8 Lessons From My Ambassadorship to Malta
Lesson No. 2: Chelsea Clinton interrupted my dinner with the president. You can interrupt God anytime.
Editor’s note: This is the last of two stories by Ambassador Kathryn Proffitt based on a devotional that she shared at the Annual Council on Oct. 11. Read her other story, “How an Adventist Became a U.S. Ambassador.”
, U.S. ambassador to Malta (1997-2001); chief executive officer, Alumni Awards Foundation
My experience as the U.S. ambassador to Malta shares many similarities with your sacred appointment as an ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Consider these eight points, starting with the qualifications of an ambassador.
1. An ambassador must be a citizen of the country he represents.
In order to be an ambassador of the United States, I had to first be a citizen. Without proof of my citizenship, the U.S. Senate could have never confirmed me. In most countries, including the United States, there are three ways you can become a citizen.
- You can become a citizen by birth.
- After living in the United States for a number of years, and if you are very fortunate, you can become a naturalized citizen.
- You can become a citizen if a U.S. citizen legally adopts you.
To serve as an ambassador for the King of kings, you must be a citizen of God’s kingdom. The Scriptures tell us that when we receive Jesus, we become citizens of the kingdom of heaven, not by birth, or by naturalization, but by adoption!
When we become Christians, we are legally adopted as the children of God. We not only become citizens of the kingdom of heaven, but we literally become members of God’s royal family.
The apostle John says, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God” (John 1: 12-13).
In addition, the apostle Paul says, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).
2. An ambassador must have access to the head of state.
In the political world, power comes from having access to leadership. The more access you have, the greater your influence and power. But, as we know, it is not too easy to meet a head of state, let alone get to know one.
Furthermore, even those close to world leaders do not have unlimited access. A member of the U.S. president’s cabinet cannot just walk into the Oval Office without an appointment. But, there are a few exceptions.
On one occasion, I was invited to the White House for a formal Christmas dinner with President and Mrs. Clinton. It was a beautiful black-tie event, with the White House marine band providing lovely Christmas music. I took my son, Korbin, as my guest.
For social White House events, guests are seated by lottery rather than protocol. The guests will draw their table assignment from a beautiful silver bowl. Once again by God’s divine providence, I drew a card that said Table 11. To my surprise, Korbin and I were seated at President Clinton’s table for the dinner. Korbin and I dined with the president and only 3 other couples.
The entrance to the State dining room is always guarded by the Secret Service when the president is hosting a dinner. Just as we were enjoying our first course, however, the door burst open. An uninvited guest marched in, and no one even tried to stop her.
She walked straight to Table 11 and stood next to President Clinton. His face lit up with happiness as she approached. He immediately interrupted our conversation so he could listen attentively to her.
As you may have guessed, the visitor was Chelsea Clinton, the then-teenage daughter of the president. Although she did not have an appointment, and her entrance caused quite a stir, it was obvious that her father was delighted to see her.
Chelsea had come on urgent business. I was close enough to hear what she whispered to her daddy. She pled for her curfew to be moved back so she could spend more time with her friends that evening. After some very skillful negotiations, the president granted Chelsea’s request.
Because we have been adopted into the family of God, because we are His children, we can always approach our heavenly Father. Just like Chelsea Clinton, we have unlimited access.
But do we really appreciate this amazing gift? Do we understand the significance of our Lord’s title and power? Do we give Him the awe and respect to which He is entitled as the Creator of the universe and the King of kings?
How often are we too busy to bother having our devotions or prayer time with the Lord? How often do we let small earthy priorities take precedence?
We would never dream of standing up a world leader. Yet we often stand up the King of kings because we are too tired, too busy, or sometimes just too lazy.
I can assure you great preparation occurs whenever humans have the opportunity to meet with a world leader. For me, meeting the U.S. president was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Careful thought and attention were given to that first meeting.
By contrast, what steps do we take to prepare for our audience with our King? Our God is the Creator and Ruler of the entire universe, yet in most instances, we do little or nothing to prepare.
The priests in the Old Testament understood it was a very serious matter to enter into the presence of a Holy God. This was meant to be an example for us.
In the Bible we are told about the careful preparations the priests made before they approached the earthly sanctuary. This was especially true of the High Priest when he entered the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement.
As ambassador, I had the privilege of meeting many dignitaries and senior government officials from various countries. Whenever I met with a foreign head of state, I was always given a special briefing on the protocol that was to be followed.
The sanctuary, modeled after the throne room in heaven, was put on this Earth to teach us the necessary protocol to enter into the presence of a holy God.
While we can certainly pray at any time and in anyway, I believe that by following the pattern outlined in the sanctuary model, we can prepare our hearts and minds to more effectively communicate with our God.
Our heavenly Father longs for close communication with His children. We were separated from His presence because of sin.
When Jesus died, the veil between the apartments was ripped apart to signify our ability to enter into His holy presence. Jesus shed his precious blood to restore our ability to have unlimited access to the throne room of God.
Rather than take this incredible gift for granted, let’s take full advantage of the unlimited access we have been given to our heavenly Father and his son, King Jesus.
3. An ambassador must have the right credentials.
After my U.S. Senate confirmation I had the authority to act on behalf of the United States as far as my country was concerned. The government of Malta, however, did not immediately recognize my authority.
Shortly after I arrived in Malta, I was required to have a formal audience with the president of Malta to present my ambassadorial credentials. In Malta, this is a beautiful and solemn ceremony, with all of the pomp and circumstance you would expect from a former British colony.
The ambassador is chauffeured in a beautiful antique Rolls Royce from the ambassador’s residence to the presidential palace. This procession is led by a team of white horses ridden by uniformed military officers.
After I arrived at the presidential palace, I was escorted into the palace by officials from the Foreign Ministry and the armed forces of Malta. The ceremony took place in the beautiful Ambassador's Room, where ambassadors have presented their credentials to Maltese heads of state for hundreds of years. There I presented my official letter of introduction, called a Letter of Credence, to President Mifsud Bonnici.
My Letter of Credence stated in part, “I have appointed Kathryn Linda Haycock Proffitt, a distinguished citizen of the United States of America, to represent me before your Government as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.” These important words established my authority in Malta. It meant that, by order of the U.S. president, I had unlimited power to represent my government in Malta.
As Christ’s ambassador, you have also been given power and authority to act on behalf of the kingdom of heaven. Your credentials were transferred to you by Jesus before He left this Earth. Here are four biblical passages that underscore this:
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28: 18-19).
“Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21).
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
You are ambassadors, with extraordinary and plenipotentiary power, to represent the King of kings to the people of Planet Earth.
4. An ambassador must know the head of state.
As his ambassador, I was the personal representative of President Clinton. When Maltese guests visited my residence, they loved to look at my personal photographs of the first family.
They were intrigued and often asked me questions about them. On these occasions, I had the opportunity to share with the Maltese people about Bill and Hillary Clinton. As his ambassador, I served as a witness, to testify to the people of Malta what President Clinton was really like.
Jesus also came to this Earth on a diplomatic mission — to show us the Father, by His life and His example. Every word that Jesus spoke was from the Father.
“Jesus sayeth unto him, ‘Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father’” (John 14:26, KJV).
“For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak” (John 12:49).
As His ambassador, it is your responsibility to testify to the citizens of this Earth about King Jesus. Because you know Him personally, you can talk about Him, His character, and His kingdom: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).
As ambassador for the King of kings, your life is a constant testimony about what our heavenly Father and King Jesus are really like. The quality of your study, and especially your prayer time, will be directly related to your success as ambassador.
5. An ambassador must collaborate with colleagues.
I spent many months in Washington, preparing for my mission. During this time I had to learn how the U.S. government operates internally so I could work effectively within my government. This meant becoming familiar with every department and agency.
I was required to meet with cabinet secretaries and other top government officials. The relationships I established, as well as the information I learned through these detailed briefings, became invaluable after I assumed my duties in Malta.
Whenever an issue arose, I could pick up the phone and have access to the highest officials in any area of government. More important, I could speak to them, not just as a colleague but also usually as a friend.
The personal relationships we build within the church are equally valuable and important. Each member of the family of God has something of enormous value to share. By design God gives each one of us unique experiences, knowledge and expertise.
It is His plan for us to work corporately together for His kingdom. By working together, we will multiply our successes. Total Member Involvement.
6. Jesus’ life demonstrates how to be an effective ambassador.
Being an ambassador for the King of the universe is a great responsibility. But we are not left on our own to figure out what to do. Jesus demonstrated by His words and actions how to be effective diplomats. Spending time studying the life of Jesus will be the greatest preparation you can make for your diplomatic mission.
On Nov. 10, 1997, on the same day he signed my appointment, President Clinton also wrote me a long four-page letter. In this letter he outlined my authorities and responsibilities, and gave me specific instructions and counsel regarding my tour of duty in Malta.
I would like to share a few short excerpts from President Clinton's letter because I believe this counsel also applies to you as an ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ. As I read, imagine a similar letter being written to you by King Jesus.
“Please accept my best wishes and appreciation for your efforts as my personal representative to the Republic of Malta. This letter outlines your principal authorities and responsibilities.”
You are God’s personal representative!
“As Chief of Mission you are not only my representative in the Republic of Malta but a servant of the people of our Nation.”
Following Jesus’ example, we must practice servant leadership.
“I expect you to discharge this trust with professional excellence, the highest standards of ethical conduct, and diplomatic discretion. I charge you to exercise your authority with wisdom, justice, and imagination. We are at a moment of unique historic opportunity for the United States and the world.”
We are living in the closing moments of Earth’s history, aren’t we? We are also at a moment of unique historic opportunity!
“Careful stewardship of your Mission’s resources stands in the forefront of your responsibilities. I urge you to see budgetary stringency not as a hardship to be endured but as an incentive to innovation.”
Stewardship will always be an important trust and responsibility for those in God’s ministry.
7. An ambassador must know and support foreign policy.
Before becoming an ambassador, I had to become very familiar with the foreign policy of the United States. Most of the questions in my Senate confirmation hearing tested my knowledge of Malta as it related to U.S. foreign policy.
I was given authority to represent my government, but this was a delegated authority, conditioned upon my obedience to the rule of the law and my unconditional support for the official policies of the United States of America.
I served at the pleasure of the president. I knew that if I were unfaithful to this trust, I would immediately be recalled and sent home.
Although U.S. citizens tout freedom of speech, as an ambassador my personal opinions no longer mattered. I was required to faithfully articulate and fully support the policies of my government.
To illustrate, I would like to quote an additional sentence from President Clinton’s letter of instructions to me: “Ultimately, there can be only one U.S. policy, which I expect you and all members of your Mission to follow and articulate.”
Similarly, in God’s kingdom, there is only one heavenly policy. As Christ’s ambassador, you have a sacred duty to study, understand, support, and teach the policies of the kingdom of heaven. Your authority is also a delegated authority, conditioned upon your obedience, faithfulness and loyalty to God, his laws, and His divine policies.
Thankfully, each of us has access to the heavenly foreign policy manual, the Holy Bible. The Scriptures reveal all we need to know, including a history of Planet Earth, the plan of salvation, His commandments, and the principles and policies of God’s government. By studying the Holy Scriptures, you will be equipped to teach, articulate and support the kingdom of heaven’s foreign policies.
8. An ambassador must leave his homeland and live in a foreign country.
The definition of an ambassador is: “The highest-ranking person who represents his or her own government while living in another country.” To be an ambassador you must leave your homeland and take up permanent residency in the country to which you are accredited.
As an ambassador, I had to leave my home and live in Malta for nearly four years. My new home was the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Malta. My office was at the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Valletta.
But although I lived in Malta and worked in Malta, I was not Maltese. I was still a U.S. citizen.
As an ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ, you are not a citizen of this world. You are a citizen of the kingdom of heaven while here on a diplomatic mission.
As foreigners, we will naturally look different, act different, and we will have a different culture. We should stand out in a crowd. After all, we are not of this world.
As I prepared to come to Malta, I spent months immersed in Maltese history, politics and, of course, Maltese geography. One day I had a meeting with the U.S. secretary of state for European affairs, Marc Grossman.
Secretary Grossman asked me many questions about Malta and my plans for my mission. Finally, he pointed to a beautiful globe on his desk and asked me if I could identify my country on the map.
Instinctively, I twirled the globe around and proudly pointed to the small dot representing Malta in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.
“No Kathy!” Secretary Grossman said. “That is not your country! Your country is the United States of America, and you must never lose sight of this fact!”
His illustration was powerful and put the focus of my diplomatic mission clearly into perspective. I never forgot that important lesson.
We are citizens of the kingdom of heaven. But do we really act and live like foreigners on this Earth? It is very tempting to become like the world, isn’t it?
Many argue that by assimilating the culture and values of this world we can be more effective in winning souls for Christ. We are pressured to adopt popular views that are advanced by science and by culture, rather than God’s word. We are urged to be politically correct.
But as ambassadors for the Lord Jesus Christ, it is our sacred duty to guard against compromise, whenever it conflicts with heaven’s foreign policy.
We must remain faithful to God’s policies even if it causes ridicule with the citizens of this world. As Christ’s ambassadors, we must never be tempted to “go native.”
Always keep in mind that although we live in this world, we are aliens here. Our actions, and our words, should be consistent with our heavenly mission.
Listen to the counsel of the apostle Peter: “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:11-12).
Paul says, “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).
President Clinton wrote to me on Nov. 10, 1997: “Always keep in mind that, for the Government and people of the Republic of Malta, you and your Mission symbolize the United States of America and its values.”
When I lived in Malta, how I acted, how I dressed, what I said, and what I did, testified to the Maltese what the United States of America is like.
The same is true for each of you. As an ambassador of the kingdom of heaven, your behavior will determine how others view Jesus.
Shortly before He left this Earth, Jesus prayed especially for us to remain in the world but to be separate from the world: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17: 15-19).
When I served as ambassador, I represented my country seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Even when I was on vacation, I was still the U.S. ambassador to Malta. As Christ’s ambassador, you also are always on duty. There is no such thing as a day off.
There is truth in the song we sang as children, “Do you know, oh Christian, you’re a sermon in shoes …”
As Jesus personified His Father's character throughout his life, you have the privilege of demonstrating, through your life, God's unconditional love to the citizens of Planet Earth.