LONGVIEW, Texas (BP)–Ten minutes. That's all it took for God to thaw a 10-year freeze that left LeRoy Williamson with a stone-cold heart for the lost.
The 59-year-old Texas banker hadn't given a penny to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions — or any other missions endeavor — in nine years. It wasn't that he didn't have the money. Williamson's 5,000-square-foot home on Lake Cherokee in Longview, Texas, complete with a pool and a boathouse, made that excuse hard to sell.
But as Williamson slipped into his usual seat one Sunday morning last December at Longview's Macedonia Baptist Church, he had no idea the Holy Spirit was about to break open his heart — and his wallet.
International Mission Board missionary Mick Greenbrier* had been invited to speak as part of the church's Lottie Moon emphasis. He and his family served for more than 15 years in West Africa, sharing the Gospel with the Songhai, a Muslim people group.
Before the pastor's sermon, Greenbrier spoke for just 10 minutes, contrasting the Songhais' desperate need for Christ with an offering shortfall. It was all Williamson needed to hear.
During the invitation, Steve Cochran, Macedonia Baptist's pastor, was shocked to see Williamson come forward with tears streaming down his face.
“I couldn't speak; I just wept,” Williamson said.
He finally managed to tell the pastor he had something to say to the church. Cochran didn't know exactly what was on Williamson's heart, but the man's brokenness was unmistakable. He took a risk and handed him the microphone.
“In a nutshell, I became burdened for the lost,” Williamson recounted. “The Holy Spirit immediately convicted me that my heart was cold, I was being willfully blind and willfully deaf, and that I hadn't done my part to carry out the Great Commission in Matthew 28.
“For the first time I was bothered … by how many people die every day,” Williamson said. “To know that there are many billions of [lost] people that I don't know at all — but God knows ….”
On the ride home from church, Williamson surprised his wife Dee by explaining exactly what he believed that meant: retroactive giving. In addition to a Lottie Moon gift for 2010, Williamson wanted to make up for each of the nine previous years he'd skipped. In all, he had in mind 10 years' worth of missions giving in one big check.
Dee did not share her husband's enthusiasm at first. Though they have a beautiful home, Williamson had been unemployed and was in the process of starting his own commercial insurance business, but it hadn't yet generated any income. What's more, Williamson said God placed a specific dollar amount on his heart, and the couple simply didn't have that much cash. But he wasn't deterred.
A few days later, an unexpected call came from a man who owed Williamson money. The debt had gone unpaid for years, and the man said he needed to make things right. When the check arrived, it was $46 more than the amount Williamson believed God was asking him to give.
“Do I think I would have ever gotten that money [for the offering]? No,” he said. “I think God knew it was a big number for me, but He provided.”
But Dee still wasn't convinced, so Williamson offered her a deal. They'd split the money. He'd give his half to missions, and she could do whatever she wanted with hers.
Within a month, both had given their portion to the Lottie Moon offering through the church.
“I think what happened for Dee more than anything was that she saw what God did in my life,” Williamson said. “She said it changed me as a person and as a husband…. And it was easy for her to say, 'I'm going to follow the leader of my home.'”
And that's just the beginning. Williamson believes God is calling him to become an advocate for international missions. He's actively seeking opportunities to engage other believers with the urgency of sharing the Gospel and the need to support those who carry it to the spiritually lost.
“Until one is convicted that the loss of a soul is the most horrible thing that can happen, you've not fully bought into the Great Commission,” Williamson said.
Williamson's passion for missions is so contagious it's already infecting others, including his Sunday School class at Macedonia Baptist. After hearing about Williamson's Lottie Moon resolution, their teacher suggested they raise enough money to support an IMB missionary for a year. That's roughly $44,000 from a class of about 40 people. They decided that each would need to give $3.16 per day (a reference to John 3:16), about $1,150 annually to achieve that goal.
“Now [Dee and I] are giving a little money every week — $44.24,” Williamson said. “That's a little bit of sacrificial giving right now, but God's already shown me He's going to take care of me. So we're going to make it work.”
But Williamson isn't content only to give. He's never been on a short-term mission trip, but he's making plans to go.
And that 5,000-square-foot house? Williamson and his wife plan to sell it and use the equity to pay cash for a more modest home, freeing them from a mortgage and making more money available for God's work.
“If tomorrow I started writing insurance and made money hand over fist, I'd still sell this house,” Williamson said. “Yeah, God's got a hold of me pretty good…. It's taken me a lot of decades to get there, but I know [He's] the only thing that really matters.”
*Name changed. Don Graham writes for the International Mission Board.