In 1966 I joined Operation Mobilization for a year of ministry in France, but spent two years in India instead. While in London that summer, at the one-month OM orientation, I volunteered to work on a clean-up crew late one night.
Around 12:30am I was sweeping the front steps of the Conference Centre when an older gentleman approached and asked if this was the OM conference. I told him it was, but almost everyone was in bed.
He had a small bag with him and was dressed very simply. He said he was attending the conference, so I said, ‘Let me see if I can find you a place to sleep’. Since there were many different age groups at OM, I thought he was an older OMer.
I took him to the room where I had been sleeping on the floor with about fifty others and, seeing that he had nothing to sleep on, laid some padding and a blanket on the floor and used a towel for a pillow. He said it would be fine and he appreciated it very much.
As he was preparing for bed, I asked him if he had eaten. He had not as he had been travelling all day. I took him to the dining room but it was locked. So after picking the lock I found cornflakes, milk, bread, butter and jam – all of which he appreciated very much.
As he ate and we began to fellowship, I asked where he was from. He said he and his wife had been working in Switzerland for several years in a ministry mainly to hippies and travellers. It was wonderful to talk with him and hear about his work and those who had come to Christ. When he finished eating, we turned in for the night.
However, the next day I was in trouble! The leaders of OM really ‘got on my case’. ‘Don’t you know who that man is on the floor next to you?’ they asked. ‘It is Dr Francis Schaeffer, the speaker for the conference!’
I did not know they were going to have a speaker, nor did I know who Francis Schaeffer was, nor did I know they had a special room prepared for him!
After Francis Schaeffer became well known because of his books, and I had read more about him, I thought about this occasion many times – this gracious, kind, humble man of God sleeping on the floor with OM recruits! This was the kind of man I wanted to be.
Of course, I will never attain the intellect, knowledge or wisdom of Francis Schaeffer. But I can reach out to younger people and minister to them in Christ’s name by living a life of humility. What about you?
Doug Nichols is International Director of Action International Ministries (ACTION)