St. Joseph, Jeff Gates, and Micah Fries

St. Joseph, Jeff Gates, and Micah Fries February 5, 2010

I have had a great time here in St. Joseph, Missouri.  I traveled down with two men who I now call dear friends, Jeff Gates, the pastor at Living Hope Church, St. Joseph and Ben Roed, who with his lovely wife Peggy, are serving in Living Hope and are being well trained by Jeff. It was wonderful to see how clearly Peggy and Ben complement each other. They are relatively newly married, but it was obvious to see how much of a support Peggy is to him, and how her strengths will continue to complement and at times hide his weaknesses! A wife who will make you look better than you are is a gift from God.

Single men, if you think you may have God’s hand on you, make sure you marry such a godly woman who will help you achieve everything God has for you. Quite frankly, such a wife will be more important than anyone else in helping to shape you, all the time doing so in a submissive and honoring way. Beware, however, that as much as a good woman can make you, the wrong kind of woman can completely ruin you for any significant work for God.  The women I have met here, including Jeff’s wife, have all impressed me with their commitment to the cause, their warmth, and their loving support for their husbands. Anyone who claims that the women in our churches are somehow not valued and not given room to serve their Lord has not spoken to some of the incredible women we have in our family of churches, fully caught up in God’s mission and playing very significant roles.

All this, of course, makes me miss my own better half even more.  If ever a woman has had to put up with a busy husband who has needed a lot of help, a lot of “releasing” to do things like go on a two-week trip to the USA, and  a whole bunch of raw edges in him for her to lovingly confront,  it is Mrs. Andrée Warnock.  Thank you darling for being such a good wife to me, far better than I deserve.  I pray that I may be an ever better husband to you, and I long for our reunion!

Another woman I have met here was Gail Robins, who together with her husband Chris, have served me wonderfully by opening their lovely home to me.  Her passion to open a consignment store made me think of Proverbs 31:

An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life . . .

She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.

I was also impressed by the many Christians I met here both socially and during the meeting that was organized for me to speak on the resurrection.  Nobody anywhere has yet disagreed with my claim that we have all been neglecting the resurrection.  Yet we saw in the resurrection yesterday a wonderful tool to bring unity. As one of the  leaders of the three campus organizations that cancelled their own meetings to attend the meeting co-sponsored by Living Hope and Frederick Boulevard Church, St. Joseph’s said, “How could we refuse to listen to a talk on the resurrection of Jesus?”

Speaking of Frederick Boulevard, meeting their pastor Micah Fries was an absolute delight. One of many things that has impressed me about Jeff Gates this week is his eagerness to reach out and partner with other churches and Christian groups. Micah certainly seems to have needed no encouragement to make such a connection. He is sharp, bright, self-deprecating, willing to speak of what he sees as his own denomination’s strengths and weaknesses, and eager to learn from others. Being placed on a list of ten influential young Baptist pastors has not turned his head. I saw in this man a servant of the Lord, and it was enjoyable to spend some time connecting with him. I feel that God has given us this opportunity to meet for a purpose. I hope we can serve the Lord together in some capacity, even if it’s just engaging with each other’s online material.

It has been a great time, and as I prepare to leave for Kansas (known to me mainly in my youth for the Wizard of Oz!), I have many great memories from my time in St. Joseph. I am very keen on God’s work being done in big cities. Though this place is not a big city, however, God is also very interested in towns like this. Even its residents would admit that there is not much that marks out this place as very different from many other American cities. They were the home of the Pony Express, and a place where trade happened in early times with local native Americans, but there are few other major claims to fame. God is very committed to a place like this. He takes the weak things to shame the strong, and the things that are not to shame those who think they are something special.

I met many people who God has made to be very special indeed. This place will always have room in my heart. This is not least because it is the very first town outside my own country where God has taken me to proclaim his word. Seeing a mix of students and older adults getting excited about the significance of the resurrection we have all so failed to celebrate  was obviously the highlight of my trip so far. Please pray with me that those who heard me last night will continue to study the wondrous implications of Christ’s resurrection, and that we all may be better equipped by our Lord to share the full gospel with those we meet.

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