Can anyone tell me what is a missionary?” Mrs. Thompson asked her Sabbath School class.
“It is someone who goes to another country and tells people about Jesus,” Kayla said.
“It is a person like my Aunt Pat. She is a nurse, and she goes where people are really poor and helps them,” Jeff said.
“I think a missionary is someone who teaches the Bible to people in faraway places,” Abby said.
“You are all right! Missionaries do all those things,” Mrs. Thompson said. “But couldn’t we be missionaries right here at home?”
“How?” Jeff asked.
“Well, it is a missionary’s job to tell people about Jesus. Can’t we find people in our own town who need to know about Jesus? Perhaps we could invite them to church.” She paused a moment. “Let’s see if each one of you can bring someone new to church, for our special program next week.”
When Kayla and Abby met at school on Monday, they talked about whom they might invite and how to do it.
“I’m going to ask the two kids next door,” Abby said.
Jeff caught up with them in the hall and asked, “What if you ask people and they say no?”
“Make it fun. I will tell them we are having a special program and will have cookies afterward,” Abby said.
“That might work,” Jeff said. “But I think I will invite Bill from my math class to go on the campout our boys’ group is planning. He will see how much fun we have, and when I ask him to come to church, he will already know some of the boys. It won’t be in time for our special program, but I will still invite him to church.”
Kayla was silent. She had thought about who she could invite over the weekend. She wanted to find somebody to invite to church, but she couldn’t think of anyone. Her neighbors on both sides already attended church. The only one left was Mrs. Case, who lived across the street. Mrs. Case never waved or spoke to Kayla except to yell when Kayla’s cat ran into her yard. “Get your cat out of my flower beds!” she would say while shooing Kayla’s cat with her broom.
Kayla took her seat in class and got out her books.
“Have you decided who you will invite to church?” Abby asked.
“No, not yet,” Kayla said.
“How about the new girl, Mindy?”
Kayla heaved a sigh of relief. “Thank you, Abby. I forgot about Mindy.” Now she would not have to speak to Mrs. Case. She had hated the idea of going over there because Mrs. Case didn’t seem any friendlier to people than to cats.
When Kayla asked Mindy at lunchtime, Mindy said, “Thanks for inviting me, Kayla. But someone else asked me this morning. I’m glad I will see you there, though.”
Kayla was right back to where she started. The problem was she was shy. She wasn’t good at talking to people she didn’t know. But she had to ask somebody. She approached a girl in a lower grade and introduced herself and asked her. The girl was friendly but said she had been invited by someone else too.
“Looks like you are being guided to Mrs. Case,” Mom said when Kayla told her about her problem after school.
“What do you mean, ‘guided’?” Kayla asked.
“Well, sometimes when I put off doing something and it keeps popping up, I think that maybe Jesus is telling me He really wants me to do the thing I keep putting off. Or sometimes I feel like Jesus is trying to stop me from doing something because He has something else in mind for me. That is how I married Dad, remember?”
Kayla smiled. She loved hearing the story of how her parents met. Mom had been engaged to another man, but the wedding was put off when he lost his job. Then it was put off again when Mom broke her ankle. Then one night when she was on her way to meet the man she was engaged to for dinner, she got a flat tire on the freeway. A nice young man had stopped and changed her tire. That young man was Kayla’s dad. “You know that I believe Jesus guided me to your dad.” Mom smiled.
“Then you think I should invite Mrs. Case to church?” Kayla asked.
“I admit she doesn’t seem very friendly,” Mom replied, “but maybe Jesus is asking you to invite her. At worst, she will just say no.”
Kayla sighed. She put down the book she had been reading, breathed a silent prayer, and headed across the street. Mrs. Case was out in her yard, planting flowers. “Hello, Mrs. Case,” Kayla said, trying hard to smile her best smile.
Mrs. Case looked up. “Hello.”
“My Sabbath School class is having a special program next week,” Kayla explained. “I would like to have you come as my guest.”
Mrs. Case paused. “I will have to think about that.” She dug a hole with her trowel. “My husband and I used to go to church, but after he died and I moved here, I haven’t gone at all.” She put a plant in the flower bed and patted it firmly in place. “I hate going to new places where I don’t know anyone.”
Kayla blinked. Mrs. Case was shy too! “You will know my mom and dad,” she said. “And the people at our church are nice. Won’t you try it just one time?”
Mrs. Case put some plants in a small clay pot. “Thanks for asking me. Let me think it over. I will call you tomorrow.”
Kayla smiled. “I really hope you will come.” She started back toward her house.
“Wait,” Mrs. Case said. “I have so many of these petunia plants. Would you like to take some home to your mother?”
“Thank you,” Kayla said, taking the plants Mrs. Case held out. “Mom loves flowers.”
She hummed a tune as she walked back across the street. Maybe Mrs. Case wasn’t so bad after all. Maybe she was just lonely—and shy. Kayla knew how that felt.
She skipped a few steps. It felt good to be a missionary, even in your own neighborhood.