In 1 Corinthians Chapters 12 and 13 the Apostle Paul has a lot to say to the church of Jesus Christ about spiritual gifts and loving one another. In 1 Cor. 12:28, he lists the spiritual gifts that followers of Christ have. In 1 Cor. 13:2, Paul writes, “If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”
One practical way a spiritual gift can be an act of love is to minister to a sister church that needs it. Which brings me to 83-year-old Roger Levings and his wife of 27 years, Ruby. Both are members of Union Baptist Church in Mexico. He has 45 years of experience in concrete work, while she is a crackerjack cook. Earlier this month they traveled to the International Falls, Minn., area to help renovate Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in the community of Borderland, not far from the U.S.-Canadian border.
The trip was part of an on-going missions partnership between the Missouri Baptist Convention and the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention. It was organized by Wesley Hammond, pastor, First Baptist Church, Paris. About 70 volunteers, mostly from churches affiliated with Crossroads Baptist Association, participated, including the Levings.
What caught my attention about the Levings was that their church is not located in Crossroads Association. Yet, they went – and it was not their first time. Mission trips like the one to Borderland, Minn., are something the Levings have done for 18 years. “We have electricians, plumbers, carpenters … you meet so many wonderful people and make friends right away. We just love to do it … and we’ll help for as long as we possibly can,” said Ruby, who prepares meals for all the volunteer workers.
Notice the reward for using their talents? They meet “wonderful people” and “make friends right away.” With all the pain and suffering brought about by sinfulness in this world, everybody needs a new friend these days. Theologian Carl Bridges, Jr., says the idea of friends and friendship in the Bible involves three components: association, loyalty and affection. We become friends of God when we become friends of Jesus. If one can be a friend of God or of God’s Son, this friendship can extend to others who are also friends of God. This is perfectly displayed every time Missouri Baptists go on mission to help fellow believers.
Such action also strengthens the church body when we put our faith into action. Can you imagine the synergistic benefits of multiplying friendships through volunteer service to one another? Again, the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Cor. 14:12: “So also you … seek to abound for edification of the church.” Our spiritual gifts can be edifying to the church.
This was beautifully demonstrated when the Levings and their friends from Crossroads Association went to the upper reaches of Minnesota to help a sister church. “This is one of the ways that we can work together, it’s just part of our mission’s mindset, to go into communities and do everything we can to give back to them,” said Hammond. “Really one of the reasons why we do this is to show our people back home that missions is something that anybody can do from any walk of life and they can make a valuable contribution. We want anybody who wants to be able to go … .”
Even if they are an 83-year-old concrete worker and his wife.