Burnt Cheese and Gospel Conversations

My dad became a Christian over burnt cheese on toast. 

He was in his 20s, earning his doctorate in electrochemistry in a city by the sea in England. There were a handful of people in his cohort, and only one of them, Chris, was a Christian when they started. 

I’ve heard about Chris since I was a child sitting on my dad’s knee in the half-light of dusk: about his sense of humor, his generosity, the thick slices of English cheddar he melted over toast in his tiny kitchenette. He used to invite my dad over for tea and toast, and would share the gospel—slowly, steadily, and faithfully. Eventually, through the friendship of Chris and others, my dad encountered Jesus, the Hound of Heaven. 

Ordinary Influencer

Six people in that doctoral cohort became Christians during their time there. My dad was one of the few who went on to practice chemistry; the others became missionaries, teachers, and pastors. All of them were influenced and discipled by Chris. 

Chris died from cancer a few years back. As I tried to write a letter to his family, I was overwhelmed by the ripple effect his life had on so many. Chris wasn’t an influencer, wasn’t famous or a professional evangelist. He just practiced hospitality in the way a grad student knows how and shared the gospel.

Because of his everyday ordinary faithfulness, he ended up influencing a swath of people eternally, including me. 

Gospel Correspondence

In high school I had an unconventional penpal: a World War II veteran named Marty. Marty fought on the beaches of Okinawa; at the tender age of 20 he had seen more horror and depravity than most of us do in a lifetime. 

Chris wasn’t an influencer. He just practiced hospitality in the way a grad student knows how and shared the gospel.

Through hundreds of letters, Marty wrote to me about God’s grace and forgiveness. He had experienced the depth of his brokenness through some of the acts of war he’d been forced to commit. By God’s grace, he also knew that the disposition of the Father toward those of us in Christ is one of warmth and kindness.

Marty’s discipleship influenced me heavily during my teenage years. Every one of his letters is tucked away in a box on my shelf, each one signed, “Be well and have joy.” Marty’s ordinary, consistent faithfulness to share his story and God’s love with a teenage girl has shaped the way I understand the gospel.

Not About Numbers

We live in an age defined by numbers: the number of followers we have on our social-media platforms, the number of likes, shares, clicks a photo or article we share can generate. In a world that places so much value on who can be the most visible, it feels ever more vital to remember that what God desires from us is not visibility but faithfulness.

Marty’s ordinary, consistent faithfulness to share his story and God’s love with a teenage girl has shaped the way I understand the gospel.

The ordinary, everyday work of sharing the love of Jesus with those in our immediate proximity is where our working out of the gospel comes to life. The rich, rewarding, time-consuming ministries of hospitality, letter-writing, caregiving, and visitation are where we come to better understand the painstaking, longsuffering love Jesus has for us. 

I sometimes wonder why God chooses to use us, ordinary people, full of flaws and blurred by broken understanding, to share his most precious truth to others. Maybe it’s to remind us that as we offer ourselves—in whatever way we can—the Holy Spirit uses us to accomplish his purposes, especially when those offerings include burnt cheese on toast eaten in a tiny kitchen with weak tea. 

God lovingly receives even our weakest efforts. He asks us to share his good news consistently and faithfully, through the ins and outs of our ordinary lives: through the invisible work of forgettable meals and letters the rest of the world will never see. He asks us to watch as he moves in these acts of everyday faithfulness.

As for me: I can’t wait to get to heaven one day and thank Chris for his cheese on toast.

Burnt Cheese and Gospel Conversations

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