Her name is Sara. Growing up, she was our next door neighbor and I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know her. Throughout her life, she’s held many roles: nurse, wife, mother, grandmother, even great-grandmother. She volunteered at the Christian elementary school I attended and at a teenage pregnancy center. Her story is long and rich, but to me, she will always be remembered as the woman who invited my Mom to church. Without a doubt, her invitation changed our lives.
I was only four years old at the time. I didn’t know then, but I later learned that my Mom was going through a very difficult time. Struggling with a painful past, a very difficult marriage, and a great deal of heartache, my Mom was at the end of her rope. When we were adults, she told us that she was considering suicide except that she didn’t know what would happen to Jamie and I. Out of love for us, she kept going, but in her heart, she’d lost all hope for the future.
That’s when Sara made a bold decision: She stepped out of her comfort zone, overcame her fear of rejection, and invited her young next door neighbor to join her at the local Pentecostal church. Sara drove, introduced my Mom to her friends, and sat with her to make her comfortable.
Her act of bravery and kindness opened the door for God to do a miracle. Because of her invitation, my Mom experienced a radical conversion that changed not only her life but our entire family’s life.
A few weeks later my Mom was baptized in water.
Then she was baptized in the Holy Spirit—an experienced that was marked not only by the evidence of speaking in tongues but hours of Spirit-filled laughter. Mom described it later as laughter and joy replacing all of the years of heartache and sadness in her life.
A few months later, at only four years old, I joined my Mom and Sara for a Sunday night service. I clearly remember coming home and making my own commitment to Jesus that night.
Eventually, our whole family began attending the church.
Mom met a woman named Ann who discipled her and taught her how to pray, study the Bible, and grow in her faith.
Through the years, Mom’s relationship with Jesus strengthened. Whatever she learned about God or the Bible, she taught to us. Just like Timothy’s mother, Eunice, our Mom did all that she could to not only live out her faith but pass her sincere faith along to us. (2 Timothy 1:5) She taught us that there was no greater calling than following Jesus and living out His plan for your life. Even though our mom is with Jesus in Heaven today, her faith continues to be alive in Jamie and me.
Today, we have the honor and privilege of serving in full-time ministry. We have the opportunity to share with people about Jesus’ love, His healing power, and His plan for their lives. Over and over, we get to share the things that our Mom taught us and see people experience a change in their lives.
But this article isn’t about us—-it’s about Sara and her courageous invitation.
You see, today Sara is in her late eighties and struggling with some health issues.
Hearing about her struggle, I began thinking about what would have happened if she wouldn’t have invited my Mom to church.
What would our lives have been like?
Although I can’t know for sure, I’ve learned enough about our family history and addictions over the years to know that it had the potential to be really bad.
What would have happened to our family?
Where would Mom have found her answers? Would we have found Jesus anyway or would our lives have taken another turn?
The truth is that we won’t know—-thankfully, we don’t have to know because Sarah took a very brave, very courageous step (a step that many are afraid to take) and invited her neighbor to church. Her invitation changed our lives forever.
But it didn’t just change our lives.
As I continued to ponder, I thought about all of the men and women who have been reached through our ministry. I thought about the men who were saved at Mantour Conferences….the testimonies we hear….the men who’ve read Jamie’s books in prisons….the women who have worked through the Finding Healing Curriculum.
It occurred to me that these souls…these testimonies…are the result of Sara’s invitation.
I imagine that one day when she joins my Mom in Heaven, she will be surprised when Jesus shows her all of the lives that were touched by her decision to invite a friend to church. Because that’s how the kingdom of God works—-our lives are not our own. Every person that we reach for the kingdom of God touches other lives. At the moment, we can never really comprehend the rich harvest that God can produce from the little seed that we plant. Yet, it’s our responsibility to plant seeds in faith so that the kingdom of God can advance.
It’s why we share our testimony.
It’s why we invite people to church.
It’s why we step out of our comfort zones, take bold, courageous steps, risk embarrassment or rejection and share our faith in Jesus.
Because we never really know what God can do through our obedience. Maybe we’re not supposed to know, we’re just called to obey and let God work out a beautiful surprise when our legacies are revealed and we hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Today, the challenge stands before us: Will we follow Sara’s example?
Will we step out of our comfort zone and dare to say the words, make the commitment, or take the risk to help people find Jesus in their lives?
Are we open to the Holy Spirit interrupting our schedules to make a difference in someone’s life?
Will we follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit when He says, “Invite her to church…share your testimony….offer to pray?”
It’s been over forty years since Sara invited my Mom to church. Today, I couldn’t be more grateful. Her decision changed our lives. Whose life does God want you to change with a simple invitation?
Learn more about your call to, like Sara, fulfill the Great Commission in "The Adventure: Discovering Your God-Given Passion, Place, and Purpose at: