When I was a child, I lived outside of Buckner, Mo. Buckner is a small rural community east of Independence/Kansas City, Mo. My family and I attended a tiny country church called Six Mile Baptist. You have seen many churches exactly like it—those little white-framed buildings with the cemetery in the back. The church was named “Six Mile” because it was located six miles outside of Fort Osage. Some of the best memories I have of growing up come from the time we spent in that little country church.
As I look back, I have tried to understand why those days bring back such powerful, pleasant memories. I have decided it must have happened in part because the men of the church let us young boys work alongside them. I remember when our church made the decision to build an educational building. When the men gathered to raise the building, we boys didn’t hesitate to add our labor to theirs. I helped pull the electrical wires, swept the floors and pushed wheelbarrow-loads of cement.
A boy gains a certain satisfaction when he does a man’s job. I remember dragging my little body home, thinking I couldn’t move another step. Of course, my fatigue only lasted until my brother asked if I wanted to play baseball. At the point, all exhaustion instantly vanished.
Only a few years later, that same educational building burned down as the result of electrical problems. I have always wondered if my wiring was somehow responsible. I try not to think about it too much.
Another precious memory from those days comes from a new club for young boys that our church began—the Royal Ambassadors. The club’s purpose was to take young, moldable lives and give them man-sized hearts for a lost world. On the club’s first Wednesday night meeting, our group of boys and leaders gathered in the basement of Six Mile Church to elect officers. Each boy was given a significant task, and at 9 years of age, I was elected as the secretary. You have never met a prouder man; I was the secretary for the Royal Ambassadors of Six Mile Church. My excitement lasted about five minutes.
All of a sudden, a thought arose in my 9-year-old mind. I raised my hand and asked, “What does a secretary do?” The R.A. director answered that I was to take “minutes” of the meeting. I couldn’t wait to go home and tell my parents about my newfound responsibilities. I gathered my mom and dad together to break the news. “I need a watch,” I told them.
“Why do you need a watch?” they asked.
Puffing out my little chest, I announced, “I have been elected the secretary of the Royal Ambassadors, and I need a watch because I have to take. . . minutes!”
It only took me about 30 years to live that one down.
But something happened in that damp, smelly, little basement where we met each week to study God’s Word and His work around the world. God was in the process of turning a childlike curiosity about the world into a man-sized burden for the unreached people who live there. At each meeting, He reinforced this burden as we stood and recited the Royal Ambassador Pledge. Forty-seven years later, I can still quote it by heart:
“As a Royal Ambassador I will do my best to become a Well-informed, responsible follower of Christ;
To have a Christ-like concern for all people;
To learn how the message of Christ
Is carried around the world;
To work with others in sharing Christ;
And to keep myself clean and healthy
In mind and body.”
I have spent most of my lifetime following that pledge. Today, I have dedicated my life and my ministry to equipping believers for life and sharing Christ with those who are not yet believers. I am still His royal ambassador.
I share this to encourage those of you who are the keepers of young hearts. As you meet in little rooms to engage young minds attached to bodies that are bouncing off the walls, remember that some of them are taking in every word you say. It may take them 47 years to get around to saying “Thank you,” but if it weren’t for people just like you, I would never have developed a heart for the things of God. To all of you who try to teach children about God’s work around the world, I offer a heartfelt. . . thank you.
“I will do my best. . . ”