We all love getting word that we've had a positive impact on another, and preachers may love it more than others. I'm not saying we're needy for affirmation, but then again, I'm not saying we're not. Regardless, it's nice to hear you've had some influence.
Leslie Carson sent me just such a message this week. Leslie is a member of the staff at Providence United Methodist Church in Fayetteville, Georgia - which happens to be the church I served the last six years until June. She wrote to tell me that Debra, the lady who works for Extreme Cleaning, the service that takes care of the buildings at Providence, had mentioned how much she appreciated something I'd told her a while back.
Here's a little back story. In 2011, I was serving two churches part-time in Griffin, Georgia. As such, I didn't have health insurance coverage. Public school employees, I knew, have insurance provided so I looked for, and found, a job at Rising Starr Middle School in Peachtree City (that's not a typo - they are affiliated with Starr's Mill High School). My job was something for which I had no training and one for which my wife would not have recommended me.
I became a middle school custodian. That's right; a guy as messy as me started cleaning a school that was home to well over a thousand 6th-8th graders. They gave me some towels and a bucket and a bottle of cleaning solution, and told me to have at it. I also got a vacuum cleaner, a mop, a couple of types of brooms, and a huge trash barrel. Middle schoolers, you see, create lots of trash.
I quickly got assigned to clean some classrooms, a hallway, and the gymnasium. Gyms are fun to sweep - you get that big push broom and start making tracks - but they have a super abundance of sinks and toilets since they include locker rooms and public restrooms. Five days a week, I cleaned more than a dozen sinks and toilets, six urinals, and two large shower areas. That's a lot of white porcelain to make shiny.
Middle schoolers, I learned, have not changed all that much from when I was one. They're messy, really messy. And they're forgetful. I picked up all sorts of items - phones, sweaters, socks, a random shoe, textbooks, you name it - and put them in a Lost & Found box that seemed to never get emptied. I'm still not sure how you don't realize you're only wearing one shoe. Wait, I was once in 7th grade and I probably would have walked around unaware for a good hour or two.
Middle schoolers are also mischievous. One of their favorite pranks, I found out not long after starting my job, is to lock the toilet stall door. Now, remember - the lock is on the inside of the door, which means the custodian has to crawl under the door to unlock it. Who knows better than a custodian how filthy a bathroom floor is. Every time I hit that tile floor, I wanted to rush off to the showers.
One afternoon, after crawling under yet another locked stall door, I was complaining to the head custodian about the little pranksters (I likely called them worse, but let's leave it at "pranksters"). She smiled, grabbed a broom, and ordered me to follow her to a bathroom. Once there, she instructed me to go inside a stall, lock the door, and watch. I complied.
Within seconds, the door was open and she was standing there grinning. All she had done was to put the broom over the top of the door and then slide the lock. It was the easiest, simplest thing I'd ever seen.
"That's why school stall doors only have straight slide locks," she told me. "Never, ever, ever, will you see anything different." Oh, the genius of it all!
So, Leslie sent me a text to say that Debra, when confronted with a locked stall door at another church she cleans - not Providence, mind you! - used her broom and avoided a crawl on a bathroom floor. That was my impact; I'd told her the secret of unlocking doors.
And that's how we'll win the world for Jesus, isn't it? Not with a broom, for sure, but when one person who has experienced the grace and salvation of Jesus shares the Good News with another who, upon having her or his life changed for good and for eternity, then shares it with yet another.
Who do you know who needs to hear the message?