Friday, June 14, 2013

God is the Main Character in This Story

“Do you know what I really enjoy? It’s a story in which God is the main character. When God draws a person to Himself, changes a person’s heart, or provides exactly what a person needs at exactly the right time in a way that only God could have orchestrated – I love that stuff.” With these words, I began a letter on Monday, May 27, to a team of people who have prayed for me and supported me over the years.

Telling stories, particularly when God receives all the glory, is a passion of mine. I recently joined e3 Legacy’s team to communicate, especially through social media, stories of how God is using ordinary people and ordinary families to reach people around the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

My summer plans included two e3 Legacy expeditions: Uganda in June; Costa Rica in July. Dating back to last April, these were my fourth and fifth e3 Legacy expeditions – five expeditions within sixteen months, and in the middle of these was a sixth event that required fundraising. I concluded my letter: “God has already provided $300 to send me to Uganda, but the financial need is – well, God will need to be the main character in this story.”

Hundreds of miles away, a lady with a heart for Uganda – her children and grandchildren live there – began praying and regularly checking the fundraising progress. “Are your fundraising numbers correct that you have $300 for each trip? I am praying the Lord moves in a BIG way!”

“I am committed to going to Uganda and Costa Rica,” I wrote back. “Just keep praying. God owns the cattle on a thousand hills!” The part about cattle was a reference to Psalm 50:10, a declaration that God has abundant resources to meet our needs.

During our Uganda team’s second training meeting, which took place the previous week, we prayed specifically against discouragement – fully a third of our Uganda team members independently expressed feeling discouraged – and for God to release funds for the team. I wrote in my journal: “Lord, thanks for providing for me today. Please meet all of my needs. Help the financial needs to start being met, even from unexpected sources. I look forward to what You do.”

Three days after I sent my letter, a person accepted a request I had made a year or two earlier to be connected through social media. While we shared a common former employer and several mutual friends, we had never worked together or been formally introduced. Wanting to be polite, I said hello, and we exchanged small talk about common interests and experiences.

Later that evening, I helped prepare for a well-promoted fundraising event. On the night of the event, storms came, and I came away discouraged by the event’s turnout. I knew it was God’s responsibility to meet my needs, but I also hoped more people would demonstrably care. When my friend with the heart for Uganda wrote to say she was praying, it was futile to fight back a few tears.

My weekend plans carried me out of town, and I went to an unfamiliar church a little grumpy. When I entered the service, I avoided eye contact and slipped past a greeter, but the greeter tracked me down and shook my hand anyway. God was pursuing me in more ways than I recognized.

It took me a few songs to feel like joining in the singing, but God gradually softened my heart. During the song “Always,” by Kristian Stanfill, God drew my attention to the song’s reference to Psalm 121. The song’s refrain says: “I lift my eyes up. My help comes from the Lord.”

The pastor who spoke that weekend, a guest speaker, gave a message about being led by the Holy Spirit. “If your back’s up against the wall, and you’re not sure how you’re going to get through the next few weeks, and you’re out of options, and you need a fresh injection of faith,” the pastor said, “faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit.” The pastor’s father-in-law, a man with a heart for planting churches in East Africa, had tragically died several months earlier. Curiously, part of the message was about leaving a legacy of faith.

Encouraged, I wrote to the Uganda team later that evening, explaining how God had used the message and the song that referenced Psalm 121 to lift my focus back to God: “HE, not other people, is the faithful source of my help. HE created the heavens and the earth. HE will provide.”

During my trip back home, the person with whom I had recently first connected through social media got in touch with me. “I see that you’re off to Uganda to spread the good news. Wonderful! I am happy to contribute to God’s work,” this person wrote. “Just let me know where to send funds. God’s kingdom is the best investment. I’m sure your team and you will touch many lives for the sake of eternity.” I made a note to follow up with this person once I got back home.

Before departing on church-planting expeditions, e3 Legacy teams meet four times for training. Following each training time, teams typically participate in a day of fasting, as spiritual preparation. While I had been out of town, I missed training sessions for the Uganda and Costa Rica expeditions – they happened concurrently, and I was unable to join either of them. I contacted the leaders of each expedition to verify that we would be fasting on Monday. The leader of the Uganda expedition said “yes,” we were fasting on Monday. The leader of the Costa Rica expedition said “Tuesday.” I had committed to both expeditions. In my heart, I decided to trust the Lord through a two-day fast.

For a few years, I’ve followed a plan to read the Bible completely through each year. It includes parts of the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs each day. Very late on Monday evening, I did my daily reading. My scheduled reading for Monday included Psalm 121. Shortly after I read that, without thinking much about it, I checked my Uganda fundraising page.

My fundraising thermometer for the Uganda expedition had skyrocketed. When I investigated to see how God had provided, I discovered that God used the person with whom I’d recently connected through social media to fund the remainder of the Uganda trip. I was stunned – joyful, but stunned.

I only slept a few hours Monday night. Like a kid on Christmas morning, I could scarcely wait for Tuesday to arrive. When I awoke on Tuesday morning, my friend with the heart for Uganda had already noticed that God provided. “When the Lord moves, He moves BIG!” Her message was waiting in my inbox.

On Tuesday morning, I wrote another letter to the team of people who have prayed for me and supported me over the years. It began: “Here’s a story in which God is the main character – a testimony to God providing exactly what I needed at exactly the right time in a way that only God could have orchestrated.”

When I’d written the first letter a week earlier, little did I know that the next story I’d share would be about God providing for me.

David R. Hoskinson recently joined e3 Legacy’s team as Communications Coordinator. He plans to join e3 Legacy expeditions to Uganda and Costa Rica during June and July.

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