February 25, 2009

How Far Would You Go?

of the counter, baristas served drinks through a complicated process that sometimes resembled the sound of a construction zone. Whoosh, thump, pop, bang!
The other side was slightly less hectic, but every bit as distracting. On my right a group of high school students debated the intricacies of the Revolutionary War. An American history buff, I was interested until one of them mentioned Abraham Lincoln’s leadership.
Attempting to concentrate on my slowly developing story, I clenched my jaw, silently giving myself the proverbial Focus! pep talk. Momentarily, it worked.
Seconds later a black-bearded twentysomething, adorned in dark jeans, a gray hat, and carrying a green canvas case, sat at the table next to me. After a quick sip of his drink he peeled back the case’s zipper, revealing an obviously well-used Bible.
2009 1506 page17As he began to skim through the end of the New Testament, a Hispanic fellow roughly the same age, covered by a hooded sweatshirt, snapped a “What’s up, Nate?” and placed himself on the opposite side of the circular table. He, too, carried a tattered Bible.
Standing up, I headed toward the restroom. As I passed, I caught a glance from Nate’s thoughtful eyes.
“What are you guys studying tonight?”
“First John,” he replied, genuineness evident in his voice.
For the next few minutes we perused the common topics of Christianity in today’s world. 
As I continued on toward the restroom, they invited me to join them for Bible study. I did.
On that “chilly” California Tuesday, I enjoyed camaraderie and encouragement with my Christian brothers. But moreover, I learned the incredible story of a 24-year-old named Nate Whiting.
Though his eyes intermittently strained through the Bakersfield fog to decipher the stoplights, it was Nate’s mind doing the heavy lifting on this mid-January night.
A born-again Christian, his zeal to spread the Word was fierce. Yet opportunities to share seemed scarce. As he drove through the fog, his intense passion became audible as he uttered words that would change his life.
“God,” he whispered. “Do something radical in my life so I can share Your love with others.”
On a sunny day nearly six months later Nate had his first seizure.
Filled with hospital trips, constant analysis, and more seizures, the next half year was a blur. In January 2007, nearly one year since his heartfelt prayer, the diagnosis came in: epilepsy. Suddenly, driving, working, and eating, things that once seemed so habitual, became difficult.
But inconvenience never dissuaded his purpose.
At the height of his illness, cramped inside a dim hospital room at UCLA, Nate shared the love of God with a nurse assigned to care for him. A little past midnight, amid a gathering pool of tears, the caregiver let go of her pain, inadequacy, and fear—replacing it with a commitment to Christ. This was just one of the countless people Nate reached with the message of hope as a direct result of his epilepsy.
It’s impossible to quantify the lives that were changed, the joy of salvation discovered—all because one man asked God to use him in a revolutionary way. And though that meant personal pain and sacrifice, his fervor for sharing God’s love never wavered.
Three weeks since our initial meeting, we reconvened to dive into God’s Word. As I glanced up at my friend Nate, a 9-inch horseshoe-shaped scar affixed on the left side of his head, I thought of a question I wanted to ask you.
How far are you willing to go to be used by God?
I ask only because, as I sit in the same overcrowded cafe, I’m asking myself the same question. 
A proud Nebraskan, Jimmy Phillips writes from Bakersfield, California, where is marketing and communication coordinator for San Joaquin Community Hospital.