At an Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries (ASi) event not long ago, I heard a gentleman named Paul share a powerful testimony of how God led him to start a ministry in Peru almost 20 years ago.
He was on a short-term mission trip, and if you’ve ever been to a developing country, you might be familiar with street children who beg from tourists. A little girl approached Paul and asked him for money. He was aware that many of these children are taught to be professional beggars, used by manipulative parents to tug on sympathetic heartstrings.
He inquired about the little girl’s mother. She quickly replied, “I don’t have a mother.” Paul wasn’t quite sure he believed her. He was impressed with her quick comeback, though. He responded immediately, “Why don’t you come home and live with me?” Without missing a beat, the little girl replied, “Before she died, my mother told me never to go anywhere with strangers.” Paul and his accompanying friend began laughing a little bit. The girl seemed to have a comeback for every question he asked her.
Tears formed in the little girl’s eyes and threatened to spill down her cheeks. Her lips quivered. Paul’s heart sank as the reality became clear. He and his friend were laughing at a little girl who had lost her mother and lived with her older sister on the streets of Peru.
This brief encounter was a defining moment in Paul’s life. On that trip he purchased a home in Peru and found a bilingual family willing to live there and take care of the two little girls. He eventually adopted the girls as his own children. This was the start of Poppy’s House in Iquitos, Peru, and the orphanage has touched countless lives over the years as a result of his sacrifice.
I wish I could tell you that everything was all right for the little girl after he rescued her and her sister from the streets. When I called Paul, I could hear the pain and heartache in his voice as he shared with me the challenges and struggles that she faced as she grew up. Despite the blessings she received, she had no interest in spiritual things and made poor choices that left lasting effects.
I recently spoke for the Friday evening plenary session at the ASi convention in Orlando, Florida. My message was titled “One Life to Live. One Life to Give.” It was framed under the implication that life is fragile and fleeting. In light of what is truly important, how do we want to live our lives? I shared what God is doing in my life as I seek to win souls for His kingdom.
After the presentation I went to the exhibit hall. An excited young woman approached and thanked me profusely for the message. She asked to take a picture with me. She had no idea who I was, except that I had just shared the evening message, and I had no idea who she was! As we visited, her mother appeared and introduced herself. Imagine my surprise to learn that her husband was Paul and that the young woman to whom I was speaking was the little girl from Peru! I was in total awe of God’s goodness. He not only allowed me to cross paths with the girl whose story I had heard, but used my testimony to bring revival to her life.
Soon after, I ran into Paul. He told me that earlier that evening his daughter had no interest in participating in the evening worship. She wanted to leave, but he had encouraged her to stay and listen to the message. The Holy Spirit spoke to her heart in a special way, and Paul shared that his daughter cried through much of the message.
This providential encounter with Paul’s adopted daughter was the highlight of my time at ASi National. It really is what ASi is all about. God is using His children to cooperate and collaborate together with Him in this most grand work of saving souls. The apostle Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6). Ironically, my friend’s name is Paul, too. God used him to plant the seeds. Like Apollos, I had the privilege of adding water. But it is ultimately God who gives the increase!
I’m so thankful that God has called you and me to be colaborers with Him. Why has He called us to this work? So that we can experience and share in “the joy of Christ in souls redeemed.”* My friend’s daughter still faces many challenges, but at ASi we saw that God is doing everything He can to reach His child. Her heart is still responsive to His love! Paul and I cling to the wonderful promise found in Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
If you want to be inspired for soul winning, I encourage you to attend a regional or national ASi convention. God is doing incredible things in the lives of His people.
* Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1900, 1941), p. 374.