I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us — don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.
How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!
I love Emily Dickinson, but never had her heart. I’m somebody, and the cry of my heart is “Know Me!! I’m somebody special!!” It is in me like a personality, like a big lollipop or Easter Egg, waiting to be found. It is the perfume that follows me everywhere I go .
Lately, I have noticed that it is the distracting thing in my relationship with my Father, my Savior...the voice of His Holy Spirit that knows me beyond what I can be known here on earth and who has greater things for me than the things I can imagine for myself.
This morning, as I bounded out of bed to check email, I found Mario at the computer, looking at a web page from Abiding Life Ministries, International. He turned to me and said “Mike Wells died”. In my early fog, it took a few seconds to connect the dots.
Mike (we know about 100 Mikes) Wells (Mike Wells, got it...southern drawl and Holy Spirit) died (Impossible. He was our age). Hearing turned into “Are you sure?” but I could see over his shoulder...the news that astounded me.
Mike Wells was one of the first Christian lecturers we ever met. Thank God.
I know many people who are exposed to the ministry of superstar Christians... with ministries that are named after them and run by them and tout their own personal philosophies with a little of Jesus mixed in.
Abiding Life Ministries was different.
Mike was a short man who spoke like he was on his porch in Texas... and he made us laugh. He did a conference at our church in Arnold, a little one in the mountains of California that many people said was full of messed up people.
The conference was about the Holy Spirit and listening to God’s voice. Abiding in Christ because He is our life – was something I had heard in my spirit the first day I decided to believe and let Him in to fill up my life. As many notes as I took, I knew I couldn’t remember... so we bought cassette tapes with the same teaching on them. The tapes were called “Living the Abiding Life” and we gave them away the month before we moved to Africa.
Mike wrote a book called “Sidetracked in the Wilderness” which seemed like a strange book for a new Christian to read, but I did. We gave it away several times and had to keep ordering more. “Problems, God’s Presence and Prayer” was another one he wrote, and we kept ordering more as they made their way out of our front door.
Mike was married to Betty, a woman of incredible strength who supported the ministry in more than words. She saw Mike travel the world as He took the message of a beautiful and simple salvation in Jesus all over the world. Every year we’d get a long letter with our Christmas card from them asking us how things are going with us here in Africa, how our kids are...like we were porch friends shooting the breeze.
This year, an email (with a request for more material) to Betty was returned almost immediately. “Guess what?” she wrote, “Mike is in Pretoria! She gave us the details and where he would be speaking...and we abandoned our schedule to go see him.
We got there early, a Dutch Reformed Church we’d probably never set foot in, since it was so “not our cup of tea”...but Mike was there, and we knew he’d be Mike. After the hymn we sung in Afrikaans, he was introduced and went up to the podium to speak. There he was, his own southern drawl we heard all the time (now on cd) but he had grey hair.
Same message, same abiding. “There is nothing that the nearness of Christ cannot heal....” He had just come back from an African trip and spoke a bit about that. His real message was that Jesus is near, the Holy Spirit in us and our Father makes us who we are....
Afterward we waited for an admiring crowd to dissipate to greet our friend. He smiled broadly, hugged us and said “Betty said you might show up here!”
Today, I read that he passed quietly in his sleep on a trip to Costa Rica, there to preach and build relationship with the guys there. All I could think of was Betty... how did they get his body back home? What if that happens to us? Life is so fragile....
As I voiced my concerns to Mario, he was so calm. “When I go, I want to go doing what God has for me to do. I know where Mike is now.” So matter of fact...
On the ALMI website this morning (http://abidinglife.com/2009/), I read carefully, seeing that Mike’s body came home to the USA for burial, where friends lowered it into a simple grave with surrounding mountains and clear weather. A video of his memorial ...and his last letter to his friend, Dr. Alex Matthew in India:
“I see why God put you in my life to be an influence and to steer me in the right direction. I remember being 16 and buying an old truck from the farmer next to us. It was so old that when I pulled it, by tractor, from his barn, the barn caved in. I made that truck like new. The old man was really happy. I had it for years and nearly wore it out. Then I sold it to a young fellow that rebuilt it like new and took it to Canada. I think of that in the context of abiding. You were given an old message and made it relevant to me. I will pass it on, as an old message, to someone younger to make new for their generation. You have been blessed and God has put the message, through you, into others. It is up to them to make it “new” for their generation.
It is interesting that at 60 I can’t be motivated. I was invited to speak to 2,000 pastors (more of that later). I just said, “OK.” That was it. I have done little things as though they were big things (I have done three full conferences for only one person), therefore, God has allowed me to do big things as though they are little. I am not motivated by being someone. I, like you have taught me, only care about Him and what He is saying. I was offered to be on television with a “famous” American evangelist and I said, “No, I like what I do in villages.” Brother, there is the tree of good and evil and we are not to eat from it. Therefore, I cannot say that what I have done in my Christian life was good or bad, a success or failure, productive or not, expansive or not, or that people were trained or not. Eating from the tree of life has freed me from such thinking.
I only want Him.”
Their last Christmas card is on our refrigerator still, their smiling faces remind me of how fragile our life here is.