It was a still, quiet morning around 6:30 a.m. as I pulled into the Third Church parking lot. I jumped out of my car and was greeted by Pastor Keith Korver as we walked into the building together.
A few weeks back Keith and I connected during one of the services in the auditorium and made some plans to get together. No agenda on either of our parts, Keith I believe just had a nudge from the Holy Spirit that asked him to invite me in to connect with him a little more.
Keith had led the Journey course I had taken at the beginning of 2017. We had a little history together and knew each other, but in getting together I think both of us were just looking to know a little bit more about one another. So as we sat down in Keith’s office and started to talk I began by telling him a little more about myself, my past, my present, etc.
No agenda for us getting together, just a time to talk about life and build relationship together.
As I spoke about myself and talked about my upbringing and younger years I made it known that I had been an athlete. I had played several sports in high school, but basketball was my sport of choice and I had dreams of pursuing playing it beyond high school. In speaking to this I told Keith that during my junior year of high school I broke my hand and was out for the pretty much that entire basketball season. As you might expect, this shattered my world. And in saying this, I then just said in passing that due to the fact that I couldn’t pursue playing basketball after high school, I decided to play soccer my freshmen year at college. I told Keith this as more of an entry into discussing college life and beyond, however, when I told him I had played soccer in college Keith abruptly stopped me and said he had to go out and grab something that he wanted to show me. As he left I had no idea what he was going to get, but I sat there patiently waiting for him to return.
He handed me a soccer ball.
I looked at it as I rolled it around in my hands. Keith then said to me that there was a group planning on going to Uganda in February of 2019 that would be assisting at a soccer tournament. Along with assisting at this soccer tournament the idea was that this group would be presenting a soccer ball to each of the schools in that region.
In order for all of these soccer balls to be available for giving out to these schools it had become apparent that fundraising would be necessary to make this happen. Keith asked if me and my wife, Lindsey, and would be willing to pray about helping out with this financial need. I said absolutely, Lindsey and I would discuss this, pray about it, and make a decision.
He then looked right at me and said, “I think the Lord is asking you to go to Uganda with these soccer balls.”
I nodded my head and said sure I’ll pray about it and see if this is what the Lord is asking me to do. Deep inside my first reaction was no way, there is no way I can leave my wife and our four girls for two weeks. I have way too many responsibilities at home, at work, in the community, etc. In my head I was already piling up the excuses of why I couldn’t go. And then again Keith looked at me and said I know you and Lindsey will pray and discuss what’s needed for the purchasing of the soccer balls, but the real question is Derek, will you go?
I have to admit, in that moment I did not feel prepared for that question to come my way. And so, we spoke some more and then ended our time together with Keith giving my contact information over to Nuper Nunnikhoven. I walked out the church doors and got back into my car to head to work.
I texted Lindsey and said I had just met with Keith. I can’t remember exactly where I heard this, but someone referred to Keith, affectionately mind you, as a “Heavenly Hound” and I know my wife has heard that as well, so her first reaction to me saying I had just met with Keith was, “So what did he ask you to do?”
I remember laughing a bit and then told her of the soccer balls and then laid out the question that was posed to me.
“Derek, will you go?”
I was kind of expecting her to be like no way, you can’t leave me for two weeks. But her first reaction was that she thought Jesus was asking me to do this. That sort of caught me off guard. And at this point I really did start thinking that maybe just maybe Jesus is asking me to truly consider this.
Nuper messaged me a few days later and he shared his vision for Mission Uganda. We talked for some time and he explained that group heading to Uganda in February is to assist with the soccer tournament, and also to share the gospel with the people of Uganda. He spoke to me about preaching the gospel to hundreds and thousands of people who may have never heard about Jesus. This struck another chord with me in thinking about my own faith and trying to lead others to Jesus. In so many ways I talk about this and want this so badly, but far too often I find myself closing off and desiring to just be “comfortable” in my own faith, but not necessarily reaching others for Jesus.
That evening I went back to my journal and started writing. I turned to a page that I had started months ago called “THE LIST”.
This list of things in my journal is a bit of a mash up of different things I want to do in life that are maybe not in my ordinary routine or things that I’ve thought about that I want to accomplish. A couple of the items on this list for example would be come up with an original joke, write a song, and flip a house. These are just a few of the items, and it’s an ongoing list too.
The item that stuck out to me when I flipped to this page that evening was something I had written that said “preach a sermon”. Now I have no experience in writing a sermon or preaching a sermon, but this struck me as I thought about the idea of going to Uganda to PREACH the gospel.
My heart was starting to soften even more as I reflected on this idea. A few more days passed and Nuper had put me in touch with Katie Peterson, Life Stages Pastor at Third Church. She had gone with Nuper to Uganda earlier this year and he thought it would be good for me to talk with Katie about her experience. Katie and I met, we had a wonderful conversation about faith, family, this adventure, and more.
I left the church and got back into my car. As I turned on the radio the song ALL IN by Matthew West came on. The song’s lyrics speak to going ALL IN on Jesus. Even when you’re scared and you don’t think you have the courage to do it, Jesus is inviting you to dive into the deep end with and for Him. As I let these lyrics wash over me I began thinking about how this message is the same message that I’ve been reiterating time and time again this past semester to my small group of 7th grade MIX boys at Third. We’ve even been using the exact term of going ALL IN on Jesus. Meaning in every aspect of your life you need to make the choice to either be on one of three roads.
One of those roads is: you don’t want to follow Jesus and you aren’t going to.
A second road is: what we have been calling in the MIX the murky middle. This is where you’re kind of following Jesus, but not entirely set on giving over every aspect of your life to Him.
The third road which is: ALL IN on Jesus.
It was here, and in thinking about all the ways Jesus was showing me and asking me to accept His invitation that I said YES! I said yes to going to Uganda on this adventure for Jesus.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Proverbs 19:21 where it says,
‘Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.’
Now was this in my plans a year ago? Was it in my plans 6 months ago? No, I certainly had other plans, but I had no plans to say yes to something like this, but by God’s grace and by His will and purpose for me, I am going ALL IN on Him – bringing His Kingdom to wherever He sends me. That could be in my home, across the street, at my workplace, in my community, half way around the world.
The point is, wherever He’s calling you and me to shine His light, that’s exactly where we are meant to be. So shine for Jesus. Go ALL IN on Jesus. He’s calling you and me out of the shallow end of the pool to dive into the deep end with Him.
Derek De Haan