Updated: Sep 26, 2018
God Moments. Moments we feel God’s provision on us, His hand guiding our path, being our protection, our provision. Some might call these moments grand coincidences but what is a coincidence besides God working and choosing to remain anonymous to all those except those who choose to see? We choose to see His hand.
We've shared these “God moments” with some of you in conversation and were encouraged to write them down so we wouldn't forget the moments God has been there for us as we meet challenges in our upcoming mission.
Let me start with one caveat: there is nothing that sets us apart by our actions or our intent from anyone else. We are just as needing of God's love and grace as everyone else but we do feel God's hand on us with a special provision in part by all of those that are praying for our mission. Again nothing we do makes us worthy of the blessings God provides. We simply accept it and are gracious.
Blake loved to tell the story when he was younger; the story of how he saved my life when he was 4. I was in my first semester at ACU on a quiet Friday night. Being a single father at that time, most Friday nights were quiet with alternating sounds of computer games and Star Wars that Blake was watching for the hundredth time. In this tranquility something caused Blake to run upstairs to ask me a question. He asked, I stared. He couldn’t seem to get my attention.
He knew I was diabetic and that had something to do with sugar being a lifeline. The first thing that came to mind to a young 4 year old Blake was to try to get me to eat some candy. He tried to give me a sucker. It promptly fell out and stuck to my shirt. I was not conscious enough to know I needed it. I was not conscious enough to consume it.
The next step was to try and call 911. He knew that number. We had drilled it. He picked up the phone but only heard static as the line was being used for dial up internet. He tried again. No luck.
The next logical step to any 4 year old: when all else fails - find someone who can help. He ran to the neighbor’s house but they were not home. House after house was empty but eventually he found someone who was home and could help. They promptly called 911.
When the ambulance arrived I was in what could best be described as a vegetative state. My eyes were open but no one was home. The paramedics understood I was a diabetic and got to work quickly. They took my blood sugar to understand the depth of the problem. Zero. It was too low to register. As a reference point 70 is low for a diabetic, 40-70 often causes seizures, below 40 often means comatose. At zero the body literally has no fuel to power the brain or heart. I was a car running on fumes at best. Quickly, I was given one bag and then another of glucose infused saline. Another check, again it registered zero. Over the next 5 minutes I slowly awoke in what seemed like a still dream-like state. The first time my blood sugar registered it was 12 and I was conscious; not a good sign as it meant my body had become accustomed to functioning in a low-sugar state providing very little buffer for a fatal event.
Even today, that memory to me is still somewhat dreamlike but the lesson comes not from the memory of the event itself but from the lifeline. I didn’t deserve to be saved but I was. Jesus didn’t deserve to die for me but He did. He did for me and for everyone else already knowing all their mistakes. He wants, He desires for us a life fulfilled with love. I am here for a reason. That reason is not to be lukewarm.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
We didn't recount until recently our very first conversation in 2003 was on a Wednesday night small group at a Aggies for Christ function at A&M Church of Christ. I am naturally an introvert, so beyond the attraction to Ashley what got us talking was her then recent visit to Thailand in which she spent 6 weeks working with a church in Bangkok. Thailand provided our first conversation starter and continues to chart our path.
We traveled to Greece over the summer with a missionary team in training. During that time, I was pickpocketed while on the subway. Because of my odd need to feel financially secure, I was carrying all of our cash for the journey. Dumb mistake. On June 26th, they got it all. We told ourselves it would be okay and it was. We told our kids not to worry we had credit cards and would be just fine. In the grand scheme of life it was nothing but I still felt stupid. I even bargained with God that if there was some way I could get it back I'd give half of it to the mission in Greece. Funny how we sometimes think God should align to our plans isn’t it?
Upon arriving home there was the normal assortment of mail built up from 2 weeks. Included in the bundle was a package from the Veterans Administration. The VA has been my primary caregiver since my disability was assigned and for which I was discharged 19 years ago. In bureaucratic lingo the letter detailed an increase to my disability which has been static for the past 19 years. I was shocked as I was not expecting it. I hoped for it but never really expected it. Flipping through the document I scanned back to the front. There was the stamp “Effective June 26th, 2018,” the same day I was pickpocketed. Before I even thought to bargain for a return of the stolen money, God was there, is there and will be there. I need to remember that.
In the airport traveling back from Greece we met a couple who had been bumped from their Air France flight. (Insert French joke here) We started a conversation about our reasons for being in Greece: to minister to the many refugees. The couple responded they were there for the same reason. We said we were going to be missionaries. They already were. We said we're moving to Thailand. They were moving there too in September. We said we actually weren't moving to Bangkok where most live but to the north in Chiang Mai. They said us too and we plan to attend the Safari Church. We were astounded because that's the exact same church we were planning to attend upon arriving in late December. Despite where you are - even perhaps at an American Airlines counter in Greece - God is there.
Ashley attended the Asian Mission Forum in late July 2018. Sitting next to her on the flight was the father of a family from San Antonio. Ashley being an extrovert struck up a conversation. Turns out the family was on the final destination flight as new missionaries. His wife is teaching at Grace International, the school the girls will be attending. Their destination of Chiang Mai Thailand is to serve as missionaries in a disciple-making capacity. God is good and he doesn’t mind sending subtle reminders if you pay attention.
Ashley at the Asian Missions Forum in Bangkok
In late August, our kids went to a movie with someone while we were waited for them at Texas Roadhouse. Ashley, again being the extrovert, struck up a conversation. Notice a theme here? The couple had roots in Nigeria. After 10 minutes talking they were interested in joining our mission. As we left they handed us some cash and promised to pray for us. God is good.
Ryan works as a “math nerd” at corporate headquarters for Jamba Juice and has since 2016. In early August, it was announced Jamba was purchased by a private equity firm which added some level of unease as up to that point we were planning for a smooth transition of responsibilities to others at Jamba. Also, we recently purchased four one-way non-refundable tickets to Thailand departing on December 27th. We were unsure how this would playout. In mid-September we learned Ryan’s last day would be November 30th. Because of the transition all employees are granted a small severance and bonus. I now have time to focus on the transition during December while continuing to be paid. God is showing up in more ways than we ever imagine and we feel extraordinarily blessed.
Going to the movies is our thing. It’s what we do for fun. So no surprise when we were at the movies in early September with the kids for a small night out. Ashley is in line and strikes up a conversation with a couple who is very interested in our work and wanting to hear more. Business cards are exchanged, plans are made and both families meet at a restaurant a few weeks later. It is humbling because along with the desire to support the ministry is a candid conversation around prayer requests. We are humbled to be so honored.
Coffee is Ashley’s thing. She likes coffee like dolphins like water. Dolphins REALLY like water. It’s a natural state of being. So in her natural state she is sharing our vision in a coffee shop and is over heard by a minister of a nearby church. He asks if we would be interested in coming to an hour of prayer devoted to lifting up human trafficking. We are able to attend and glad we did. We were prayed over and glad to make connections of those in Dallas fighting the same issues. God continues to affirm.
We have been communicating with the HUG project back and forth for over a year. They are a great organization fighting trafficking through prevention, rescue and restoration. We are excited to join but initially had numerous questions about some of the logistics of the transition. They told us not to worry. They would handle 100% of the process to get our work Visas in Thailand including all the hours of bureaucratic paperwork. This is such a weight lifted as getting long-term work Visas (even for someone in a volunteer capacity) is increasingly difficult.
After our return from Greece, we had a letter from one of our contacts at Hug. She stated a family in Chiang Mai would be on furlough to Australia from December 2018 to April 2019. She asked if there was interest in occupying the family's home and using the family’s car during the time they were away? As a little background the family has two young girls with bunk beds and a cute house in a wonderful community that would provide us a “soft landing” upon arriving in Chiang Mai. We said yes again feeling very blessed.
Wherever we go in whatever we do; we are not alone.
Psalms 139 7-12:
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.