March 24, 2020

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. Ephesians 4:11-16

In the summer after my junior year in high school, I went on a youth mission trip to Homestead, Florida to rebuild after the devastating Category 5 Hurricane Andrew had ripped through that area in August of 1992. Almost a year after the hurricane, there were still literally mountains of rubble and debris piled around various places of the city. Part of our job that week was construction, and so I spent the morning putting on roofs in a neighborhood of new houses that were being built for those displaced by the storm. But while the sheet rock crew did construction all day, the roofing crew spent our afternoons putting on an ecumenical Vacation Bible School for the children of the area.

Now, each day of the mission trip began and ended with devotions led by youth, and this year I was scheduled to lead the morning devotions on the first day of work. So the night before, I went to see the two pastors who were on the trip. I told them that I knew the general direction I wanted to take, but I wasn’t sure where in the Bible to look for a relevant passage. After hearing what I was thinking they suggested I look at Ephesians 4. So I did.

Looking back over all my years of Sunday School, worship, and youth group, this devotion on Ephesians 4 was the first time I can remember really exploring a passage of scripture myself, rather than having a Sunday School teacher or a preacher interpret it for me. And I remember being amazed at just how much I enjoyed that process of studying the Bible for myself. And more than that, I was pretty good at it!

The next morning, I led the morning devotion for the group before we headed off for our first day of work. I talked about how God has given each of us different gifts, no matter who we are, and that each and every one of us has something to give this week. I talked about building each other up with our gifts. I talked about speaking the truth in love, and about growing together in faith through service. And then we headed off to different work sites to learn what we would be doing that week.

Around noon, we came back, had lunch, and about half of us got things ready for the ecumenical VBS that afternoon, while the rest went back to hang more sheet rock. Now we had brought with us the VBS materials that had been used at the church that summer. But when the kids came, we quickly discovered that they were not like the kids that came to VBS at my church. They had not been in Sunday School the day before, or possibly ever. These weren’t stories they had heard time and time again. The Bible wasn’t something they had ever really opened or explored. Like me, they were experiencing the Bible in a whole new way!

Now they certainly knew what the Bible was, but they saw it as something that was completely inaccessible, as if, even in English translation, it was still written in a completely foreign and unreadable language! So we started talking about how there’s the Old Testament and the New Testament. We talked about the big chapter numbers and the little verse numbers. We let them read from our Bibles. And that evening, the VBS group from the mission team got together, and we decided that the VBS curriculum we brought just wasn’t going to do what these kids needed. And so the rest of the week, we told them about the Bible. We told them about Jesus. We told them about God’s great love for each and every one of us. And we told them that the great God and Creator of the universe is near enough to hear us when we pray and care for us when we hurt.

That experience of sharing God’s word with my peers and with those kids changed the direction of my life and shaped what I eventually found to be a calling to educational ministry in the church. Thanks be to God for that opportunity to share God’s word!

O God, we thank you for the ways you have shaped us. We thank you for your scriptures which challenge and comfort us anew throughout our lives. Help us all to find our place in ministry in each season of our lives as we are confronted with your Word and share it with others. Amen.

Rev. L. Craig Foster

About the Contributor:
Craig Foster is the Associate Pastor for Discipleship and Communications at First Presbyterian Church in Spartanburg, where he has served for the past decade. He enjoys about anything that gets him outdoors, whether it is riding his bike, camping with his wife and three teenaged children, or relaxing in his hammock between any two trees he can find.