I first heard of Rudy and Juanita last summer at SoulFeast 2010 at Lake Junaluska, NC. Powerful life stories, powerful speakers, humble lives submitted to God. This couple is inspiring! The last day of SoulFeast last summer, in the last minutes, Juanita introduced us to her husband's "Touch Test" from his book Touch. She went through a list of types of people, asking us to note which ones we felt uncomfortable being able to love... or which ones were difficult to love.... or which ones God was calling us to love at that time more deeply. I can't remember how she worded it exactly then. The one that stood out to me though at that time was "mentally challenged adult". And, with it came a specific name and person, though I'm sure I can expand on that love to others. I have someone in my life who has a mental denegerative disorder, from birth. I have been given the opportunity to love this person, to help guide this person, and to deal with this person. Thankfully, I'm not alone. We are a team of several that help this person. But, God let me know last summer that I was to love this person more. So, I have tried-- to be more loving, to be more understanding, to be more patient. We ALL can be difficult to love. I recognize that I am difficult to love too.
Fast forward to this summer. Our local Scenic City Women's Network (SCWN) brought Juanita Rasmus in for their annual praise breakfast. I was excited to learn about that and obtained tickets for my daughter and I to attend. It was truly a blessing. Juanita shared many nuggets of truth and jewels of healthy spiritual living. She also challenged us with the touch test, putting it in the context of someone sitting next to you in church.
Afterwards, I purchased Rudy's book. After all, I had waited almost an entire year to buy this book. It should be safe to buy it now. (Note: I have a book addiction and have to be careful around books.)
I just finished reading the book yesterday. Besides the TOUCH TEST, there are many wonderful things in this book to challenge, encourage, and equip someone in their journey. Especially if the person is seeking to grow in loving the "other" in their community.
There is a "Going Deeper" section at the end of the book that offers great questions for reflection. The Touch Test is found here, starting on page 225. The instructions are under question #4 and say: "Following is a list of different kinds of people. Indicate which ones you wouldn't feel completely comfortable sitting next to. When you've finished, look over your list and write an evaluation of your willingness to love people." WOW! There are 71 kinds of people listed. I don't have room to type them all here, but here are some:
- homeless person
- illiterate adult male/female
- man wearing baseball cap or hat
- convicted sex offender
- religious fanatic
- a heavily tattooed man
- couple with crying, screaming baby
- interracial couple
- a muslim
- a person who sings loudly and poorly
- divorced male/female
- a woman wearing pants
- recovering drug addict
- gay male
- lesbian couple
- disable person
- hispanic male or female
- person with many teeth missing
- retarded adult
- political conservative
The book Touch includes a guide for beginning a ministry to homeless people as well as a guide for how to lead a study group using the book. These resources are in the back of the book.
There is a list of characteristics on pages 192-194 that are categorized under "ministries that are intentionally safe" and "ministries that are intentionally spontaneous". These characteristics can be used to rate a church or ministry to see what it says about where the church or ministry is in its living out the gospel. There might be some "Amen"s and/or there might be some "Ouch"es, but the comparison is worth reflection. What is God calling the church / ministry to be and do vs. what it is being and doing?
Pastor Rudy says this: "All of us need to take a good, hard look at how we live God's calling in our lives. As we look at what Jesus wants us to do, I'm not claiming to have my act together. I'm still learning, still in process, still in need of God's guidance. I often ask myself and my team if we're really touching people's lives. Are we willing to do whatever it takes to touch them, no matter how many traditions we trample, no matter who doesn't like it? That's what Jesus did." (185)
That resonates within me. How am I living out God's call in my life? I know I don't have my act together either. I recognize that I'm still learning and still in process and definitely still in need of God's guidance! Am I touching people's lives? Am I willing to do whatever it takes to touch them?
These aren't easy questions, but they are important questions. Questions I'm willing to ask of myself and have others ask of me. Questions I'd like to be able to bring into dialogue with others in my community.
I know I didn't give you all 71 kinds of people, but take the Touch Test. Grab a copy of the book. Read it. See if it touches you. Share it if it does.
Seeking to touch people's lives with the love of God as I travel this adventurous journey,
PS-- Check out SoulFeast 2011(http://www.upperroom.org/soulfeast/) . Juanita Rasmus will be back. And, Rudy Rasmus will be one of the speakers at the Change the World conference in October at Ginghamsburg Church (http://ginghamsburg.org/changetheworld).