John grew up in a religious household where going through the motions of being in church on Sunday was an important part of the routine. Like many mainline Christian kids, John and his friends began asking “why” in high school. The two obvious answers were unsatisfying: “We’re going to church because our parents go to church,” and “they make us go.” John remembers, “We had many questions and, to our credit, we worked quite hard at finding answers. Yet, after talking with numerous people, we just did not feel that any of the answers were sufficient. So, in our infinite high school wisdom, we determined that there was no good reason to believe in God and went through the rest of high school doing our best to avoid going to church.”
John entered college at Michigan State University, “not an agnostic” but as a young man who describes himself as enjoying “a good debate and arguing with those who had a faith in God.” He recalls the night all that changed, “it was a Thursday and the thought came into my head that maybe I should rethink my whole position on God.”
John knew enough from growing up in the church that there were some pretty high stakes involved if one were going to curse or deny the reality of God. So, he wanted to be sure he was right. He recalls, “I figured I had looked into Christianity already, so maybe I would check out something like Hinduism or Buddhism, which seemed pretty easy at Michigan State.” And that’s when God intervened.
There was a knock at the door. John recalls, “that same evening Larry knocked on my door and invited me to a Bible study. A few hours earlier I would have tried to argue with him, but that night I thought, ‘Hmm, that seems like as good a place to start as any,’ and so I went.”
At the Bible study John encountered people who were genuinely excited about studying the Bible. That was a first for him. He says, “I heard the gospel and, over several months of going back and beginning to attend church, I had all my objections answered, and I committed my life to Jesus.”
He gives all the credit to God and His faithful ambassador, Larry. “It was Larry’s faithfulness that made this change possible,” John says. Expounding, he adds, “You see, he was in his first year of law school, an incredibly busy year. Yet he had chosen to move out of his apartment and into a dorm, a freshman dorm, where he lived with goofs like me because he knew that freshmen at Michigan State needed to hear the good news of Jesus. He hung out with us, watching movies and playing video games and sports. Then, each week he knocked on a door, starting with room 101, and invited someone to Bible study and it just happened to be my week on that week when God had worked in my heart.”
Over time John came to realize just what God had done through Larry in reaching out to him. He says, “When I realized what Larry did for me, it built in me a desire to do the same, to share the gospel with those who needed to hear. First this was at Michigan State, during my school years and then on staff with our church’s college group, where my wife, who I met at that first Bible study thanks to Larry, and I worked with college students for seven years, doing the same thing as Larry did for me.”
Over time, God filled the couple with a desire for more. He set in their hearts a desire to reach unreached people, to go where the Church is not yet present and share Jesus with people who have not yet heard His name.
John sees college ministry as preparation for the larger mission field. He has an each-one, reach-one, highly relational, life-on-life philosophy of ministry. “In the college group I had learned about unreached people. I also experienced the reality of having a person, Larry, near me to tell me about Jesus and show me Jesus. ”
Today, the family is preparing to deploy as World Outreach missionaries of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. They are moving full-time “to a country where there are nearly 30 million people who do not know about Jesus and only a few people to tell them,” John says.
He is quick to turn the attention back to the impact Larry had on his life and others. He says, “Larry not only helped me but Allie (who is now John’s wife), Nate, James, Dan, Artyom, Jared, Todd, Matt and many other Michigan State students.” He describes how each of these individuals was moved from a life centered on themselves to lives centered in Christ. They are each and all now mobilized for ministry through a myriad of ministries across the Midwest.
He says, “all of these people were changed by the Lord’s working through Larry during one faithful year where he stepped out of his comfort zone into the ministry which God had put in front of him.” John says that Larry is currently living and working in the metro-Detroit area with his wife and two kids. Yet, the fruits of that year of ministry are reaching kids, college students, and others all over the world; truly showing how God can take the seed we scatter and grow it in the good ground to produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, even a hundred fold (Matt 13:8).
May we each and all consider today: Who is your “Larry” and whose “Larry” are you?