Until this past Sunday, the last time I was in Innsbruck
for any length of time was in 1972 when, as a high school student I was part of musical touring group that visited the city.
But because friends had moved there a few years ago, I had occasion to visit them this past Sunday.
In the evening I made my way to the small church my friends attend.
I stood in the back during the end of the sermon, and tried to sound out the German words on the screen as they sang together. I wasn’t looking forward to the time after the service at all because I’ve been in these situations where, not only do you not know anyone, but you also don’t know the language. It’s uncomfortable for me when I literally can’t communicate, and my preference would have been to sneak out quickly. However, my friends are deeply involved in this community and so needed to stay after and pray with some people. Imagine my surprise when a man came up to me with a big smile on his face and said, “Richard!” I smiled and agreed with him that this was my name. He then went on to ask if I remembered him. I told him I was sorry to say that I didn’t. He told me his name and then said, “I was a Bible School student of yours in 1993. We played some volleyball together – in Canada. You taught Genesis.” I hear these kinds of things every so often, and am humbled that people remember me at all. But what came next was very encouraging. He said, “I remember the lessons you gave on…” and then he proceeded to offer a detailed recollection of the teachings and how it had changed his life. Is it odd that this man, now well into his 30’s should come up to me in the middle of a city where I feel I’m a complete stranger and offer this word? I don’t think so. You see, I’d just finished a week of teaching in a place several villages and hours to the east of Innsbruck and, as is sometimes the case, was questioning whether my teaching had been effective. There are so many with greater intellect than me, or greater enthusiasm, or greater humor, or greater charisma. What am I doing teaching? And at the same time, I continue to have a desire to teach. Why do I love it so much? These were things I’d been thinking about as the train made its way west from Schladming to Innsbruck. In God’s providence, I received just the word that I needed as an encouragement to keep teaching. The seeds we sow in our lives, whether words of encouragement, kind notes of affirmation, words of teaching, acts of service, donations of time or money, hospitality, the help of those who can’t help themselves – all these things will come to fruition in due time. Some fruit we’ll see, because it will sprout in our own homes or neighborhoods. Others will take the soil of their hearts and move to Innsbruck, and we won’t see the fruit, perhaps ever – unless, that is, we happen to find ourselves in need of encouragement on a clear and cold night at the end of tiring week when we’re questioning our calling. Then perhaps, seeds cast years earlier may sprout right in front of us, reminding us of a law written into the universe, especially vs 7-10. And I do believe that the seeds of encouragement he sowed in my heart will help keep me on the track God has for me. Don’t stop sowing. Give. Teach. Love. Celebrate. Serve. Forgive. Heal…in His name. It’s where life is to be found – even when we’re not looking.