We were away enjoying a family vacation in a cabin up on a beautiful lake near Sandstone, MN, where we could enjoy some beautiful sunsets. It was there that we began a new practice that has blessed our life and marriage ever since. We decided to read a book together while we were on vacation.
It was meant to be something we could just do on our vacations, but it turned into a regular activity to the point that over the last twenty-five years, we have read hundreds of books together.
Actually, I read them out loud and then we often talk about them and we pray over what we have been reading. The overwhelming majority of them are stories, biographies, and autobiographies. We found that we received more from these kinds of books rather than from reading teaching books together.
Some time back, we were reading together one of Roberts Lairdon’s great series, ‘God’s General’s.’ This particular one was about Healing Evangelists, including the stories of Oral Roberts, Charles and Francis Hunter and others too. Included was the life story of Lester Sumerall. I only heard him speak once and recognized immediately that he was a great man of God. He was used mightily in ministry over many years, based in South Bend, Indiana but reaching out to the world.
It was one story that particularly spoke to us. By 1987, Lester Sumrall was seventy-four years old. His life had been rich and full but God wasn’t finished with him yet. Roberts Lairdon describes what was happening.‘Lester traveled to Denver, Colorado, to speak to a group of pastors about the new LeSea television station that would soon be on the air. As the evening drew to a close, a gentleman approached Lester from the back of the room. Quietly the man stated that he had a message for Lester from the Lord. Lester’s response was not very warm. He was more than accustomed to hearing from the Lord for himself. However, the gentleman continued on with a prophetic word: “Your life is like a tree planted in God. Your life is a tree, and there are branches on your tree. Your first evangelism as a young man is a branch on your tree . . . your missionary branches bore much fruit and still do. Your church is a branch. Your television ministry is a branch. Your radio ministry is a branch. ” Taking a deep breath, he continued: “Thus saith the Lord, a new branch will spring forth upon your tree of life. It will be larger than all the other branches. It will bear so much fruit that you will be amazed.”
‘Unsure of the message’s meaning, Lester was certain that he was too old for any new branches! What could it mean?
‘A few weeks later, Lester was in Jerusalem conducting his annual Holy Land tour with a large group of believers. The Lord woke him up just before midnight one night with a new ministry vision.
Lester heard the voice of God in his heart, saying, “One of my greatest concerns is that My own people, part of My church, do not suffer death by starvation before I return. Will you feed them? To them, it will be an angelic food supply! To them, it will be a miracle!”
‘For five hours, Lester heard the heart of God as He spoke of the suffering among much of His church throughout the world. There was so much ravaging hunger in the world, especially in the war-torn areas. If Lester would obey, God would provide the means for him to transport the desperately needed food into the interiors of many countries. The purpose was to bypass the government bureaucracy of third world nations and to get the food and relief supplies directly into the hands of God’s people through local pastors.
‘God spoke, “You will distribute the food through My churches only. Around the world I want you to feed My people who are hungry.” When Lester asked The Lord why He’d chosen him, God’s answer was clear: “You’ve preached in 110 nations, and you love all these people. I want to use you to feed them.” At five o’clock that morning, in the Holy City, Lester answered God’s call once again: “I am willing, Lord.”‘
So began ‘the new branch’ called LeSea Global Feed the Hungry. For Lester, this became the greatest step in his ministry. As Dorothy and I read that story, the phrase ‘ONE MORE BRANCH‘ leaped out to us. Not that we felt in any way that we were to so something like he did in feeding the hungry. Rather, it was the conviction that in the golden years of our life, God had ‘one more branch’ to add to all that we had done across the years: Pastoral ministry, a national renewal ministry in Australia, outreach ministry to almost forty countries, Ministerial Networks, Bible Colleges, churches, and television ministry.
But, we felt God had one more branch, big or small. There was one more branch, one particular aspect of ministry He wanted us to develop. Dorothy wrote those words on a small 3M yellow post-it note and I stuck it on the computer in my office as a constant reminder that God had one more branch for us to do.
Back in the early days of the Charismatic Renewal in 1973, I had been invited to a church called Faith Center in Sydney for a Presbytery Meeting, a small gathering of mature spiritual leaders who prayed and prophesied over people. There, I received a number of significant prophecies which confirmed much of what God was doing in our lives at that time and encouragement for the future.
One of the leaders saw me writing letters. Now at that time, I was not one to write letters. Across the years of course, in leading a growing ministry, I wrote many letters to many people as part of the normal correspondence involved in administration, but writing did not come naturally. Looking back, I saw, however, another aspect of ‘writing letters.’ In the middle of 2001, after I had stepped down as the Senior Pastor of Antioch Christian Fellowship, I began ‘The Langstaff Newsletter.’ which we printed and sent out every two months. Eventually, we changed it to ‘The Langstaff Letter.’ It was basically a letter giving ministry news and insights, like many ministries regularly mailed out to people who were interested in their ministry or supported them.
But then in the Fall of 2012, it took a new turn as we turned it into an email version and blog and instead of every two months, we sent it out every two weeks. Our daughter and administrator Joy put it all together, as without her abilities with a computer, I could never have done it.
The mission statement for ‘The Langstaff Letter’ is ‘to stimulate thought and discussion concerning cultural and spiritual issues and to share inspirational and encouraging words. ‘More and more I began to feel that the ‘one more branch’ was writing and that included not just the Langstaff Letter, but to write the follow-up book to Called Together, with Dorothy’s help. I discovered what a major task it was to compile the story of our life and ministry in America that covered almost 35 years. It’s not finished yet because there are chapters that are yet to be lived and recorded.
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