Our First Divine Appointment
Dave and I met in an amazing God-incidental divine appointment a while back when I was traveling in Eastern Europe. At a free Wi-Fi hotspot, I had been checking email and Dave’s message to me came up. He needed to exit the country he was ministering in, and a friend of a friend of a friend had suggested that he visit me in Milan. But he was going to need a place to stay while I was on the road. Normally, I would have Nina either let him in or give him the key. But this time Nina was traveling with me, so the house was locked-up tight.
As I started crafting my reply, that it would not be possible at this time, I glanced at his message again and realized with a start that he was in the very same country that I was in. So I sent a different reply, explaining that I was traveling in his country, and that maybe we could meet and I could give him the key.
Dave’s reply came within a minute: he was in the same city that I was in—just minutes away from where I was staying. I recognized that this was the hand of God, so we arranged a meeting time and place so that I could give him the key and directions to the house.
When we met, I had Nina’s son, Michael, with me. Michael doesn’t speak English, but he’s very smart, and understands much of what he reads or hears. So he was anxious to go with me and meet Dave.
Dave is a man in his early twenties, highly creative, and full of enthusiasm and energy. When he saw me, he recognized me from the picture in my email and came bounding up to us. He didn’t have much time to meet with me, having squeezed me between appointments, so we talked very fast. In the brief time we had, we discovered all sorts of parallels in our lives: his parents live within minutes of my great-grandfather’s ancestral home in Alabama, he had studied in the same town in Texas where my cousin lived, and he knew a lot of the same people. Even though the demographic of Christians in Europe is a very small world, I never fail to be surprised at how we do all seem to know the same people and places.
As we left the building, Michael asked me in English: “What means ‘oh my gosh!’?” I laughed out loud because I hadn’t even heard myself saying it, nor Dave, but we must have liberally peppered our conversation with it. In Italian, I explained that “Oh my gosh!” is used to express surprise, like the Italian word caspita. So for the rest of our trip together, every time there was anything surprising, Michael threw his hands over his cheeks like Macaulay Culkin and exclaimed, “Oh my gosh!”
Our Second Divine Appointment
I came back to the US at the end of October, and Dave came back at the beginning of December. Mine is the annual Thanksgiving and Christmas visit with family—and also a chance to do yearend personal and ministry tasks. Dave’s was a Christmas visit home, and also a chance to work on getting a longer-term visa to that country that does not easily grant visas, either short- or long-term.
Dave invited me to come visit him at his parents’ home in Alabama. Since I had not seen the ancestral home in something like 30 years, I was tempted. But in the short time I am in the US, I needed to get a lot of things done, including a trip to Texas. Before I could tell Dave no, I got an invitation to come visit a church in Jackson, Mississippi. I looked at the map and realized that I could just take the southern route through Alabama and Mississippi to Texas—why not? It would save me traveling over mountainous Tennessee. Timewise, it was going to amount to pretty much the same thing: two day’s drive to Texas.
So I told Dave I was considering it. I prayed about it, asking for clarity. And the answer came back a resounding yes. Meanwhile, the pastor of the church in Mississippi suddenly stopped communicating with me. Funny, most pastors are happy to have someone from out of town visit their church. But I realized that this had been one of God’s tactics for turning my attention to the southern route of travel to Texas.
Today I arrived at his parents’ home. Dave had just gotten back from the Post Office, where he had mailed in his application for a long-term visa. I told him: “It is no accident that I am here on this very day that you mailed in your visa application.” I had been praying for his visa to be approved, and now I was here to pray together with him and his family about the visa.
Dave’s parents were very welcoming, generous, and hospitable. The four of us talked, laughed, ate a wonderful meal, and prayed together. Sometimes I feel like an interloper when I stay at someone’s house, but I don’t feel that way here. Dave recounted how God had changed his attitude about fundraising for his ministry:
I prayed, telling God how I hate asking people for money, and God said, “Who are you to deprive people of the opportunity to give to the work of My Kingdom?” I bowed my head and answered, “I’m nobody!” And ever since, I have unashamedly given people the opportunity to give to my ministry.
Just like Dave, I must learn to give people the opportunity to show hospitality to one of God’s servants: me. So when Dave’s parents invited me to stay here on my way back to Asheville too, my first reaction came from my head: “We’ll see how things go on the way back.” But when I prayed about it later, God reminded me of Dave’s fundraising story. I realized that I didn’t have a good reason to refuse their hospitality, and I enjoyed their company so much that I really want to come back. So I will be visiting Dave’s family home again on the way back from Texas. God is good!
 Some countries are still not open to missionaries, so it’s better that I don’t name the country.