Les and Winnie

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

First spoken by Confucius or Lao Tzu?

last taught to me by a man who knew neither of them!

Les, a retired pastor limited physically by Parkinson Disease, was walking with his cane slowly toward the front of the worship center. This Sunday was special for Les. It was one of his few opportunities to worship in person with fellow believers. I met him near the back of First Baptist Church, Pasadena, TX. I barely knew Les but paused for a very brief visit. I was so busy with church work that I missed an opportunity to do the real work of the church…to care about someone right in front of me!

I had fulfilled my ministerial duties for the day and had other “more important people to see and things to do.” The look of disappointment on Les’ face caught my attention as I walked away. It haunted me all afternoon. Les just wanted a few minutes to visit and feel like someone cared. Maybe one of the ministers would take time to hear a new Bible truth he had discovered. He had many! I had few! I had no idea the impact this retired pastor, limited by an uncurable disease, would have on my life and the lives of thousands in places he had not been and would not ever go.

A few weeks later I saw Les again. I was sitting at the table in the small assistant living apartment he shared with his wife, Winnie. They shared life for most of his eighty-eight years but no one knows how many. This life-changing visit was the first of eight years sharing Bible study with Les every Friday at 10:00 a.m. I was there as his teacher but quickly became his student. Les had a love for God, for the Bible, and for other people that was challenging. The Master of Divinity degree and Doctorate from a well-known Seminary were no match for the lessons Les learned just spending time with Jesus.

During our eight years of study, Les became one of the most influential men in my life. He was a major factor in my journey of a thousand miles. June 30, 1995, I left the staff of First Baptist Church, Pasadena, TX. Church ministry that had been my life for 31 years had come to an end. Those years were both meaningful and fulfilling. My total financial package and the love of church members were generous to a fault! All the churches I had served had been good to me. But I had no desire or plan to return to local church ministry.

I wanted to do something different. I wanted to do something that I personally could not make happen…even with all my education and experience. I wanted to do something that would require my total dependence on God. I wanted to do something that would require God’s blessing. I wanted to be more like the retired pastor I met walking down the aisle of FBC, Pasadena. In his own simple way Les taught me the joy of total dependence on God and experiencing His blessing. He taught me that God promised to bless His children. But, I had to take the “single step” into independent mission ministry where my heart had always been and continues to be.

It was not logical by the world’s standards. The financial package was generous to a fault. It was $0.00 accompanied with God’s promise to bless. I would need to find people who loved God, loved His desire that all be saved, believed in me, believed what God was calling me to do, and who were willing to become ministry partners…someone who gives in addition to tithes/offerings to their church. Alicia and Allyson were students at Baylor University and Angela was a student at Rayburn High School, Pasadena. Was this decision faith or folly? I decided it was faith and I wanted to experience total dependence on God.

July 7, 1995, I sat at the same table across from Les and in the same assistant living apartment. It was time for what would be our last Bible study. Les was ready with his Bible. After Bible study I shared with Les and Winnie how special they were to me. I shared all that I believed God was teaching me and the direction he was leading me. I did not mention finances, money, raising support…just that I would be traveling and limited in visiting. The response from Les encouraged, excited, and motivated me. And it confirmed the decision I had made. He looked up from his Bible and with tears in his eyes said, “I want to be your first ministry partner.” He gave me $10 that he really did not have to give. He and Winnie sent a $10 check every month until he passed away. Winnie sent $5 a month until she passed away.

In two months, July 7, 2024, Les, Winnie, and the hundreds of ministry partners that joined them can thank God for twenty-nine years people have heard about the love of Jesus, most for the first time! Only eternity will reveal all that God has done and continues to do from the first $10 to the last $5 and beyond.

I thank God for Les and Winnie and all ministry partners. I thank God for those who heard about the love of Jesus and said, “yes, I will take the first step” and place my faith in Jesus. And I thank God that July 1, 1995, I began my journey of a thousand miles with one step…the step of faith!