“What if you were asked to walk around naked and barefoot (Isaiah 20:3) or to take off your underwear and hide it under a rock (Jeremiah 13:4)?” said Phillip Vallelly to delegates and guests gathered at Winkler MB Church for the annual Manitoba Assembly in March 2015.
“Those folks were willing to do what God asked them to do. They were willing to respond.”
The pastor of the oldest MB church in Canada – one of 20 churches (11 of them Mennonite) in the city of 12,000 – Vallelly told the crowd about his own bizarre obedience as he dares to take the Holy Spirit out of his neat, little package.
“I’m hearing things I never heard before.
“And I have a deepening sense of gospel urgency – that God doesn’t want anyone to perish.”
Last fall, Vallelly followed the Spirit’s prompting to drive to nearby Roland, Man. The small town – famous for its giant pumpkin statue – lies just north of Manitoba’s south-central Bible belt.
Stumbling upon the coffee klatsch corner in the local grocery store, Vallelly sat and chatted with about 15 seniors who regularly met there.
After several forays to the wee hamlet, the Irishman from Winkler was becoming a local celebrity.
But, “there was a deep sense in my heart that the Spirit of God was telling me to ask them about Jesus. Let me tell you, having coffee is relatively easy until you bring the ‘J’ word into the conversation.”
When he finally obeyed the Spirit’s direction, one grandma whacked Vallelly over the head with a newspaper, and another scolded, “We don’t talk about religion here!”
One 86-year-old declared, “I’m too busy [to learn about Jesus].”
As Vallelly drove home, he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “I had met people who didn’t know Jesus. It was fantastic!
“But now I’m scared every time I open the newspaper – I’m afraid I’ll see one of their pictures in the obituary section.”
The urgency of sharing the gospel is “a no-brainer,” says Vallelly. “But here’s the tricky bit: I’m reminded that people who respond out of a sense of urgency are often called to respond to something that seems crazy and even impossible.”
Are we ready to respond to the Spirit for the sake of the gospel – even if the call is to drink bad coffee in the shadow of a giant pumpkin?