Thursday, March 26, 2015

What Happens When Our Devotion to God is Shaken?

I clearly remember that day in November 1993 when the members of Eureka Baptist Church in Anderson, SC, helped us pack our big moving truck and off we drove to Vermont. Only months before we had never even heard of Vermont, but through a partnership South Carolina Baptists had with New England Baptists, our church had taken a summer mission trip to Vermont. While there I learned that only 4% of the people who live in New England attend an evangelical church. I was challenged by how small the churches were and how quickly the pastors came and went because the people were often unresponsive to the Gospel. I also heard of a small mission church in a mountain village that was on the verge of closing down. They desperately wanted a missionary to come help them reach their community for Christ. My wife and I began to feel a calling to leave the strong and well established church we served in Anderson, SC and move to Vermont to serve as missionaries with the North American Mission Board. I am not quite sure what we thought would happen when we accepted the call and agreed to move to Washington, Vermont, a little village with only one paved street and more cows than people. But we knew that we wanted to serve the Lord and whatever it took to do that, we had promised God we would do it.

There was already six inches of snow on the ground when we arrived and we did not see grass again for six months. The little house we were living in had such crooked floors that we had to put wooden blocks under certain legs of the furniture to keep it from falling over. It was cold. The house was so poorly insulated that one entire side had to be wrapped in a giant wall of plastic to keep the wind out. The church was small. We were making $60 a week from the church and $500 a month from the North American Mission Board and trusting God to provide whatever else we needed.

During our 8 years there we saw God do some great things. Fifty four adults came to faith in Christ and the church grew from less than 20 to more than 90 in regular attendance. But the work was hard, and slow, and fraught with perils. If we had known all the perils that would come, it might have scared us away. But God often keeps us in the dark about the future, and honestly, that really is for the best.

Perhaps the greatest challenge to our devotion came one winter after we had been missionaries for five years. We were on the way into a bigger town a few miles away to visit a community member who was in the hospital. While driving on a narrow winding road we were hit head on by a drunk driver. The accident was quite severe. My wife’s arm was broken. My leg was shattered so badly that the paramedic who first arrived on the scene said they might have to amputate it. But the greatest injuries happened to my young son who was in the back seat. His back was broken and they doctors told us he had massive internal injuries.

I think most Christian adults can endure whatever we need to in our service to the Lord, but when our children have to pay the price for our devotion to God, even the most committed begin to question if our devotion is well placed.

In the days that followed we learned that the drunk driver who hit us was not a stranger. She was the cashier at the small country store across the street from our house. Her name was Barbara and she nearly killed my family.

It took me nine months of physical therapy to be able to walk normally again. It took my son months in a body cast to recover, though I am pleased to report that God was gracious and gave him a full recovery. He is now a junior at a Baptist college in Philadelphia preparing for a life of missionary service. I wish I could say that during all of this recovery time that I was so devoted to Jesus that I instantly forgave Barbara and loved her despite what she did to our family. But sadly, I must report that that was not the case. Even missionaries can get angry and bitter. I had some very dark moments when I was mad at Barbara for what she did to us and mad at God for letting it happen. At one point I even prayed that Barbara would get drunk again and drive her car into a tree and die. What kind of missionary prays for that! Surely not one who is truly devoted to serving the Lord.

But as time went by the Lord began to deal with my lack of forgiveness and my growing resentment. Finally there came a cold Vermont winter night when God and I argued for quite a while. At one point I angrily said to God, “Do you know what THAT woman has done to my son?” And God, in the still small voice of His Spirit simply said back to me, “Terry, do you know what you have done to my Son Jesus? Your son is alive and will eventually recover. My son had to die for your sin. Who are you to harbor anger toward another sinner?” That night I promised God that if He would help me, I would forgive Barbara.


It took time. It took work. It took me going to visit her in prison. It took me inviting her to church. It took a lot of prayer. But one day I was able to forgive her. And one day she asked me to come visit her home and tell her about this Jesus whom I seemed so devoted to. So a deacon and I went to visit her. Sitting in her kitchen, surrounded by more liquor bottles than this Baptist missionary had ever seen before, Barbara repented of her sins, and gave her life to Christ. Since then she has never had a drop to drink and all these years later is still faithful to that little village church. She remains fully devoted to the Lord and TODAY is her birthday. Happy Birthday Barbara and THANKS for helping me deepen my devotion to our Lord.

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Dr. Terry W. Dorsett has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England since 1993. He is the author of numerous books including Breaking Free from the Spirit of Offense. Find all of his resources at: amazon.com/author/terrydorsett

21 comments:

  1. Cameron and Kelly LewisMarch 26, 2015 at 5:40 PM

    Wow. I did not know that happened to you and your family! Being severly sick or injured is difficult to deal with.

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    1. God walked with us, even when we did not realize He was there.

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  2. Yes Terry your devotion to the Lord and forgiving Barbara for the accident that injured your family and you. That showed some of us just how much God forgives his children and the love he has for us. I have thanked God numerous times for putting Kay and you in this little town and in my life personnel. Without the saving grace of God and his guidance I don't really know how I would of endured all the trails in my life. Thank You Terry from the bottom of my heart for leading me to the Lord and Savior.

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    1. It was a joy to share Jesus with you and your family. Thanks for letting us be part of your lives.

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  3. What a beautiful testimony of God's mercy, grace & forgiveness!

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    1. How can we not forgive in light of how we have been forigven.

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  4. Jane ShortsleevesMarch 26, 2015 at 8:26 PM

    thank you for sharing this story' Terry and for being so honest and inspiring

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    1. Thanks Jane. Praying for God to help all of us learn the valuable discipline of forgiveness.

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  5. Thank you for sharing this story. I had to be reminded of what God forgives me of so I could forgive someone in my past so that I could move forward with the Lord, too. What a relief when we finally do forgive and turn it over to the Lord.

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    1. Forgiveness is never easy, but it is so important.

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  6. Lisa Harwood PalmiMarch 27, 2015 at 5:21 PM

    Thanks for sharing. God heals!

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  7. I remember the accident well!

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    1. And I remember how much help you were Chuck to me and my family in the months after the accident. God bless you.

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  8. WOW....just wow! What an awesome testimony.

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  9. Terry, u and your wife are very special people in God's eyes --- and in mine and many others that u have touched --- God is using u in a great way

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  10. We remember that day, too. It was also hard for us--we didn't want to give you up, but we knew in our hearts that it was the thing to do. And Gos blessed.

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  11. Robert and I remember those days as well. We were saddened to lose a devoted staff member, but knew God had bigger things in store. One of my favorite verses is Jer. 29:11, He has a plan, not for our destruction, but for our prosperity. It has been a joy to watch God work and do mighty things through you and your family. We love you and continue to lift you up daily.

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  12. Awesome testimony! Thank God He never leaves us & is always patient! Thank you for your ministry....who would have ever thought it would impact my son's life & ministry so very much....God is awesome!

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