We've been blessed that Sam's Club has allowed us to have a fundraiser at their store each weekend this month. As people approach us, we ask for their support, tell them what the funds will go to, and, if we're fortunate, share some of James' story. We've had the opportunity to share James' story on several different occasions over these weekends, but yesterday I had the most interesting encounter I've had when sharing James' story. An older gentleman came out, and said, "tell me about this scholarship." I explained a little about James, the fact we had given six scholarships last year, and hoped to do at least that many this year. He asked if they were tied to a specific school, and I let him know each applicant had to be accepted to a college in order to compete for the scholarship but it was not tied to a specific school. I let him know we looked at grades, financial need, and character, and that character was probably the most important of those three. So he asked, "so you don't really look at financial need?" I said that was a big factor, but character counted most because of James' character. He then asked, "do you look at religous affiliation, because this appears to be church related?" That one took me back a minute because nobody had ever asked that question before. I'm sure he was referring to the cross and 23. I told him there was no religous affiliation required for the scholarship, but we couldn't share James' story without talking about his faith because that was so much of who he was. I went on to say the scholarship was open to anybody because James loved everybody. He had friends with many different beliefs, and some who were non-believers, but he made no distinction, he simply loved them all. James proclaimed no particular religion, but rather he professed a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That's how he tried to live daily, and show his friends and anyone he came into contact with what Jesus had done in his life, and try to lead them to that same relationship.
My conversation lasted 10 minutes or so, and the man I was speaking with said, "ok, you've convinced me to buy a hamburger." I hope that a few other things I said landed, and caused him to think beyond the hamburger. It was a very nice conversation, but unlike any one I've had before. I thought about some similarities later. James' circle of friends was open, this scholarship is open, and God's kingdom is open. Like the scholarship, you have to ask, but the beautiful thing about God's application process is you don't get turned away. We will be limited as to how many awards we can present for scholarships, but God has no limits on the number of people who can be saved. That's what James tried to pass along. God loves all, and welcomes all. James tried to live that way daily. We all should.