I first met John Nunnikhoven in Chester, VT where he lives across the street from my in-laws and ministers in the same prison as them. His hot sauce omelets are the stuff of legends. His post today is a lifelong testimony of learning to pursue justice.
In the Christian home of my childhood, I saw the Christian life as a struggle while we waited to be summoned home where we would finally attain Eternal Life. This was some ill-defined life, mostly where the saints stood around praising God forever. In between was a life of toil, of persecution, and long-winded prayers by Brother Whatchamacallit regarding all the sin in the world but that we who were Saved and needed to go out in the Lord’s Work to preach John 3:16 to the poor sinners in deepest, darkest Africa.
This wasn’t too captivating to a teenager more enthralled with the onset of hormones.
Married at 21, I had three children and a reasonably successful career in industry, while living our version of the American Dream; accumulating the toys and walking the life of a dedicated materialist and godless thinker whose worldview was shaped by Brave New World and Atlas Shrugged.
Now there’s a mess for you.
A severe case of mid-life crisis culminated at 42 in 1979 with the purchase of an inn in Vermont where we were going to make our fortune catering to the XC skier. The Lord had other plans. Less than 96 hours in business and we were summoned by the Holy Spirit, working through a joke, to begin a journey on the King’s Highway, little knowing that the journey began in the Here and Now, not at some ephemeral future time.
Progress was slow but thanks to the Lord working through many Christian guests, there was progress. We wandered through several churches, always moving in the direction of a deeper faith but there was and still are, many layers of dross to be removed.
The big breakthrough came when I was given a copy of a manuscript that later became Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. He made me realize that when Jesus preached, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is available to you now” He really meant Now and that Now encompassed every aspect of my life.
From the Inn Side Out
As I began to think through the implications of this understanding, I realized that I had new dimensions to my life as a innkeeper. I had far more to consider than supplying a comfortable bed and good meals to my guests, in short that 1 Peter 4:11b, “whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies–in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (NIV) was to be the driving principle of my life.
This meant that I needed to examine five specific areas and bring them before the Lord for guidance. These were:
1. Our practices in dealing with our guests. For example, I needed to be very careful about the advertising copy that I wrote. I was an expert at telling the partial truth and allowing the guests to form their own conclusions about what was not said. The Holy Spirit reminded me that Truth was the whole Truth.
2. Our practices towards our suppliers. They deserved a return for their efforts and God-shaped consideration when something went wrong.
3. Our competition was to be respected and assisted wherever possible. It finally soaked in that a good competitor was an asset, I needed him to keep me on my toes.
4. Our staff must be treated with respect and dealt with as mature individuals. Sometimes this was tough, very tough but how could I tell them of life in the Kingdom when I had just completed a tirade about their incompetence? One disappointment was that I was never able to figure out how to supply health insurance that they and we could afford.
5. The community in which we lived and operated. We needed to do everything within our abilities to bring the righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit which is life in the Kingdom to the village. For example, we sponsored an annual concert, The Celebrant Singers, to bring the Good News to the Village using contemporary music to carry the message.
We retired in 2002 and began to live the Good Life of Retirement. The Lord had other plans. I was accepted into Chuck Colson’s Centurion Program in 2004 and began the most exciting period of my then 68 years. Commissioned in early 2005, we found ourselves in August of that year as volunteers in a local prison, again as the result of one of my joking remarks.
This has become a full time ministry to inmates, ex-inmates, homeless, abused women, addicts and others among the lost, the least and the lonely, the very ones Christ came to serve.
In addition, we are associated with the Fellowship of Ailbe, a group of men seeking to bring those factors of the Celtic Revival, the factors that made it the longest lasting, the widest spread revival in Christian history, to today’s Church.
The Lord has been good to us, very good as we have accepted His invitation to live according to His Word and to trust in Him for all things. But we are still learning to live out Micah 6:8 and Matthew 25:31-46
One lesson learned early on was that doing the Lord’s Work was not necessarily preaching John 3:16 to the poor sinners in deepest, darkest Africa but that the Lord’s Work was to be done wherever He placed us. We serve as His hands and feet, His salt and light among the culture of today as His ambassadors from the Kingdom of Heaven to the Kingdom of Man. What a blessing to have citizenship in a Kingdom operated according to the Word of God.
Thanks John for sharing your story! Be sure to check out John’s meditations on the Psalms:
About the “Doing Justice” Series
For 2013, we’ll spend each Friday looking at a new story about the ways someone is doing justice or acting justly. Christianity is a religion about action. Beliefs are important, but if those beliefs don’t translate into concrete action that reshapes how we live, it’s literally all in our heads. Using Matthew 25 and Micah 6:8 as our guides, we’ll be sharing stories that illustrate what acting justly could look like today.
How to Follow This Series
For starters, make sure you do two things:
- Subscribe to my blog (see the links at the top of the center column).
- Subscribe to my e-newsletter where I’ll share updates about the series.