Mary* was a familiar face at the neighborhood dry cleaning business. She was outgoing, attentive, and courteous. During our regular stops there, I began to build a bridge of friendship with her. I learned that she had two kids, was divorced, and - as you might guess - found life difficult.
Long hours at work, meager pay, and a son and daughter just entering adolescence compounded her situation. Yet, she was almost always upbeat and positive. I found myself drawn to pray for Mary. In fact, Mary became the focus of my family's attention for Friend Day at Olathe, Kansas, College Church of the Nazarene where I pastored.
I challenged our congregation to build bridges of friendship with people who did not attend church. We launched special prayer efforts to support our bridge building. Several hundred of us committed to a simple prayer focus to prepare for Friend Day, and I was praying for Mary.
Specifically, we were praying for:
Five blessings for Five friends for Five minutes a day on Five days a week for Five weeks.
Prayers for our friends focused on the acrostic "Bless:"
- Body (health, protection, strength)
- Labor (work, school)
- Emotional (joy, peace, hope)
- Social (love, family, friends)
- Spiritual (salvation, faith, grace, purity)
The week before Friend Day, my wife and I invited Mary and her children to be our guests for worship and for lunch. She had not been in church for many years, and she confessed that her children had never been in church for a Sunday service. However, she promised to come on one condition: If her live-in boyfriend could come as well. "Great!" I said. "Bring him along."
We enjoyed the company of Mary, her children, and Joe* on Friend Day, yet nothing much really happened that day. In fact, Mary never came back to church. Were our prayers unanswered? Though Mary never returned, she encouraged me to stay in touch with Joe. And Joe did return to church in a few weeks.
On that Sunday morning when I gave the invitation, Joe came to the altar, repented of his sins, and confessed Jesus Christ as his Savior. With his new-found faith, Joe made some concrete changes in his life. He left Mary's home and moved into an apartment. He attended church regularly and we began meeting on Mondays for a follow-up Bible study. I learned that he was the father of two children, and was divorcing their mother.
In spite of his life's turmoil, he grew in the Lord and our church faithfully nurtured him. When one family invited him to Sunday dinner, it was the beginning of a dear relationship. As he became part of their family gatherings - even birthday celebrations - Joe was hooked!
The love of Christ had built another bridge. After a few months, Joe returned to the West Coast to be near his children and to work on salvaging his marriage. I still talk to him from time to time, and friends from College Church keep in touch. Joe is still attending a church and trying to get his life in order.
Can simple programs like Friend Day have a lasting impact? Does five minutes of prayer change lives? Just ask Joe. Our Nazarene evangelists designated last year, 2005, as "The Year of the Won."
This is still a good idea even though 2005 has passed. Why not make this year the year of the won in your own life?
Many Marys and Joes live in your neighborhood. Build a bridge! Plan a Friend Day! Join a prayer effort! There is still time this year for all of us to win one.
J. K. Warrick is a general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene.
*Not their real names.
Holiness Today, July/August 2006