From Don Bartel
I recently visited Mike and Susan in New Orleans and enjoyed eating great food, meeting lots of their friends, and some New Orleans style partying. Mike and Susan exemplify living and discipling among the lost. They are laborers who are fulfilling our Calling. Let me briefly tell you Mike's story.
Mike grew up in New Orleans in a nominally Catholic, blue-collar, neighborhood called Uptown. At age 21 he left for the Navy, went to college, married his wife Susan, and raised his family. Shortly after he left Uptown he came to Christ and was then discipled and trained by a Navigator. Eventually, he went on staff with The Navigators and led four different campus ministries.
After being away for over 30 years, God led Mike to move back to New Orleans to reconnect with his family and childhood friends for the sake of the Gospel. To reconnect he engaged one-on-one and in large groups with as many as he could. To facilitate this he championed a number of reunions.
Since everyone in his childhood neighborhood attended the same elementary school, a natural starting place was to plan a reunion for the St. Francis of Assisi Elementary School. So, Mike and a group of friends from those early years started planning and inviting. I asked myself, who attends elementary school reunions? Well, about 550 people of all ages attended each of the first two reunions.
Next, Mike recruited a small team consisting of two cousins and a few friends to have a more personalized reunion for the friends he grew up with, played with, and partied with in Uptown. They met in Grits which was a local hangout back in those early days. I happened to be there for the third annual reunion. Since I was the outsider, I got to greet people when they came in, collect their money for the meal, and make name tags. In previous years, as many as 250 people attended this event. This year there were about 170.
Occasionally, I would glance in Mike's direction and saw that for five hours straight he engaged in personal conversation with virtually everyone there. After the reunion a bunch of us went to a second venue and continued the conversation late into the night. Even though there was food available at both venues, Mike put priority on people over food. It reminded me of Jesus who told his disciples, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about." (John 4:32)
Most Christians have a few unbelieving friends and find the majority of their relational support within the Christian community. Mike, on the other hand, has pursued hundreds of unbelieving friends and is supported on the margins of the Christian community by a handful of Christian friends. I anticipate that these relational initiatives will be soon be exceedingly fruitful because of God's grace and Mike's persistence among the hundreds of unbelieving family and friends he has is reconnected to.
As the Lord leads you, please pray for Mike and Susan and their team as they reach out to their unbelieving family and friends with the good news of Jesus.