Last year as I prepared to make my annual trip to Texas, I contacted Laurie (my ministry partner) and my home church in Bastrop. I also contacted a church that I had connected with in Abilene. Laurie responded immediately, but the silence from the churches was deafening. So I contacted the churches again, and people I know that are in leadership. Still nothing.
Meanwhile, Dave contacted me, inviting me to come visit him and his parents in Alabama (see Our Two Divine Appointments). So although I was getting no response (no welcome) from these churches, I got a big welcome from Dave and his family, and from Laurie and Don, her husband.
So I went only as far as Paris, on the eastern edge of Texas. Laurie and I had our corporate meeting and visited a homeless shelter. Then I turned around and returned home.
Two days after returning to Asheville, I saw on the news that a big storm was tracking right up Interstate 20 from Texas to Georgia. When the storm arrived it slammed Georgia, and also Asheville, North Carolina, with snow that temporarily paralyzed both states. The storm caused a lot of accidents, too. When I saw that, I realized that God had protected me from the storm by not allowing me to spend more time in Texas. Nevertheless, I was sorry not to be able to see my friends in Texas.
This year was completely different. Of course, I got the expected welcome from Laurie and Don. People from the churches in Abilene and Bastrop also responded with a welcome.
My friends, Jan and Peter, go to a church near where Mom used to live. The pastor of this church is a Messianic Jew, so already we have something in common: an interest in the Hebrew roots of our faith. Just as I was arriving in town, I got a phone call from Jan, inviting me to dinner.
Jan and Peter have an interest in missions that is likely to take them into the mission field someday. For the time being, they need to stay put because Jan shares custody of her kids with her ex-husband. Once the kids (now teens) are out on their own, she and Peter intend to begin going on mission trips, looking to discover where God is calling them.
Over dinner they listened eagerly to my stories from the mission field, asking questions, and treasuring the answers.
The next evening we went to the Shabbat service at church. Jan and Peter admitted that they don’t usually make it to Shabbat service because they are constantly on the road, driving the kids to and from games and their father’s house.
Benjamin, the pastor, welcomed me warmly. He said that he would like for me to share something from my recent trip to Israel. When the time came, I didn’t know what I was going to share, but I had prayed about it. So I opened my mouth, and God filled it.
I told the church about my six week stay, spending ten days camping in the desert at Timna Park during Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) at the beginning of my stay, and about the ten day prayer trip with Bethel at the end. I said that between these beginning and ending events, there was two weeks, but it didn’t make sense for me to fly back to Italy just to turn around and come back again. Then I had heard about a prayer conference in Cyprus, praying for the Middle East. The timing was perfectly within that open two week period. It had God’s fingerprints all over it, so I went.
Then I told Benjamin that I heard that he’s planning a trip to Israel for the church. I recommended Jeremy, who guided the Bethel prayer trip. Jeremy had taken us to places where most tours never get to see, and he paced the trip very nicely so that we didn’t feel like we were running from place to place.
The outpouring of love from Jan and Peter, and from Benjamin and the church felt so good that the disappointment of last year’s trip was completely redeemed. I am learning not to become quite so disappointed whenever my plans don’t work out. God always has something better in mind. God is good!