Larry and Beth. Two ‘Ordinary’ People Who Made A Real Difference.
Ross and Christine Paterson Write About Two Special Friends.
Larry and Beth* (not their real names) are a wonderful example of ordinary people who surrendered to Jesus to make a real difference for Him in the lives of many others.
Larry and Beth met and married in Northern Ireland, then moved to New Zealand to pastor a church. From New Zealand they responded to the Lord’s call and went to China to teach English as a way to reach out with the gospel to young Chinese students, most of whom had barely even heard the name of Jesus before.
Larry is very hard of hearing, but God used that, because he had to focus so intently on each student to hear what they were saying that some felt they were noticed and loved by him! That love was genuine. Both he and Beth cared so much for their students that they frequently invited them back to their apartment out of college hours to have conversations about life and faith, using the Gospel Bridge approach to carefully explain the gospel and to share God’s love with these precious young people, who had been brought up in atheism and materialism. Larry and Beth persevered – showing the Jesus film, running marriage courses, extra conversation classes. Anything to engage the hearts and continued interest of their hearers. Over the years, a number came to faith and were introduced to local churches where they could be nurtured and discipled. In the vacation times, Larry and Beth visited some students in their homes, often travelling to the remotest parts of the countryside, where foreigners had rarely, if ever, been seen before.
At times they had run-ins with the authorities, who did not like what they were doing. Once or twice they were forced to move on to another university because they would not compromise. Yet still, visas were granted because teachers were so badly needed. Eventually, Larry’s age caught up with him – in his seventies by now, he was deemed no longer eligible for a visa, so they had to consider their next steps. Yet they decided to continue in China for one more year, with Beth being the visa holder and Larry teaching as a volunteer. That last university was remote and extremely challenging. But their zeal was unabated, and they continued to see young people come to Christ. In the end, though, the inevitable had to be faced. A return to Northern Ireland, where they had not lived for decades but still had relatives, seemed to be the only choice. They had no retirement funds, no home to return to, no sending church to receive them back. This was a greater step of faith for them than going to China in the first place!
Before they left, they visited a student in a very remote area. Previously she had wanted them to share the Gospel with her family, which they had done, and they had the joy of leading her grandfather to faith. Now, on the eve of their departure from China, they decided to visit that remote place again. This time the grandfather insisted that they should baptise him! What joy that brought to them, what a fitting climax to their sojourn in the land!
Their return to the UK was every bit as difficult as anticipated, with the inevitable ‘re-entry stress’ and the need to find a church. But the Lord was amazingly faithful; they slowly found their feet, and a home was provided. Yet they could not find the purpose that they had known all those years in China. Then, amazingly, another door opened. They applied and were accepted for a role reaching out in Arab areas of Israel and found there a new way of continuing to witness to the love of Jesus for a further few years, in yet another new culture.
Apart from the twinkle in their eyes, Larry and Beth are not a remarkable couple. If you met them, you would not immediately perceive them as examples of risk-taking faith and zeal for God. They are unassuming and quiet. But when you hear their stories and follow their journey, your impression quickly changes. They are adventurers for Jesus with a clear purpose to seek and save the lost, to heal the hurting, to reach some who need their care.
The last word goes to them: “We are learning that serving is simply being available for the Master to use us, wherever and whenever there is a need for His light to shine into the darkness of another person’s life. Being filled with the fruit of His Spirit - His love, His joy, His peace - so that in whatever situation He needs us, we are ready to let His life flow out in word or action and His light to shine.”
*Names changed for security purposes.