior Pastor, North Burlington Baptist Church
She had been in touch with the church on and off. She asked if a foreign student, who was a music major, could play our piano during the day. She invited us to post on her community Facebook page. She was a strong advocate for community but had little good to say about the church. However, we continued to accommodate the opportunities for relationship that she afforded and ended up being friends. Her name is Phyllis.
One day Phyllis asked if she could do a bread distribution night from under our car port. She picked up bread left over from the bakery and gave it to those in need. “Sure. This sounds like a great opportunity”, I said, and from there our friendship developed. Every Wednesday night I’d come to open the church to get tables for the bread and stick around to close about an hour later.
Many nights Phyllis engaged in conversation about God, church, faith and all manner of other topics. She introduced me to a younger woman named Lisa, who helped with bread night, by telling me that she was angry at God for taking her mother.
“It sounds to me that she’s not angry with God as much as she is angry with death.” I replied.
“What do you mean?”, she asked.
“Well, death took Lisa’s mom, not God. In fact, death is God’s enemy and one day He is going to complete His defeat of death. It sounds like Lisa and God are on the same side.” I think both Lisa and Phyllis’ curiosity was piqued.
Another time Phyllis made a comment about not wanting to be a sheep – a derogatory term that was being tossed around quite a bit in culture. “What about you Merv? Do you want to be a sheep or a leader?” I thought for a minute and then replied, “It all depends on your shepherd I suppose.”
“What do you mean?” she inquired.
“Well, Jesus said he was the good shepherd. If the shepherd leading you is good, it’s fine being a sheep.”
Even though Phyllis had not been to a church in over 20 years, she eventually began “attending” online. It was the same week we advertised the upcoming Alpha series. “Tell me about this Alpha course Merv. What’s it all about?”
“Funny you should ask.”, I told her. “I was going to invite you. I think you’ll like it.”
“Great!” she responded. “Lisa and I will both attend.”
Several months have passed since then. Bread night continues as Phyllis, Lisa, myself, and now others, hand out bread to those in need. We also hand out bread from which no one will hunger again. This Easter Phyllis is getting baptized. Our upcoming Alpha has three people that Phyllis alone invited.
Sometimes all we need to do is say “yes” to those opportunities which help to build relationships.