Following Jesus

Rev. Benton Heisler thanks the one who set his feet on the path to Christian vocation.

REV. BENTON HEISLER
Director of Connectional Ministry, WMC

“I have decided to follow Jesus…no turning back. The Cross before me, the road behind me…no turning back. Though none go with me, still I will follow…no turning back.”

It is a simple yet profound chorus I first learned in October of 1976. I had just arrived in Truro, Cornwall, located in the most southwest corner of England. I was there as a “Volunteer Youth & Community Worker” beginning nine months of service in the Truro Methodist Church. The Circuit Superintendent and lead pastor of Truro was the Reverend Peter Bolt. He also served as the British Secretary of the World Methodist Council.

I had no idea of the life changing experiences that I was about to encounter. I lived for the first month with Peter, his wife, Joan, there son Andy, and Doogle, the curly haired Spaniel/mix. I then had the delightful experience of living for about a month at a time in a variety of city homes, on a farm and in the Headmaster’s Quarters of an international boys school. I did a wide variety of ministry tasks in that congregation – visitation of the elderly, running a youth club, preaching in Truro and on the Circuit, speaking in schools, leading bible studies, shoveling coal into the church furnace, playing competitive badminton and rugby.

The highlight of my time was my leadership role with Peter in the Praisemakers, a choir of more than 50 junior high through early college age youth. (The Jr. Praisemakers, an elementary age choir was the feeder system to this ministry.) We traveled on a number of weekends doing concert tours in Cambridge, Exeter, Westminster Hall in London and local congregations across Cornwall and Devon.

Peter and Joan had a gift for building relationships with children, youth and young adults. They modeled, taught and sung the love and grace of God into their lives. It was transformational!

I pray we may we all live in such a way that others look at us and see Jesus, are inspired by us to serve as disciples of Jesus, and because of us experience a world transformed by God’s love and grace through Jesus Christ.

The year’s experiences left me transformed and convinced that upon my return home I would seek a vocation that kept me connected to people and the Church in whatever form God decided. “I had decided to follow Jesus…”

As the years moved on I helped Peter organize several Praisemakers Choir Tours to Michigan. Some of you reading this may recall those choirs, or Peter and Joan doing their “John and Susanna Wesley Presentation” in full costume and British accent. They were in Ludington, Charlevoix, Ann Arbor First, Midland, Lansing Asbury, Lansing Central, St. Joseph and Columbus, OH to name a few of the churches.

The concerts always began with the chorus, “All over the world, the Spirit is moving…” Peter’s exuberance, the choir’s joy and Joan’s narrative wit made for a delightful and indeed moving experience of God’s Spirit among those who had gathered.

Last week, on October 4, in the words of II Kings 2:11 “…Elijah went up by a whirlwind.” At the age of 92, Peter joined that great cloud of witnesses. I spoke with Joan on the phone. She is still her bright, witty, faith-filled self. She will turn 96 two days before Peter’s funeral next week. They will have touched hundreds if not thousands of young lives. We were blessed as a family to have had them in our homes on multiple occasions. Joan ushered our youngest daughter Hannah down the hall as she took her first steps and played with Kelsey on her “toy kitchen” cooking delicious Cornish pasties. Peter and Hannah sang a duet on multiple occasions. “Freely, Freely, you have received… Freely, Freely, give.” The two of them would light up the room with joy!

Who in your life would be the comparable story of Elijah teaching the younger Elisha? From whom do you hope to receive a double portion of their spirit (II Kings 2:9)? More importantly, for whom are you Elijah?

I pray we may we all live in such a way that others look at us and see Jesus, are inspired by us to serve as disciples of Jesus, and because of us experience a world transformed by God’s love and grace through Jesus Christ.

I praise God for the life and witness of Peter Bolt and celebrate his arrival in the great cloud of witnesses.

 

~Note … “If you make my Word your home, you will indeed be my disciples.  You will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:13 New Jerusalem Bible.)”  Each article I write for this column is based in the guidance of a particular Scripture passage. I pray that these reflections, stories and information will assist you in your own witness and service as a Disciple of Jesus Christ.

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