It was the mid-1970’s. I was a young teenager and on this particular day, I was a passenger in one of those big boat size cars driving up a winding mountain road. The driver was my 5 foot 2-inch spiritual mentor Lionel Mayell. To me, he was a spiritual giant. We were headed towards Campus Crusade for Christ (now CRU) offices in Southern California. That morning, the trajectory of my entire life was about to change because Lionel Mayell was a light carrier. He carried the light of the love of Jesus in his head and it moved to his heart and spread to his hands and feet. He was a great man who served me and shaped me deeply.
Our family had met the Mayell family a few years earlier due to the clearly God-orchestrated event of my parent’s vacation plans being changed. They ended up in the wrong city in Florida (St. Petersburg instead of Miami) and met Lionel while looking at his Open House which was for sale in the St Petersburg area. As we looked around at his house, my Mom learned in conversation that Lionel’s wife and kids had already moved to California to begin working as missionaries with a new organization called Campus Crusade for Christ. We enjoyed seeing the house, however, since Lionel was by himself, my Mom felt we should bring him a Kentucky fried chicken dinner that night, and the next night…. and the next night….. thus cementing the continuing intersection of our families lives. Though Lionel might be peeking in and reading this from his heavenly perch, our families' lives still intersect regularly to this very day.
Lionel wanted to return the favor of the chicken dinners he enjoyed in Florida and he invited my parents to have me to come meet his family in California at a later date. I soon visited sunny California to meet his family. I became a frequent summer guest at Lionel and Dorothy Mayell’s home and I began to be treated like a son, not a guest. I was shown how to read the bible for daily life application, not just as a book to hear verses from once a week in church. The Sunday stuff was turned into Monday stuff at this home. I was introduced to the what would become a global phenomenon in mission’s work, the enterprise called Campus Crusade for Christ. As an organization, it shaped my life.
I was there for hundreds of weekends and countless dinners and outings. In the process, I was taught how God actually mattered to everyday life. I began to actually read my bible, memorize scripture verses and share the good news of my faith with others. My life had gone from a clueless church attender to sold-out follower of Jesus Christ all because of a meeting with Lionel Mayell in Florida when my parents plane landed in the wrong city. Coincidence? Unlikely. God had orchestrated a purpose-filled series of events through his light carrier Lionel Mayell, and later through his light- carrier family members; wife Dorothy, son Carmen and daughter Rita.
Lionel saw God clearly, he saw himself realistically as a player in God’s story and he saw me the way God wanted him to see me; as someone to influence with God’s love. Because you see, back in the 1970’s when we looked at his Open House and after my Mom brought 3 nights of chicken dinners, he didn’t have to do anything. He didn’t have to invite me to his home in California. He didn’t have to give me a room in his house to stay in. He didn’t have to take me on virtually every family outing. He didn’t have to advocate to get me into Biola University. He didn’t have to help get me a job after college. He didn’t have to love me. He could have just said thanks for the chicken dinner and thought that my Mom was a nice lady. Instead, he decided to shape my life, to care deeply about me in practical ways and to mentor me spiritually.
He carried the light Jesus placed inside of him and shared it with me and many hundreds of others.
Just one question before you’re done reading…Who are you carrying the light of God's love to this week, this month, this year? Whose life is changed because of you? What if you carried the light of love to someone who needs your wisdom or attention? If you’re a business owner, you might find one of your employees in need of love. If you hang out in your neighborhood, maybe it’s one of your neighbors who needs light and love from you. If you work somewhere, maybe that co-worker who’s usually sad needs your love. Wherever it is, God wants you to lean into loving people. There’s power in love. There’s power in caring. Jesus began a revolution with his love for people, even his enemies. Why not light up someone’s life with the love inside of you?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Greg Leith is the CEO of Convene. He was born in Canada and lived in all four corners of North America. His career spans over 35 years of senior leadership roles in corporate, non-profit and academic sectors. Recently, he served as Director of Strategic Alliances for 13 years at Biola University in California.