I may have written about this story before, but I think it’s worth repeating. Johnnie Roe was one of the most powerful early formative influences on my spiritual life. He was an unassuming little man who didn’t know many big words, but he greeted everybody with a really broad smile. He drove a laundry truck as a career, and he lived humbly with his wife, who was even quieter than Johnnie.
Johnie’s great joy in life was teaching a Sunday School class of teenage boys. As I remember it, when I was there, the class regularly had twenty to thirty “students.” The quotes mean that I don’t remember much of what he taught. I felt bored a lot by the material he presented, which today we would say was not “age appropriate.” But I remember that wide, innocent, totally accepting smile.
I remember one other important thing: Johnnie’s Thursday night prayer group with about fifteen or so of us guys. We’d have “bug juice” and cookies, and then we’d go around the circle and share prayer requests. He’d always ask one of us to choose a Bible reading (I remember a time when one of the guys got a little imp in him and chose Psalm 119; check it out), and we’d read a verse each around the circle. Then all of us went down on our knees for the prayer time. As I remember it, you didn’t have to pray, but most of us did.
Oh yes, I almost forgot another thing Johnnie did. One day a few of us were walking in the neighborhood of our high school during the lunch break, and we saw a parked laundry truck. We got close enough to look inside, and there was Johnnie, bowed in prayer. He evidently spent his lunch hours praying for us!
Somebody back then did a little research and concluded that, out of all the boys Johnnie had taught during the twenty-five years he had that class, almost one hundred of them later went into full-time Christian service, as ministers, missionaries, etc. That’s a lifetime’s achievement!
I clearly remember a time when Johnnie gave his personal testimony. He said that God had called him to be a missionary in Africa, but he didn’t respond to the call. So he was doing God’s “second best” for him. “Fellas,” he said, “don’t settle for second best.” Now, I knew that Johnnie had come from a poor background. I knew that he was “trapped” at home protecting his mother from his alcoholic father, while other missionaries-in-training were preparing in a Bible institute. I think that, with characteristic humility, Johnnie was unfairly blaming himself for “settling for second best.” In my mind, it’s clear that Johnnie’s leadership of us teenage young men in our spiritual formation was God’s first best for him.
But the important thing is that, even though he was stuck in a dead-end job in a New Jersey middle-class suburb, Johnnie bloomed where he was planted!
Where are you planted? Maybe not where you’d like to be? Not where you’d thought you’d be by this time in your life? But wherever you are, BLOOM! No excuses. No procrastination. No “if-onlys.”
Jesus found himself in the heart of Jerusalem at a moment of political turmoil and religious fervor. He became the target of people’s frustration, dashed hopes and anger. Finally, on Good Friday he was really planted — in a tomb.Then on Easter Sunday, he dramatically bloomed — in his resurrection.
You’re not going to find yourself planted in as hopeless a situation as Jesus was. By his saving grace, you will be able to bloom through the power of his resurrection. Bloom where you are planted!
— Pastor George Van Alstine