One of the best parts of any Christmas for me is getting to see my brother-in-law Ryan. Allison’s big brother is many things I’m not (but he never makes me inadequate because of it). He rides a Harley-Davidson motorcycle through any weather, restores classic Chevy trucks, and snowboards and mountain bikes with the ferocity of an 18 year old. Having been a master mechanic for Ford for over twenty years, he has a red, Craftsman tool cabinet the size of a flat front semi-truck. His rugged good looks and superhero chin make him look a little intimidating, especially in his dark shades and Harley jacket. The tools, truck and brick-like forearms notwithstanding, Ryan doesn’t have an aggressive bone in his body. He’s kind, has ultra-marathoner listening skills, and is ever eager to use his many gifts to serve the King. I wish I had Ryan’s practical know-how, self-forgetful concern for others, emotional durability, and yes, low hairline (Ryan’s hair is far too dark and full for any normal 46 year old).
Last week over Christmas dinner, Ryan told us all a great story. A few months ago Ryan’s long-time mentor asked him if he would be willing to meet with a teenager (a former foster child we’ll call him “Logan”) who could benefit from the friendship of a big brother-type. Ryan’s mentor thought of Ryan because this teenager had an interest in cool cars, drift cars in particular. Note: If you don’t know what a “drift car” is, you’ve never seen the third Fast and Furious movie (I salute you for this). Having served as a Young Life leader during college, and having a love of cool cars himself, Ryan told his mentor that he would be happy to reach out to this kid. Ryan made contact, and the two planned to attend a drift car show together in Long Beach. Naturally, Ryan wondered how this day would go: “Would Logan be easy to talk with?”; “Would they make a connection?” Most of all: “Would there be any possibility of spiritual conversation?” When the weekend came they went to the show and had a tremendous time—a true “checkered flag” day. Before they headed out, Logan’s dad told Ryan that his son probably wouldn’t last through an all-day car show. He was wrong. Logan wouldn’t even hear about heading home until the last bit of smoking rubber had been left on the track.
Despite how promising their first hangout had been, Ryan didn’t follow up with Logan promptly. He was busy with the normal stuff of life, like going to work himself, supporting his wife Lauren as she completed an accelerated nursing program, and trying to squeeze in a little bro-time with his buddies. Nevertheless, Ryan felt bad about not contacting his new protégé sooner. Really bad, like he had wasted a great opportunity Jesus had given him to be his ambassador, loafing around in the pit area rather than racing ahead for more laps. Well, here’s when something truly remarkable happened. Out for a long walk in the vast expanse of Orange County where Ryan lives, trying to cool off after a frustrating day, Ryan’s mind turned to Logan, and how he had “dropped the ball bearings” in reaching out to him again, letting him “drift” off the track of his life like one of those hot rods in the show. Ryan immediately prayed that God would give him another opportunity to befriend and represent Christ to this kid. Almost immediately after finishing the prayer, Ryan walked around a corner and up to a local park. Well, who should be at that park, hanging around with a couple of friends? You guessed it: Logan! This time, Ryan didn’t “drive into a ditch” in his ambassadorship “road trip.” He invited Logan, Logan’s girlfriend, and their friend, to another drift car show, this one happening the following Sunday. They accepted the invitation. Ryan told the trio that he would be coming to pick them up from church, and then mentioned that if they were interested they could join him for the service (no pressure, he specified). Before Logan could answer, Logan’s girlfriend blurted out: “I’ve been wanting to find out more about religion. We’ll go!” They did. And though you may not believe it, here’s the kicker: When at the end of his message Ryan’s pastor invited people to come to the front to be prayed for or to learn more about life in Christ, Logan and his girlfriend went forward.
Friends, God is still at work through his people.
Like he did with my brother-in-law Ryan, God works through our humble attempts to befriend and invite.
Friend, who’s your “Logan”? I’m praying that God would make you bold in inviting him or her to an upcoming Sunday or special event. When you do, consider suggesting that they simply come to the first week to check it out. If the experience isn’t positive they don’t have to come again.