Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Reminder of My Spiritual Formation

Not long ago I was invited to attend a Pastor’s Breakfast sponsored by Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF). The invitation actually came at the youth chili-cook-off after church one Sunday. Chet Beiler, who is the Chairman of the Board for Lancaster County CEF, attends our church and asked me if I was familiar with the ministry of CEF.

Familiar? I could be their “poster child.” When I was 5 years old living in Akron, Ohio, I went every Tuesday afternoon to a CEF Good News Club that was taught by my Aunt Ruth. Now to be honest, I went for the punch and cookies. I had heard my aunt tell the story of Jesus for what seemed like a million times. In fact, I had heard it enough that I probably could have told it every bit as good, maybe even better, than she could.

But one afternoon at the Good News Club, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had never made that decision to receive Jesus. If I died, I would not go to heaven. It was that very day that I knew I needed to and wanted to ask Jesus into my heart. When my Aunt gave the invitation, I raised my hand. In fact, I distinctly remember another child next to me trying to pull my arm back down. My Aunt Ruth then invited those kids who had raised their hands to meet her on the front porch. I went and it was there and then that I received Jesus as my personal savior.

But that wasn’t the end of CEF’s influence on my life. During the summer before my sophomore year of high school, my pastor challenged me and his son to attend a CEF Christian Youth in Action (CYIA) training where we would learn how to hold 5-day clubs and then spend the summer working as a summer missionary for CEF. He also said that there would be many high school and college students that would be at this training. To be even more honest, I think the prospect of 10 days at a camp with a bunch of high school and college girls may have been the greater selling point, but I went and God used it to change my life.

It was through this training that I learned how to effectively tell a Bible story and how to share my faith with kids and adults. It was by leading these summer 5-day clubs that I developed a passion for ministry. It was also at this training that I met students from what was then Liberty Baptist College (now Liberty University) which cemented in my mind that Liberty was the only place I wanted to go for college. In fact, I did the CYIA training 3 years in a row and worked as a CEF summer missionary for each summer that I was in High School. CEF’s influence didn’t stop there. After my kids were born, Laura and I told them the story of CEF’s Wordless Book just about every night when they were little. That CEF tool was a very effective tool in seeing both of my children come to know Jesus as well.

So when Chet asked me if I was familiar with CEF, I smiled as I strolled down the memory lane of my own spiritual formation! How cool it was to hear the stories that God is still using CEF to reach children who might even one day pastor Grace Church.

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