This picture is from a memory notification to my phone. First, it was Facebook reminding me of every post or conversation that its algorithms thought might be significant. Then it was One Drive (which I don’t remember telling to back up my photos, but it did.) Now, it reminds me of memories too. But recently I had a new one.
Google reminded me of a trip. I knew I was sending the coordinates periodically to a server that would preserve the trip for me. But apparently, in doing so, Google did me the favor of remembering the trip for me too.
Why does all this matter? Well, 29 years before this post, my bride and I were missionaries at a Christian drug and alcohol rehab facility. We saw a young man there, who was about to graduate from the program, fearing for his future. You see, he knew he had already made a huge mess of his life at the tender age of 19. He figured he had made such a mess that God would never use him. But when he graduated from the program, he could only see two futures, working for God or returning to the gang life he left behind. And God using Him was inconceivable because Dale was sure He didn’t deserve a life with God.
Dale, like so many, didn’t really understand how much God loved him and that Christ’s death on the cross was for Him personally.
I won’t spoil the whole story, but Dale’s mind was changed one Sunday morning.
Google reminded me of this special young man because the map it showed me the other day was of a trip I took with my dear friend Pastor Carlos and his lovely wife Alicia. Of all the people on this planet, they are two that hold great affection from both my wife and me. Carlos, at the time, had a house in the states just around the corner from me. He was going back to his hometown in Mexico to the big ten-year anniversary celebration for the rehab center he had opened and gotten going. In the time since, he opened a second farther south and an orphanage.
But I went with Pastor Carlos and Alicia for this special occasion to give the message for the Saturday chapel service at the rehab center. He translated, which was a series of hilarities that I wish belonged here. But, the message that I brought was based on my experience from so many years earlier with Dale and from the people that I was seeing in the counseling ministry.
Not only did I relish every moment of this trip, from experiencing Mexico that was intended for American tourists and Mexico that was intended for Mexicans in a beautiful area that is the Napa Valley of Mexico, and have some of the best food I’ve ever tasted, but I preached the message for the very first time that eventually became “How to be a Christian in Today’s World: Shame and Fear of Failure vs. Living Confidently in God’s Love.”
The overall book continued to develop in my wife’s and my heart as God worked on us. It wasn’t until the beginning of 2022, when I was sitting in a hospital room, that I realized it could no longer be held back. While writing, my intention was to follow God’s plan instead of my own. By doing so, many different people are now hearing the message that they so desperately need. In following God’s leading, I was prompted to share much of my story, including more about the young man, Dale. Using my personal experiences and lessons learned in my ministry, readers have reportedly been able to better relate and hear from God than with a dry, intellectual text.
Since the book was published, numerous people have shared with me how it has helped them to believe that God loves them and that they belong. I am humbled to see that the book has even reached people I didn’t expect, and I pray that it continues to do so. Do you or someone you know struggle like Dale? I would like to invite you to consider purchasing my book for yourself or someone you know who is hurting. We never know how God will use it, but it is my hope that it will bring comfort and encouragement to those who read it.