Each day I pray for divine appointments—for myself and for the missionaries and pastors in my ministry’s care. You never know how you’re going to be led into a divine appointment, and you never know who will be your divine appointment. Sometimes it is someone you know, sometimes it is a stranger, and sometimes the stranger becomes a friend as a result. Sometimes my divine appointments are directly related to my ministry, but often it seems that I was the person who was handy for the Lord at the time.
Yesterday’s divine appointment was a handy one. On the schedule all week we have known about a sing-along that was scheduled for yesterday afternoon. And all week I was certain that I wouldn’t go because I’m not much of one for sing-alongs. Then just half an hour before the sing-along, I had the urge to go to the common area for an afternoon cup of coffee. I saw them arranging chairs for the sing-along, and it suddenly dawned on me that it would be a Christmas sing-along. Now, do love singing Christmas Carols, so I decided to attend after all.
When it was over, I began to walk back toward the elevator to go to our apartment. Joanne was also walking toward the elevator. I don’t know Joanne very well because we don’t have much in common, besides living on the same floor. What I do know about her is that she is a lousy bowler who curses loudly at every bad roll. She drinks a lot, showing up sometimes for dinner drunk. Her boyfriend, Phil, often spends the night in her apartment. But I also know this about her, yesterday and also last Sunday, Joanne and Phil attended Sunday services at the residents’ chapel.
After the sing-along I could see that Joanne had been crying, and I knew that about a month ago she had lost her identical twin to cancer. She had seemed to be handling it pretty well. Then last week she suddenly shut herself up in her room and nobody but Phil had seen her. Empty wine bottles began piling up in the recycling bin, and I knew that she was having a very hard time. Phil told me that her niece had sent her 150 pictures from the funeral on Monday. Nobody but he had seen her since. So I walked with her to the elevator, just making myself available for her to talk to.
People say unbelievably stupid things at funerals. Things that they don’t even realize are cruel. At her twin’s funeral last month her uncle said, “Today you buried half of yourself.” I guess he thought he was being insightful, but the remark stung badly. She wept as she told me and I could smell alcohol on her breath. I don’t know how much she had been drinking, but her voice got louder and louder as she cried out in anguish: “This is so hard! I don’t know how to do this!” I said, “Joanne, you’ve got to turn that around: now you’ve got to live for her.” And I added, “and you will stop self-medicating.” Her bloodshot eyes locked onto mine for a long moment. And I prayed for her right there in the hall. When we arrived at our floor, I pointed out our door and said, “If you need me, I’m right down the hall.”
I don’t know how Joanne’s story will end, but I do know this: Joanne seems to be reaching out to God, and God in response sent me. God is good!