ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Czech food, dangling earrings, chai tea latte, working in the church nursery keeping babies — a year ago I would have laughed at the thought of using any of the above in evangelism. Yet, the Lord has used my friend Marketa to teach me more about love and evangelism in our two-year friendship than I have learned in my entire 25 years of being a pastor’s wife and now wife of the vice president for evangelization at the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.
Marketa and her husband, Billy, are fairly new believers that came to know the Lord through my husband, John, sharing with them. It is a beautiful story that he has written about before in his columns and in his book, “Authentic Power.”
John had really urged me to befriend Marketa after she first became a believer, but I was too busy being a “pastor’s wife” and hanging out with people just like me. After John started working at NAMB, I was going through a personal crisis of my own — trying to find a new church home, new friends and new avenues of ministry. I also was feeling a need to do more evangelism. When you are married to the guy you just can’t help but have a passion for it.
Our families became friends through sharing Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter together, but for Marketa and me things were still on the surface — until March 29 of this year, when Billy and Marketa’s daughter, Ella, came into the world. Ella is beautiful; she has her mom’s beautiful skin and her dad’s piercing eyes. Over the course of a few months the Lord began to work in my heart about being so self-centered. I began to want to spend more time just loving this precious family. It hit close to home one day when Marketa said to me, “When Ella grows up I want her to be like your girls. How do I do that?” I was so humbled but at the same time so convicted.
I knew I could personally disciple Marketa. However, what Marketa needed the most was a church family. My daughters, Amy and Christi Avant, are partly who they are today because of their church — children’s workers, youth workers, a mission pastor who let them go crazy on the mission field in sharing their faith and their gifts.
So John was blunt with Billy and told him, “You would defend Ella to the death against anyone trying to hurt her. Defend her spiritually — get your family in church!” For the last two months they have been at Dogwood Baptist Church in Georgia.
I knew Marketa needed Christian parenting classes. Dogwood offered “Mom to Mom” classes. There was only one problem: Marketa was terrified of leaving Ella in the nursery. She knew none of those people and she could not imagine leaving her precious little one with strangers. I felt led to work in the nursery until she knows the people. I knew I had done the right thing when she came out of the classes beaming. Amazingly, her small group leader speaks Czech — Marketa’s native language. What are the odds of that? Sheepishly I will admit: I even am enjoying working with the babies in the nursery.
So what does this have to do with evangelism? Dogwood has been going through a small-group study called “Better Together” by Rick Warren. Pastor Keith Moore has been preaching on loving one another. How else will a lost world know we are Christians? Pastor Moore has also been challenging us to make friends with lost people — people who are different than us — and to reach out to those who are hurting and needy, loving one another and loving a lost world. Marketa and Billy have been receiving all this biblical teaching — and following it.
So the doorbell rings, and I am in the middle of preparing for teaching a seminar, with stuff spread out everywhere. It is Marketa with a cup of chai tea latte for me. She wants to tell me about a lady she is sharing with and how she wants to minister to foster children in our area. Marketa says, “Donna, Jesus said we are supposed to love orphans.” We talk and pray together about how we are going to do this together.
I thank God daily for my new friends, Billy and Marketa, and their precious daughter, Ella. I have this feeling God is going to use Ella to impact the Kingdom. He already is using her parents. I thank God for teaching me more about love, about serving, about reaching others for His Kingdom through someone who is different than me.
Donna Avant is the wife of John Avant, who serves as vice president for evangelization at the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.