Faithfulness—sometimes it appears to be in short supply. We hear on the news another story of someone who did not remain faithful—to their family, to their beliefs, to the church. We become disheartened yet again.
What if, instead, we look at those around us? I guarantee we will find faithful followers of Christ in whose footsteps we can follow. Their good work may never make the news, but we can tell their stories.
I could fill pages with examples of faithful Christians I know. Let me share three with you today.
Serving in the Background
Marian Cotton might not be the first person you see when you arrive at Christ’s Fellowship at Little Miami in Maineville, Ohio. That is her style—humbly serving in the background.
When asked, Marian will say she doesn’t do a lot—yet don’t believe her. Each week she creates and runs the slides for the service as her daughter Rachel Anderson, the worship minister, leads onstage. Once a week Marian and fellow member Jane Crawford visit people from the church who could use encouragement. And while Marian says she “just helps” with the church finances, that actually involves counting the offering, doing the banking, keeping the books, and sending out annual giving statements—no small tasks!
These actions don’t seem grandiose to Marian because they come naturally; she’s been serving churches her whole life. If you ask her family—children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, siblings—her consistent faithfulness in small ways has made a big difference in their lives.
Marian and her family have been with Christ’s Fellowship since the church began. “I thought it was exciting to be a part of a church plant and start something new,” she said. “New churches need people and support.”
Marian had faithful footsteps to follow in. Her parents, Neal and Jean Wheat, were instrumental in starting the Maysville Church of Christ in Kentucky when Marian was 15 years old, and they each taught Sunday school there for years. Neal was an elder and Jean hosted missionaries and evangelists in their home.
The only time Marian stepped back from so many church roles was during the years she cared for her husband, Jerry, after his stroke. Jerry passed away four years ago, and Marian admits being without him is a struggle. “I’m not good going out on my own,” she said. Some days it would be more comfortable to stay insulated. “But then I don’t want to sit and dwell,” she continued. “I feel God has something more for me to do for him.”
So Marian keeps showing up and finding new ways to honor God and his church—week after week, year after year.
Generations of Missionaries
It’s no surprise that Johnny and Zandra Dye have spent over 20 years as missionaries, planting churches and making disciples in Caracas, Venezuela. They each grew up in missionary families.
Zandra’s grandfather arrived in Venzuela as a missionary from Colombia and planted one of the largest Baptist churches in Caracas. Zandra was born and raised in Venzuela by her faithful parents. Johnny’s grandparents used to work for Standard Publishing and in ministry. They passed their passion on to Johnny’s dad, who “never missed an opportunity to share the gospel with a stranger.” Johnny’s parents became missionaries in Puerto Rico for 4 years, then went to Dominican Republic for 10 years and Venezuela for 31 years.
Johnny said it was a no-brainer that he would follow his family’s footsteps as a missionary. With a smile he noted, “Venezuela looked more like paradise than a mission field at the time.” There he was introduced to Zandra and, years later, they married.
Yet paradise has now fallen, and Venezuela’s current conditions bring unimaginable trials. Once the leading Latin country in education, industry, and economy, now inflation is at 1 million percent, and the minimum wage has dropped to $10 a month and was as low as $1 a month in 2018. Citizens are encouraged by police to run red lights when driving at night to avoid violent crime. At times last summer, the Dyes didn’t have running water, and food is in such short supply and so expensive that they receive foreign aid and food to distribute to their church family.
Millions of Venezuelans have fled the country, yet the gospel has spread despite the crisis. Team Expansion missionaries like Johnny and Zandra, Johnny’s parents, his siblings, and others have planted 30 churches in 30 years. Together these churches have seen around 300 baptisms per year. More than 200 students have trained in their local seminary, and dozens of new Restoration Movement pastors are Venezuelan nationals.
Johnny, Zandra, and their two daughters remain faithful, not only to God but to a country and a people they love. They will stay as long as they can. “Venezuela needs to know that they are not alone, that good triumphs over evil, that the church of Christ is the key to restore this nation,” said Johnny. “And that real hope comes from God, not kings and governments.”
Away and Back Again
Nathan Moreno never imagined himself in ministry. But he now preaches twice a month, teaches Sunday school, and helps lead worship at the church where he came to faith: Tenth Street Church of Christ in New York City in lower Manhattan.
Baptized at age 15, Nathan spent a number of years away from the Lord. But he returned “when [he] was in desperate need of help” in his late 20s. He tried other churches, not wanting to go back to his roots, where his parents still attended. “However, for one reason or another God closed the doors on those churches,” Nathan said. “Then I decided to visit Tenth Street Church of Christ again, and I was hit by the Word of God! A lot of the members I knew had left. All the remaining members were in their late 50s and up. I was a single man, and there were no women my age. So on paper there was nothing to attract me there except God’s Word, which I had been desperately needing because other churches were lacking in biblical truth.”
One day Nathan asked the lead minister, Keith Canton, if he would mentor him and teach him to better understand the Bible. After some time, Keith taught Nathan about preaching also and eventually provided the opportunity for Nathan to take a turn in the pulpit. Keith and his wife, Cachi, have modeled faithfulness through thick and thin. “They are both retired and could choose to live somewhere else, but they’re still here in New York City living their lives for the Lord,” Nathan said.
This ministry is all volunteer. Nathan works full-time as a paraprofessional at a public elementary school. Long days, plus carving out quality time with his wife and son, plus crafting lessons and sermons add up. Not to mention Nathan has Beckers Muscular Dystrophy to contend with. Just living in the busy city itself is taxing, as Nathan’s wife has felt the negativity of late.
Yet Nathan feels God’s call to serve Tenth Street. And so, despite the stress, he and his family stay. And they keep reading God’s Word together. And they keep praying to fulfill his will for their lives.
Who Influenced You?
As I examine the stories of these faithful servants, I notice each have their own role models of Christlike faithfulness. So I want to ask: Who left footsteps for you to follow? Whose faithfulness has influenced your own?
Thank those faithful servants in your life. Emulate them. And consider your own steps. Are you treading a path of faithfulness that others may follow?
Kelly Carr, former editor of The Lookout, enjoys sharing and shaping people’s stories as a writing and editing consultant in Cincinnati, Ohio (EditorOfLife.com).