Twenty years in missions, thanks to a miracle of God!

DSC_0414Today is my 20th anniversary with ACTION and I thought I would share with you what brought me here.

There are many reasons why I continue to serve with ACTION, including the interdenominational approach to missions work, the family atmosphere, and the passion, dedication and godly living that I see in my ministry colleagues. But those are not the reasons why I initially came.

I began my service to ACTION due to a miracle of God that involved a pack of gum and the Lynnwood Public Library.

Let me tell you the story. It’s a long story, but I think you will get a kick out of it.

In 1994 I was on staff at Skyline Community Church in downtown Seattle. Half of our congregation came from the student body of Seattle Pacific University and half came from the local missions for the homeless. It was an interesting mix! I think our two young sons were the only toddlers in the entire church.

During my time there I begin to sense an interest in missions. It was not a calling at that point, just an interest, and one day at the church office I found a brochure from ACTION on a bookshelf. I decided that I would visit their office and see if I could volunteer a couple of hours every week to “do my part” for global missions.

At that time I had great flexibility to my work schedule. I went to the ACTION office in Bothell to to pick up an application to become a volunteer. I had envisioned my visit would last no more than a few minutes. Little did I know that I would meet a man named Bill Flansburg that day, who decided to take me around the entire office and introduce me to every single person there. The entire meeting and discussion with Bill lasted three hours, though Bill claims that each time I tell the story the number grows larger.

What is indisputable is the fact that I begin volunteering on Fridays. I don’t know what my expectations were at that time, but I know that the entry-level administrative tasks they asked me to work on were not quenching my thirst for involvement in world missions. I was doing data entry, cleaning and reorganizing the warehouse, helping with the bulk mailing of the missionary prayer letters, and other tasks that I considered to be rather menial. Though I was only 27 years old at the time I felt that I had more to offer and that ACTION was not a place where I could best use my talents.

Desiring something more — though that something was undefined — I decided to fast and pray for three days for some new opportunity. The third day was a Friday, and as usual I was scheduled to go into ACTION for my regular volunteer slot. On the way to the office, I drove down 196th Steeet in Lynnwood. Since I had been fasting, my mouth was dry and I decided to stop at a convenience store to get a pack of gum.

As I came out of the store I saw that the Lynnwood Public Library was across the street. I decided at that moment, very spontaneously, that I would not go in for my volunteer shift at ACTION but instead I would go to the library to investigate what other missions opportunities might be available in the local area. ACTION just wasn’t cutting it. I imagined finding some sort of nonprofit or church directory that would point me in the direction of other mission agencies or relief and development groups in the area.

I walked into the foyer and saw that the library was having a small book sale that day. They also had some tables in front that had stacks of magazines on them. I wandered over to one of the tables, which had eight or ten stacks. Each stack had perhaps 30 or 40 magazines and all of the stacks were face up except for one.

For whatever reason, I was attracted to the stack that was face down. And I did not simply flip over the top magazine, nor did I grab the entire stack and flip it face up. Instead I simply reached out and grabbed a handful.

I flipped that handful over, and there was a picture of Doug Nichols, the founder of ACTION, staring back at me.

It was a small, two-color newsletter from Prairie Bible College and Doug’s picture was on the front page. How it got into a stack of TIME and People magazines I’ll never know.

So there I was in the Lynnwood Public Library after having decided not to go to my volunteer shift at ACTION because the work they gave me to do was too uninspiring. Then I walked over to a table and flipped over exactly enough magazines so that I was confronted with a picture of Doug Nichols.

I remember standing there for a second and thinking to myself, very calmly, “What is the statistical probability that a chain of events like this could happen by chance?” My response was, “Zero.” There was simply zero probability that it could all happen by chance.

I began volunteering at ACTION on practically a full-time basis soon after that, and on the first business day of January 1995 I joined the staff. A few years later I started our work in Cuba, a few years after that I was named the Associate Director of the USA Office, and a few years after that I joined the Board of Directors.

It was a good thing the Lord was looking out for me that Friday twenty years ago so that I didn’t make a foolish mistake!

Thank you for praying for me all these years. Happy New Year!

Brian Stewart