A Life Called Beautiful
I first met Jody Preston on Facebook about three years ago. She was a friend of one of my teammates in Ambato, and her prayers and encouragement meant a lot to me as we stepped into a whole new world of ministry. Little did I know that I would meet her in person just three months before the end of our contract when she and her husband Scott came down to Ambato on a construction team in November 2014. Their short-term team had one of the most frustrating situations a team can have: a total change in assignment. Although they came down to help build the church, construction on our building had been halted just days before due to circumstances beyond our control. They learned one of the greatest lessons one can learn in mission work: flexibility. What stood out to me the most about Jody was her boldness. She stepped into every situation with courage, handled the changes like a pro, and she spoke to people with a depth of love that stretched beyond any generalization that could be made and saw straight into the individual’s heart.
I didn’t quite know why her passion was so powerful until she stepped up to the platform during a service and once again displayed her courage by sharing her testimony. There was hardly a dry eye in the place when she finished, and it was then I understood. There is something special about a person who truly understands grace and who has known deep heartache. There is something even more special about that person when she has experienced and chooses to live out every day the presence of God.
That being said, it didn’t surprise me to hear that soon after she and her husband returned to their home in Valley City, North Dakota, they decided to act upon what they saw in Ecuador. Although they were already foster parents to two teenage boys, they wanted to do something more. They approached their church board about an idea for a ministry to their community. Scott asked Jody, “What if the board says no?” to which she replied, “Then I guess we’ll do it anyway.” However, God had already been working in their hearts, because the board approved their idea wholeheartedly and with tears.
Although the church in the United States has the reputation of being similar to a social club with fun events for the neighbors, their church recognized the need to reach the unchurched and to be a spiritual presence in their communities. “When you read the New Testament, it’s about people going out and loving those around them, delivering them, feeding them, and showing them God’s love. Often we as a church are more like, ‘If you want to be blessed, come our way, meet at 10:30 in our building and we will bless you.’ That’s not at all what Jesus ever did. We are supposed to be His ambassadors; to look at what He really did and go out and do the same. I had been praying that my church would change, but in going to Ambato I realized that if the church won’t do this by our prayer, then we need to do something.”
So Scott and Jody, along with several other people from their church started Beautiful Gates Ministries, based on the story of Peter in Acts chapter 3, when he encountered the lame man at the gate called Beautiful, just outside the church walls. Although the lame man expected money, Peter spoke up to him and said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” This ministry focuses on giving those outside the walls of the church what they really need, and that is spiritual healing through the name of Jesus Christ. And Jody understands how important that healing is, because she has experienced it in her own life. She understands that her freedom is not simply for her; but rather she has been set free in order to set others free.
This group of passionate people are hitting the streets for a prayer walk this coming week. At least a dozen are signed up to participate. They are also preparing gift bags and brownies to share with people door to door as they invite the residents of Valley City to a carnival they are planning. “In going to Ambato, after about the third day I started asking, ‘Why can’t we do this where we live?’ Some might say that culturally it’s taboo, but maybe that’s not true. If we meet one person whose eyes are opened spiritually, it’s worth it. We may not even see it, but it might get them thinking, and that’s the bottom line for us.” Jody revealed her heart when she said that she wants the people around them to know this: “That we just want to love on you and meet you face to face.”
I am so encouraged to hear these stories about people like Jody, who don’t simply have an experience on the mission field and return to their lives like nothing ever happened, but let what they have seen change them. I am thankful for those who hear the voice of God and step out to make a difference in their communities, courageously loving those around them. It reminds me that no matter what my situation might be, whether a missionary in another country or a plumber or an office assistant here in the United States, I have both the responsibility and the privilege of sharing Christ. Please pray for Scott and Jody and those in their church who have stepped up, that they would be obedient and that a revival would ignite in Valley City, North Dakota.
“I find it really ironic that we came down to Ambato thinking we were going to build a church. I never saw that we WERE going to be building a church, but up here in Valley City. God yanked us out of our expectations and did something different altogether.” And that’s just like God.
So what will you do with the opportunities that have been placed in your hands? How will you use the influence you have been given to bring Christ’s love to your community? Be inspired by this story, and go and do likewise.
For two and a half years Chelsea served on the field as a 40/40 Church Planter in the Ecuadorian city, Ambato. She has recently started working on Extreme’s Messaging Team to excite others about mission work. Chelsea is currently in Nebraska raising funds for her work and spending time with her cats, one of the which snores loudly while she works from home. You can follow Chelsea on her personal blog at: http://chelseamaxine-all-in.com