Recognizing the mission field all around us


          Three of us were riding from Houston to Beaumont, Texas.  Lunch would be with a wonderful church leader named Hank, who was praying about serving as the “Ministry Leader” for the L.R.E. Ministry (Loving, Relating & Encouraging others).  He suggested Italian, always a popular choice.  He asked the hostess if we could sit in the back.
          A young man in his twenties came to our table, “Hi.  I’m John (not his real name) and I’ll be your server today.  Can I start you off with some drinks and maybe an appetizer today?”   
          John served our drinks, “Thanks John.  What would you recommend from the lunch menu?”
          “My favorite is angel hair pasta with marinara sauce.”
          Two of us ordered his suggestion and completed our requests. 
          In a few minutes John returned with hot garlic bread and olive oil. I asked him, “John, how long have you been working here?”
          “About three months.  I was serving in another place down I-10, but it wasn’t a good place to work – too competitive.  I like it much better here.  Your food should be coming right out.” 
          John returned with our entrees, “Is there anything else y 'all need right now?”
          Jim said, “John, we’re Christians and will be giving thanks over the food.  Is there anything or anyone that you would like for us to pray for today when we bless the food?”   
          John paused, “As a matter of fact, there is.  My little boy, who is nearly a year old, is having recurring ear pain.  He had it today when I took him to daycare.”
          “We will certainly lift him up as we pray.  What is his name so we can remember him and you?  And do you have a family?”
          “Alan is our son, named for my Dad.  And yes, I have a great wife who is in school studying to be a teacher at Lamar University. Thanks.” 
          “That’s excellent,” I said, “What’s your wife’s name so we can remember all of you in prayers?” 
          “Allison.  Thanks.  She studies really hard.  We will have been married one year in just seven more days.”
          Each of us congratulated John.  Jim said, “That’s a lot to be thankful for, John.”
          “It sure is.” 
          Jim said, “Let’s pray.  Lord, we thank you for this beautiful day and for the many ways you love us.  We are thankful for coming here and getting to meet John. Bless his family. Be with their precious son, Alan, and give him healing for his ear problems.  Be with Allison in her studies.  And bless them as they prepare to celebrate their first anniversary of marriage.  Thanks for this food and keep us in your care, Lord. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.” 
          John said, “I really appreciate that, guys.  I needed that today.” 
          I jotted notes as the visit unfolded: John Johnson; twenties; 11 month old son with ear pain problems, Alan, named for his Dad; wife Allison, at Lamar University preparing to teach elementary, one more year to go; their first anniversary on May 1; John works Sundays, Tuesdays through Saturdays; hours typically from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Has been here for three months. Get Hank to follow up in the coming four days. Affirm John to the Manager before leaving.  Leave a generous tip. 
          We discussed how we felt God had led us to that table to meet John. We talked about follow up plans by the L.R.E. Ministry: One of the weekly “Restaurant L.R.E. Teams” will return here with Hank, ask to sit at John’s station and continue to build the friendship.  Ask about Alan and Allison.  Find out their favorite restaurant.  Work on finding two young couples that, with Hank, would love to host them at their favorite restaurant to celebrate their anniversary on or near May 1. 
          Hank said, “May I have the notes, please?  I’ll see that we follow up.”  
Discussion questions:
1)    Was this a “Divine Appointment” from God? Why or why not? 
2)    Was there anything complex, hard or scary about this encounter?
3)    Picture two weekly, outreach Teams of laity doing this in several different local restaurants in the church community consistently.  With the above happening in one visit - what is the ministry potential with multiple restaurant visits? 
4)    What would it take for a group of us to arrange receiving training for powerful but simple, laity led outreach ministry?  
         Outreach to local restaurants is only one of many “Target Ministry Groups” of L.R.E. Ministry Outreach.  Are you ready to GO and make disciples?  I’d love hear from you. 
 Rev. Jim W. Hollis is a General Evangelist of the UMC and the Executive Director of Proactive Ministries, a Coaching Ministry that provides common sense, proven ministry strategies with churches and Districts across America.  You may contact him at pem1jwh@gmail.comor on Facebook.  The website is: