Sunday, October 14, 2012

Unexpected Influence

By Kelli Trujillo

When I was making arrangements for what I feared would be a boring, uncomfortable evening, I had no idea it would end up being one of the most influential nights in my life. Betty and Willis had invited my husband and me—married for just a few years—over for a double-date. Betty and Willis were in their eighties and married for a bazillion years.

It was a night involving bowls of snacks offered to us repeatedly, watching a (rather corny) Christian piano concert on VHS, and finishing things off with a hymn sing-along accompanied by Willis on the accordion. But it was also a night of miraculous mentorship—influence on our lives and our marriage that we didn’t expect. The powerful impact of watching a long-married love in action gave us a new vision for our own love. The life-shaping influence of a woman whose passion for God was fervent, whose identity was centered and confident, and whose sense of vocation burned bright, even in the twilight years of her life,  emboldened and strengthened my own faith and sense of calling.

That’s how influence happens sometimes, isn’t it? It’s not always from great speakers or organized discipleship programs or weekend retreats. Sometimes it’s in the moments that sneak up on us—those times when we open up and receive from another the gift of presence, of listening, of example.

I want to be a Betty. Not because I’ve got it all figured out, but because I know that we taste the goodness of God when another looks us in the eye, asks about our lives and draws our attention to the Holy Spirit’s presence in our ordinary, sometimes messy existence.

I had a Betty-like moment the other day when a friend who was a decade younger than me asked me to “mentor” her. My initial reaction was to baulk at this suggestion. I thought of her as a peer, so being asked to “mentor” her just made me feel . . . OLD! And the label “mentor” seemed to imply that I’m supposed to be some expert at life who can share all my wisdom.

But then I thought about Betty and the gift she gave by welcoming me into a life that was still journeying, was yet flawed (you should have seen her rolling her eyes in exasperation at Willis!), but was nonetheless willing to invite me in.

So I made a deal with my younger, hipper friend. I will be an unofficial mentor in her life. However, she absolutely cannot use the M-word for me, I joked, because it’s loaded with implications (like I’m old or I’ve got it all figured out). But we will meet often, share each other’s lives and receive grace from the Spirit who is always present with us.

I can’t wait to have a heavenly hymn-sing with Betty and Willis again someday, complete with accordion and loads of caramel corn. But in the mean time I’ll aim to keep living the lesson Betty taught me: Sometimes the most powerful influence can happen in the most ordinary, unexpected ways.

Who has been a Betty in your life? To whom will you offer the gift of your imperfect, journeying, blessed presence?

Kelli B. Trujillo is an author and editor in Indianapolis. Her latest project is the Flourishing Faith devotional series for women (see You can join Kelli in conversation at


  1. Thanks for this look at how God works in life <3

  2. I've been mentoring Third World church leaders & evangelists for years & get many letters of encouragement from them. This tells about some of the fruits of my teaching over the years:
    I'm enjoying training students from 8 countries in how to win & evangelize children in the 4 to 14 window of opportunity--that is the age group which is most responsive to the gospel. 80% of people who become Christians get saved in that age group. After 14, they become increasingly hard to reach for Christ. My students come from countries, like Iran and Cameroon, where that age group is exploding, so we need to reach them while we have time. I also continue to do personal evangelism, recruit teachers for All Nations Christian Academy, lead English worship on Sundays, and support my 3 schools in India with more than 700 students now.
    The 3 schools have planted 8 churches among Muslims and plan to start 5 more by December. Pastor Kampu, the co-director, said that the reason Muslims are converting to Christ is because they see the transformation Christ makes in those who are born again. And I guess another reason is that Muslims are a minority in India, so unbelievers can't kill those who convert out of Islam as they do in Muslim majority countries.

    Concerning the issue of transformed lives, I've been doing a lot of research on why churches in America are declining & why in some places overseas churches are rapidly multiplying. One of the main reasons is because Christians in the West emphasize knowledge while Church Planting Movements emphasize OBEDIENCE TO THE SCRIPTURE (see: Please read the article below & try to implement this method in your life and church. It will transform our lives & churches as we obey the Bible faithfully & systematically.
    I've become increasingly alarmed about the direction our nation is taking as the news concerning the November elections indicate. One of my concerns is that America historically has been the main engine for world evangelism. But as the forces of darkness are gaining power, the ability of believers to spearhead evangelism and church planting around the world is being diminished. Of course, there are many other reasons that I'm concerned about the upcoming elections, one of which is mentioned in the article below.

    So frankly, even though Mormonism is a cult, I think that Romney is the better choice for president because his views concerning abortion, marriage, Israel, etc., are closer to the Bible than are those of the democratic party platform and president. Billy Graham says that he'll do all he can to get Romney elected (see,0,4296305.story). If Christians don't vote, it creates a power vacuum for the forces of evil to occupy. If Christians vote for leaders, for example, who reject biblical principles concerning the sanctity of life and marriage, then we will see a rapid acceleration of wickedness on every level in society.
    I wonder if you know about the need for 34 million Bibles in the rural house churches in China? It's estimated that several Chinese become Christians as a result of one Christian receiving a Bible which costs only about $1.80 to print. See Bibles for China article below and the web site:

    I can hardly recognize the America that I once knew. What's happening? Please join me in prayer that God will have mercy on us, awaken a sleeping church, and deliver us from evil.

  3. Thank you, Kelli, for your transparency and your insight into the 'little things' that become the building blocks of a life well lived! Blessings to you! Robin