This article is a part of a series called "What's In Your Trunk?" as a part of the Lottie Cookie Project based on when Lottie Moon left to do mission work in China. She packed her belongings in a large trunk including clothes, shoes, and paper for writing letters. She also packed her famous tea cake recipe, which helped her build relationships with her neighbors and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them. You can read the story of Lottie's trunk here. We asked writers what they would put in their metaphorical trunk in order to share the gospel and this was their response:
I’m a notorious over-packer. As a travel-lover, willing to hop on a plane at a moment’s notice and go anywhere in the world, it would be logical to presume that I would be an efficient, “never a checked bag on my trips” kind of person. On the contrary, if I have a bag to carry, I want it full to the last crevice of available space—you know, just in case.
I have become fairly handy at estimating the weight of my checked bags before going to the airport—instinctively knowing when I’ve come close to or reached that 50 pound limit—at which point the packing is over. In fact, I traveled just a few weeks ago, and knew my bag was close to the weight limit. I got to the airport to check in, and my bag weighed 50 pounds on the dot. And I was grateful for a number of my “just in case” items, since the weather took a dramatic turn from what had been forecast.
When Lottie Moon sailed for China, she packed her recipe for tea cakes in her trunk. Those sweet treats provided countless opportunities for Lottie to share the love of Christ with those in her new country. God calls each of us to tasks, some of which we might consider ridiculously insignificant. Others might feel so challenging we don’t even know how or where to begin. But there’s one thing for certain: God does not call us to randomness.
God calls us to use our giftedness in fulfilling His mission in the world in the places we are called to go. Certainly baking tea cakes was not the only way Lottie Moon shared Christ with others. But those tea cakes provided a bridge between Lottie and the Chinese people, even before Lottie learned their language. If God can use a cookie recipe packed in a trunk, then how might God use me?
I’ve described my habit of over-packing for trips. But if I were packing a trunk as Lottie did, filling it with ways God might use me to share the love of Christ with others, I wouldn’t fill that trunk until it was bursting at the seams or approaching some weight limit.
I would pack that trunk leaving empty space because that’s where I see God at work through me—in the moments of space I can offer to those around me simply through presence . . . silence . . . a thoughtful question . . . an unhurried, calm space for someone else to share their joy, their pain, a struggle they’re having, a concern that’s keeping them awake at night, and so on. We can find God in the quiet, empty spaces only if we pause long enough and listen.
My daughter, Mykayla, and I were in the mall last week. There was a high school dance coming up, and we were looking for shoes that fit her “vision” of how she would look the night of the dance. We were scurrying about, laughing, having fun, but also hurrying so we could get home to dinner and homework.
We found what we were looking for and in our rush practically plowed into a woman who worked in that department. I was about to ask if she would ring up our purchase when she noticed the sweatshirt my daughter was wearing. A conversation began and my initial thought was, “Oh my gosh, we’ve got to get home. We don’t have time for this.” But another voice made me pause. There were no other customers around so we weren’t preventing her from helping others. And she needed to talk.
Very quickly we learned that her husband of many years passed away a few weeks ago from colon cancer. She talked about how hard it had been, and his inability to work in recent months is what led her to be working in this department store.
We stood in the sacred space we allowed to open in that moment on a Thursday night in a department store with a woman we’re likely to never see again. We allowed space for her to enter our evening. We were present in that pause.
I asked a few questions and we listened and told her how sorry we were for her loss and that we would be praying for her. Before we left we shared our names with one another. She took my hand and she thanked us for listening. Sometimes what we need most of all is someone to hear us, and to be reminded, even in the space of a moment, that God is present and loving us even through the face of a stranger.
We walked slowly to the car after we finished our conversation and paid for our purchase, and Mykayla and I talked about how much people sometimes just need space to open. The hurts and sorrows of this life can be so near the surface that given the opportunity they come tumbling out almost without prompting.
People need to know that God cares for them, that God is present and loves them regardless of circumstance. And one way God communicates to those around us is through our willingness to slow down and pay attention, to offer space, a quiet, safe place where sharing burdens and sorrows is OK.
A recipe for tea cakes likely would not find a spot in my trunk like it did in Lottie’s. But there would be plenty of space carefully packed and protected in my trunk for God to use as God desires in sharing the love of Christ through my life.
Written by Kym Mitchell, editor and team leader for National WMU's Student Resource Team.