MY JOURNEY OF FAITH
The following is an extension of my post from October 3, 2016. At this moment, I feel overwhelmed with gratitude that the God of the universe, He Whom “the heaven of heavens cannot contain” knows me. When Solomon dedicated the temple, he too seemed overwhelmed: “But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built!” (II Chronicles 6:18).
I couldn’t possibly record everything God has done for me. Plus, some of the most precious things are too personal to post publicly. Still, I want the world to know that God is real. We can trust Him.
Saved at twelve in 1974
I grew up believing in God. I cannot remember a time that I didn’t believe. In fact, I vividly remember the first time someone told me he didn’t believe in God. I was shocked. How could anyone live in such a complex, beautiful and orderly world and think that it was all, in fact, random? How could order result from randomness? I also grew up believing in Jesus, mainly because that is what I was taught. When we moved to Italy in 1972 and had no church to attend, I actually held services myself for my own family. Still, when we moved back to the States, I realized that what I had was a “head knowledge” of Christ and not a “heart knowledge,” as my Sunday school explained. So in the fall of 1974, at the age of twelve, I received Christ as my personal Savior.
Immediately upon salvation, I became burdened for my brother. My mother had signed up my sisters and me to ride a bus to church when a lady from that church visited us and offered to pick us up. Anyway, Mom had asked Jeff if he wanted to go. He didn’t. (I guess she felt that he could make up his own mind since he was fifteen.) Once I was saved, I desperately wanted my brother to get saved. I prayed about that all the time.
We moved to Andrews AFB, Maryland, when base housing became available a few months after I was saved. I was still praying for Jeff. It wasn’t long before some teenage girls from a church in District Heights visited and invited us to church. Jeff decided he wanted to go this time—pretty girls! Of course, I didn’t care what his motivation was since he was finally going to church. Not long afterwards, he got saved. He was the first person I had prayed for to make a profession of faith. It wasn’t long before he and I were both heavily involved in the ministry of that church. We joined the youth choir (which practiced and sang every Sunday night) and got involved in the bus ministry.
Camp Wabanna—Edgewater, Maryland—1975
In the summer of 1975, when I was thirteen, I attended camp for the first time. Something happened during one of the evening services that made a big impact on my life. Prior to camp, I had a strong sense of Christ’s presence in my life, but I had never seen any obvious demonstration of His power. That all changed at camp. Throughout the week, we had services in the mornings and evenings, with recreational time in the afternoons. I loved getting ice cream at the canteen and boating on Chesapeake Bay, but mostly, I loved singing around the campfire after the evening services. The Spirit of the Lord was in that place.
The final evening service was incredible. I can’t remember the subject of the message, but I remember vividly the impact it was having on the teenagers. Everyone was hanging onto every word the preacher was saying. We really sensed the presence of the Lord. Then, without warning, the wind started howling. It blew open the windows near the speaker and knocked over the flags that were standing on the platform. Suddenly, all was chaos. Kids started crying. We didn’t know what was happening, but we were scared. The preacher pounded his fist on the podium and called for calm. He told us to focus on the message and not let Satan have the victory. So we did. Everyone settled down and focused on the speaker. Then, as suddenly as it began, the wind stopped. There is no way I can properly communicate the power of that moment. I witnessed it, along with nearly two hundred other teenagers. Several were saved that night. The moment the invitation began, the pews were emptied. God is not dead.
Lynette’s Death and Willy’s Salvation
I was in an automobile accident on October 3, 1977, and was out of school until the middle of January. When I was finally able to return, I was still on crutches, so I rode the van for handicapped students. That’s when I met Willy, a crippled boy who used a walker. I had seen him many times but had never actually met him. I got to know him pretty well during the weeks that I rode the van. Most students were not allowed to go upstairs until the bell rang five minutes before the start of school. Handicapped students, however, got to go up early, so Willy and I got to talk about fifteen minutes each morning before the other students came upstairs.
I witnessed to Willy a lot during those weeks, but he never trusted Christ. Once I stopped riding the van and lost the “privilege” of going upstairs early, I pretty much stopped talking to Willy, except to say hello in the hallway between classes. Still, I kept praying for him.
A couple months later, a friend at school died suddenly. It was devastating, partly because she was my friend and partly because I had never witnessed to her and didn’t know if she knew the Lord. (I found out later that she was a Christian.) I remember my first day back at school after Lynette’s death. For some reason, Willy had not gone upstairs early. He was just standing in the hallway by himself when I got to school. I went right to him and told him about Lynette. Within minutes, he was bowing his head and praying right in the middle of the hallway, trusting Christ as his Savior. Afterwards, he told me that he had been wondering what was keeping him from going upstairs that morning. He smiled and said, “Now I know!”
When it came time to decide on a college, I assumed that I would be going to Hyles-Anderson in Hammond, Indiana. The application for Hyles included some questions, including whether or not I had sought counsel from my pastor regarding my college choice. I called Bro. Pittman at Salem, fully expecting him to support my decision. To my surprise, he asked if I had prayed about going to Tennessee Temple. That night, I did pray about it. I asked the Lord to make it clear where He wanted me to go. The next day, I got a call from the head of the speech department at Tennessee Temple University. He had been looking at the questionnaire portion of my ACT and noticed that I had shown an interest in debate. He happened to be in charge of the debate team. We talked for nearly half an hour. I didn’t take it as total confirmation, but as I asked the Lord to make it clear, He really did!
Being one of five children, I couldn’t expect my parents to pay for my college education. Plus, they simply didn’t have the money. I was convinced, however, that God could make a way for me to go to a Christian college if it was His will, so I began praying that He would provide the money to pay my way. (I didn’t know any rich people other than God.) Just before graduating from high school, I got word from Tennessee Temple that I had been accepted for work scholarship. Just after I graduated, I received a scholarship for graduating in the top of my class. That paid for my tuition my first year. Work scholarship paid for room and board. After my first year, my work scholarship was increased to pay my entire bill. Within four years, I had my BA and my MA and was debt free. God made a way!
Putting God to the test
Throughout my years in college, I was confident that I would get a teaching position as soon as I graduated. Even when complications arose (such as the need to be in Chattanooga during the month of September for my graduate recital) I was confident that the Lord would work it out. (I assumed that I would get a job in a school in Chattanooga.)
As graduation drew near, however, and people expressed surprise that I wasn’t concerned about getting a position, it hit me that I was assuming God would open doors and supply the need. The thought struck me: what if He wasn’t hearing me? I thought of the verse, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” I remember sitting in a Wednesday night church service when that thought hit me. Suddenly, I was terrified. What if there was something in my life that was keeping the Lord from answering my prayers? I thought about the many people I had led to the Lord as a teenager. In college, I had seen few saved—none in the past year. Sitting in that pew, I could hardly wait for the invitation. All I wanted was to get to the altar. When I finally did, I poured my heart out to the Lord and asked for confirmation that He was indeed listening. I reminded Him of the “dry spell” I was experiencing and asked Him to lead me the next day to someone who was ready to be saved, to let me lead someone to Him.
The next night was Student Body Visitation. I was a nervous wreck during the entire bus ride out to the neighborhood where we were going to visit. I prayed the whole time (and cried a little, too, I think!) begging God to let me see someone saved that night. I knew that it was considered unwise to “put out the fleece” like that, but I was so distressed, I felt I had no choice. Part of me wished I hadn’t prayed that way. What if no one gets saved? Would that mean God isn’t listening to me? Or would it simply mean that I shouldn’t test God that way? I was a mess!
When the bus finally dropped us off, I calmed down and joined the guy and the other girl in my group. The “plan” was for the guy to talk if a man answered and for the two girls to take turns talking when a woman answered. At our fifth house, a distraught woman came to the door. She had obviously been crying. It was my turn to talk. I can’t remember the specific circumstances, but I do remember that she had been thinking about death and was terrified. She didn’t need any persuading, she just needed some guidance. She was ready to be saved. I had a double blessing that night. I had the privilege of leading a woman to Christ and seeing her transform before my eyes. (Her tears truly did become tears of joy.) I also felt God wrap His arms of reassurance around me in a way I had never before experienced. It was amazing. I still didn’t know what He had for me after graduation, but I wasn’t worried. I KNEW He had a plan, and I knew it would be good!
The Career of God’s Choosing (and the flight that got me there!)
Of course, that whole experience didn’t tell me where I would be going after college. It just reassured me that I didn’t have to worry about it. At that point I was determined to get a position locally (because of my recital). When word got to me of an opening at a particular Christian school in Chattanooga, I assumed that was where I was meant to be! I met with the pastor and principal, who indicated that the job was mine if I wanted it. We all agreed to give it a week to pray about it. Part of me wanted to say, “I don’t need to pray about it. I know this is an answer to prayer!” Still, something told me to wait. The next day, I mentioned the situation to a class I was teaching for Dr. Ittermann, (the head of the education department, who was out of town—I was a graduate assistant). Two students approached me after class to let me know they were very familiar with that school and felt they needed to caution me about it. Their concerns seemed legitimate, so I thanked them for warning me. Still, I really didn’t want to turn down the position because it seemed highly unlikely that I would get a position somewhere else that would allow me to miss three weeks in September. Plus, it was nearly August! Still… I couldn’t help but wonder if the Lord put me in the path of those other graduate students for a reason. (I didn’t really know them. I just “happened” to be covering their class that day, and they just “happened” to know all about that school.) Finally—reluctantly—I asked the Lord to open other doors before I had to shut that one if He wanted me elsewhere. Sure enough, I received two offers that very day. I rejected them because it didn’t look like I would be able to teach at either place and get time off for my recital in September. Then, Tuesday morning, the very day I was supposed to sign the contract at the school in Chattanooga, I got a call from Tri-City needing a speech and drama teacher. Nothing was determined—there was still the problem of my recital in September—but a door had opened. I was convinced that the Lord was trying to tell me something. I had no choice but to listen. That afternoon, I turned down the position in Chattanooga and turned to the Lord.
One week later, I was on a flight to Tri-City in Kansas City, Missouri. I remember feeling nervous when I first got on the plane. Then I saw Dr. Lee Roberson, the chancellor of Tennessee Temple University, get on the plane. I found myself instantly relaxing. I was confident that the Lord wouldn’t let him crash! I prayed for a chance to talk to him and pray with him, but since he was in business class, he got off the plane in Atlanta before I did and was out of sight by the time I got off the plane. I was disappointed, but I assumed the Lord had a good reason for denying my request, and I headed to my connecting flight, which was on the other side of the airport. Minutes after sitting down, I looked up to see Dr. Roberson take the seat facing me! It was so cool! I popped over to him and had one of the neatest conversations of my life. He was the pastor of the largest church in Tennessee, the chancellor of the university, and he was talking to me! He knew all about the school in Kansas City where I was going. He let me know that the church there was currently without a pastor. He gave me some advice and prayed with me. It was such a blessing, partly because it was an answer delayed. If I had been able to catch him when the plane first landed in Atlanta, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. There was something about thinking that the answer was denied and then seeing him sit down four feet away from me in one of the largest airports in the world that made me feel God Himself smiling down on me. He is not dead.
I did end up going to Tri-City. It turned out that they had another speech teacher who was able to fill in for me during the weeks in September that I had to be in Chattanooga. (She had quit teaching when she started having children, but her kids were all at least in pre-school by that year.)
Gina—my baby sister
There are two incidents that stick out in my mind regarding Gina, one from my college days and one from my years at Tri-City, so I’m including them both between TTU and Tri-City.
One year on Christmas day, I was sitting at the kitchen table (in Decatur) when my sister Tammy motioned at me to follow her to the furnace room. There was Gina on the floor, head buried in her arms.
“Gina, what’s wrong?” I was concerned.
She tried to explain between sobs: “I was taking off my sweater, and my necklace got caught, and a zirconium fell out, and it’s gone!”
I could see why Gina was so upset. She had just received the necklace on Christmas Eve, and Dad had already warned her about losing it. Besides, the zirconium was tiny. It could have landed anywhere in that cluttered room, and just blend in with the dust.
“Don’t cry, Gina,” I insisted. “You know what we need to do.” She knew. The three of us stood there and prayed. Two minutes later, her zirconium was in my hand. Gina hugged me, and we thanked the Lord together.
An hour later I walked into my parents’ bedroom to discover Gina curled up on the bed, reading her Bible. She just smiled. I love to see God answer prayer. It does wonders for our faith.
One summer, a few years later, I brought Gina to Kansas City to spend some time with me. We had a great time together. One night, however, after Gina had gone to bed, I was in the bathroom getting ready myself when I suddenly felt the need to talk to Gina. I felt the Lord was leading me, but I didn’t know why. Finally, not knowing what I was going to say, I determined to strike up a conversation. When I entered my bedroom, however, I found to my surprise (and relief) that Gina was already in bed and, apparently, asleep. I crawled in beside her.
Talk to her. It wasn’t an audible voice, obviously, but it was distinct.
Are you kidding? She’s asleep, and I don’t have anything to say! I was getting frustrated. Still, I couldn’t rest. Finally, I whispered, “Gina?”
There was a pause. Then, “Yes?”
“Are you tired?” I started to ask if she was asleep, but that seemed like a silly question.
“No,” she answered, still turned away from me.
There was another pause. I didn’t know what to do. Finally, she said quietly, “Why did you ask?”
“I don’t know!” I blurted out. “I feel like the Lord’s been saying, ‘Talk to her! Talk to her!’ but I have no idea what to say. I don’t know why I can’t get this off my mind, but I can’t!”
Gina threw her arms around me and burst out crying. “For the past two hours,” she sobbed, “I’ve been begging God to make you talk to me. I don’t know why I couldn’t just come to you. I’ve always been able to before, but for some reason, I couldn’t!”
We grabbed our Bibles, went to the living room, and talked until four a.m. I will never forget that summer I shared with my baby sister, who, I learned, was no longer a baby.
Blessings at Tri-City
The Lord was very precious to me during my single years teaching at Tri-City. He answered many prayers, some of which are too personal to “display” for anyone to see. Here are a few I can share:
Keys—One day I lost my keys. I didn’t have to replace them immediately because I had spare car keys and a roommate who could let me into the house. Still, there were lots of keys on the key ring, so I really needed to find it. The singles had an afterglow at my house after church one night, and they prayed as a group that the Lord would lead me to my keys. The next day after school, when I still hadn’t found them, I started to make a list of keys that needed to be replaced. Somehow, though, I didn’t feel right about it. I felt like I was throwing in the towel when God wanted to do something special. The feeling was so strong, I finally talked to the Lord about it. I can remember my prayer almost word for word: “Lord, so many people have prayed that I would find my keys, I really believe that You would be glorified more by my finding them than by my replacing them… but I need my keys. If You don’t want me getting replacements, please lead me to my keys RIGHT NOW!” INSTANTLY, I found myself standing up and walking out the door, down the walkway, and around the yard to the car. I had taken that walk many times since the keys disappeared, to no avail; but, somehow, I knew I was about to find my keys. It was like someone else was moving me; I was just going along for the ride. I came to a stop on the passenger side of the car and looked down. There, under about five inches of snow, I got a glimpse of something red. Right away I knew what it was—the plastic cover on one of my keys. I reach down into the snow and pulled out my keys. Again, I was reminded that answers delayed are sometimes better than immediate answers.
Math papers—One day I lost the teacher’s edition of some math papers. I hated to admit that I had lost them, but I really needed to find them! During the faculty prayer meeting one morning I requested prayer that I find the papers before my class. After a brief meeting and a few announcements, we broke up into small groups to pray. I was praying with some women, but I overheard one of the men pray specifically for me, that the Lord would put on my mind where the papers were. INSTANTLY, I got a picture in my mind of a spot in the yearbook room. As soon as my group finished praying, I raced up the stairs to the yearbook room to check that spot. Sure enough, there, underneath a yearbook layout, were my papers. It was so cool.
Student late for dinner theatre—One day, the singles’ director asked if I could put on a performance with some students for a dinner theatre. I had a drama class at the time, so it was no big deal to honor his request. The night of the show, however, my students approached me in a panic because one of the performers was missing, and it was nearly time for the show to begin. I went to the phone with several anxious students. We called everyone we could think of. No luck. Finally, it hit me. I turned to the kids: “You know what we need to do.” They knew. We held hands and prayed. “Lord, we know it’s wrong to panic, but the play is supposed to start in five minutes, and Phil isn’t here! Please help us to trust You to get him here right now.” As soon as we opened our eyes, we saw through the glass door a set of headlights. “Thanks, Lord!” I yelled as we all ran out to meet the car. For two days, the kids talked about that timely answer to prayer.
Rachelle’s Coat—One morning one of my students walked into class in a panic. She couldn’t find her coat (which was new and expensive). “I’ve looked everywhere,” she said, “and it’s NOWHERE!”
I smiled. “Rest assured, Rachelle,” I said, “it’s somewhere!” During prayer that morning, I told the Lord that Rachelle needed her coat and asked Him to lead her to it. When the period ended, I went to my second hour class. Just before it began, Rachelle appeared at the door, triumphantly holding up her coat. I smiled. “It’s neat, isn’t it?”
She smiled back. “It’s neat,” she agreed.
The Fly—One night, as I was trying to prepare dinner, I found myself getting really irritated with a fly that wouldn’t get away from my face. It was driving me crazy! Finally, I cried out, “Lord, make that fly stop bugging me!” INSTANTLY, it dropped dead. I smiled and thanked the Lord while brushing it off the counter into the garbage!
God-powered Automobile—When I was single, I hated getting gas for my car, so I had a tendency to let the tank get very low before getting a refill. One evening, against my better judgment, I passed a gas station even though I knew I was about out of gas. Sure enough, less than half a mile past the gas station, I ran out of gas. I knew it was my own fault, but I begged the Lord for mercy! I told Him that if He would “power” my car and get it back to the gas station, I would never be so foolish again! (At least, I would try not to!) Mercifully, He answered my prayer, powering my car and getting me to the gas station where I was able to buy some gas!
Other Car-related Blessings—Being single for so many years, I had many opportunities to call on God for help! I felt God’s hand of protection on numerous occasions, such as the following:
- One night, while low on gas, I was trying to get home since I didn’t have any money with me to buy gas. My plan was to go straight home then go out first thing in the morning (when I had money) to get gas before church. Unfortunately, a truck full of guys decided to harass me, causing me to miss my turn. Before I knew it, I was on a dark, one-way highway with no good place to turn around. I pulled into a gas station where I sat in my car, trembling for several minutes before finally praying for help. I opened my wallet to look for a phone number, my intention being to call someone from the gas station. Instead, I discovered a $20 bill. I have NO IDEA how it got there, but I was very grateful!
- One time, as I was driving to UMKC for an evening class, I became aware of a serious problem with my car as I heard a constant banging sound, apparently coming from under the hood. I had no idea what it was, but I knew I had to get off the highway. I got off at the next exit and pulled into the nearest parking lot, which happened to belong to a fast food restaurant. I got out of my car and looked down to discover that the front tire on the driver’s side (a steel-belted radial) had blown. While amazed and thankful that it did not cause me to crash, I still needed to replace it, and I had never changed a tire in my life, so I prayed. Within SECONDS, a car pulled up next to me. When the driver got out, he said, “Miss Welch!” It was one of my students! Within minutes, he had replaced my blown tire with the spare.
- There were MANY times that God protected me in car-related situations. For example, my car was old and broke down on occasion, but always in very convenient places, like our church parking lot, where willing help was always available. One time I was in a bind because my car was giving me fits and I was supposed to leave the next day to go to Decatur. I called Mr. Yetter, the “car expert” in my church, who said he would come over after dinner. (He was about to go out to eat with his family.) I went to Western Auto to buy something Mr. Yetter needed to install in my car. The problem was, when I got back out to the parking lot, my car wouldn’t start! A salesman looked at the car and said it would be hours before they could get to it. Since that was before the days of cell phones, I had no way of calling Mr. Yetter to let him know why I wouldn’t be at home. Resting my head on the steering wheel of my car, I prayed for help. When I lifted my head, I noticed a Denny’s sign a few blocks away. Suddenly, I remembered Mr. Yetter saying that they were going to eat at Denny’s. (At least, I thought I remembered him saying that!) I jumped out of my car and ran down the street, praying all the while, “Lord, please let that be the right restaurant, and please let them still be there!” Sure enough, I entered the restaurant just as the family was ordering dessert! They invited me to join them. Then all of us headed over to the parking lot of Western Auto where Mr. Yetter fixed my car. (I realize that it could have been pure coincidence that of the hundreds of restaurants in the Kansas City area, the Yetters decided to eat at one within eyesight of the spot where I was stranded. Somehow, though, I don’t think it was a coincidence, especially considering all the other factors that would also have to be coincidences.)
- One time, while driving home to Independence, Missouri, after Christmas vacation in Decatur, Illinois, I was followed from the Noland Road exit off I-70 all the way to my house (several miles, including many turns). When I stopped, the guy pulled up right next to me and just stared at me through the window. I was terrified. When it became apparent to him that I wasn’t going to get out of my car, he positioned his car in front of me to block my exit. At that moment, I did something I had never tried before: I drove fast, in reverse! I made it to a gas station where the attendant called the police. A police officer came and escorted me home. He even walked up to the door with me, only to discover that Patty, the girl I shared the house with, had locked the screen door. He asked which room was hers. When I told him, he flashed his light into her bedroom window to wake her up. It worked. Pretty soon she was at the door, apologizing profusely for locking me out. The officer told me it was good that I didn’t try to “make a run for it” and try to get into the house when that guy was around. NOTE: I debated whether or not to include this incident since it didn’t include any obvious supernatural assistance. Still, I feel it would be wrong to not include it because I really felt God’s protection that night as I was in constant prayer during the whole ordeal. It could have ended very differently.
Knowing When to Say Good-bye (to my car)—I still had about $700 left in my savings account when I graduated from TTU with my master’s degree in August of 1983. (I think it was actually in my parents’ account, but it was my money.) My dad offered me a choice: take the $700 or the car. The car was a 1977 red Chevy Impala, old but reliable, and he had just put four new tires on it. I chose the car! I preferred to pay for repairs as they were needed than make monthly payments on a new car. As the years passed, my mother expressed concern about my continuing to drive long distances in such an old car, considering I was a single woman. I understood her concern, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy another car as long as my Impala was continuing to operate. Still, when it passed the ten-year mark, I knew that I should get something newer, considering all the long-distance driving I was doing. I started praying that the Lord would make it clear when He wanted me to replace my car.
One snowy night during the winter of 1987-88, I was driving to Tri-City’s daycare to pick up my brother’s wife Kim and their boys to give them a ride home since Jeff was working late. (Kim worked at the daycare at that time.) While driving on a residential road, my car hit ice. Looking down the hill, I could see that I was about to slide onto a busy street where I would likely crash into another car. I honestly felt no fear as I made the split-second decision to “crash” the car where I was at the top of the hill. As I crashed into a pile of snow, I felt God saying, “It’s time to get another car.” My feeling was STRONG that He was saying that, but then as I pulled out of snow, the car was fine. I was genuinely confused and decided it must have been my imagination.
Three minutes later, when I picked up the boys, the first words out of Jonathan’s mouth were, “We have a new car! It’s white.”
I knew that something had happened. My brother wouldn’t just go out and buy another car. Money was tight. As it turned out, he had wrecked his car. The white one was a rental. Instantly, I understood why God had told me up on that hill that it was time to replace my car—not because I was about to wreck it, but because He wanted me to give it to Jeff!
The way God worked in that situation was really neat. I had been praying for months for a clear sign that it was time to replace my car. One day (unbeknownst to me) my brother’s family found themselves in need of a car and started praying. That same night, before finding out about my brother’s need, I felt God telling me that it was time to replace my car. My sense that God was speaking was as strong as if He had spoken audibly.
I didn’t say anything to Kim and the boys about it as I drove them home. The next morning, however, I called a man in our church who was a car dealer. I wanted a used Chevy, which he did not sell; however, he did have one that someone had just given as a trade in. I asked him how much he wanted. When he answered, “$3,500” I said, “I’ll take it!”
“Don’t you want to see it first?” he asked.
“I guess,” I answered, “but I’ll take it!”
When I pulled into the dealership, I saw the little Chevy Citation sitting out front. The car dealer saw me through the window and pointed at the car. I mouthed to him, “I’ll take it!” He laughed and came outside. “Don’t you want to test drive it?” he asked. “Sure,” I answered. “I’ll drive it to my brother’s house to show his family, but I’ll take it!”
When I pulled into Jeff and Kim’s driveway, Kim looked out the window. Her first thought was that I had also had an accident. When I explained that God had told me it was time to get another car, she asked where my other one was. When I answered, “You can have it,” she threw her arms around me and cried. God is good.
A week or so later, when Kim and I were discussing all that had transpired regarding the cars, she said, “When I tell people about this answer to prayer, they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s nice Sherry could help you out.’ They totally misunderstood!” I agreed. These are the kind of things that are not a big deal in the eyes of the world (or anyone who is not involved in the situation), but they are gentle reminders that God is personally invested in our lives and can be trusted. When bigger trials come, we remember these things and are able to rely on Him in the direst of circumstances.
Praying for a Healthy Child
Note: This is not about me, but it was such a blessing to me, I have to include it!
Steve was in my eighth grade speech class when I began teaching at Tri-City. He was not the best student, but he never missed a day of school—ever! At graduation, he received special recognition. The local news even covered the “remarkable achievement.” What the news did not mention were the circumstances—and the prayer—that preceded his achievement.
Betty (Steve’s mom) grew up with diabetes and was told she could never have children. Naturally, when she got pregnant with her first child, she was ecstatic, but also a little nervous, since hers was a “high risk” pregnancy. Amy was born seemingly healthy, but tests later revealed a hole in her heart. She died a few months later on Labor Day.
Even in the midst of their suffering, Ike and Betty sensed the presence of the Lord in their lives. They felt the peace that passes understanding, and they knew that their Amy was with the Lord. Five months later, Betty was pregnant again. As soon as they heard the news, the young couple knelt before God with one request: “Lord, give us a healthy child.” There was no bitterness, no anger, just a fervent desire for something only the Lord could provide. Throughout her pregnancy, Betty joined her husband in prayer for a healthy child. On October 2, 1970, Steve was born. He was so robust, he never missed a day of school!
Miracles in Mexico
Note: I am posting this in conjunction with an October 3, 2016, post on my home page, in which I discuss a particular answer to prayer. It’s pretty cool, but you can read it there! The following story is from a trip we took to Mexico the following year.
During the summer of 1988, a group from my church went to Mexico to put a roof on the Bible institute we helped start the previous year. Every day for a week, the men and boys worked on the roof while the women and girls cooked, served, passed out tracts, etc. Everything about that week was predictable, right down to the weather. Every day around 3:00, we could see the clouds rolling in. Within fifteen minutes, it was pouring down rain—every day. That was never a problem until the last day, when they needed to pour the concrete. Quite simply, they couldn’t do it in the rain. Plus, the weather needed to stay dry for a certain period of time afterwards. (I can’t remember how long.) Anyway, around 3:00, as usual, we saw the clouds heading our way. Pastor Herbster gathered all the women and girls and asked us to pray that God would hold back the rain until the job was done. So we did.
A few hours later, as one of the teenage girls was waking up from a nap, another girl asked her, “Have you noticed the clouds?” Both girls looked out the window. Sure enough, several hours had passed, but those clouds had not moved. Finally, when the men gave the “all clear,” the clouds rolled in and the downpour began. You can call that a coincidence, but everyone who witnessed it knew it was the hand of God.
Before I relate my stories from Germany, I have to mention one other thing that happened at Tri-City (and another story it reminded me of!) Note: This was not something I prayed about, but I believe someone else had done some praying!
Once I showed up for visitation breakfast an hour early. Evidently, when I turned off my alarm that morning, I hit a button that set my clock an hour ahead. That sounds like a mistake, doesn’t it? When I arrived, however, I discovered a very frantic Elaine, who was in charge of preparation. For some reason, none of her helpers had shown up. I went to work immediately. Someone commented later that it was a good thing I arrived early by mistake. That was no mistake, I thought. The Lord knew what He was doing. We need to understand that, though our hearts devise our ways, the Lord directs our steps (Proverbs 16:9). He is much more conscious of us than we are of Him.
This next story has nothing to do with me, but it happened about the same time, and it made national news, so I have to share it!
One evening a small country church blew up—literally. If I remember correctly, it had something to do with the furnace. All who saw it blow up were horrified because they assumed the choir was inside at the time. It happened during choir practice. Strangely, however, every single member of the choir, including the director and the pianist, was late for practice—all for different reasons. Several had arrived but had not yet gone inside when the building blew. (A few years later, a television show called Unsolved Mysteries did a reenactment, focusing on all the different circumstances that resulted in everyone being nearly a half hour late for practice. Evidently, that was incredibly unusual because the choir director was a stickler about being on time.)
When Matt Williams first spoke to me in the fall of 1988 about going to Germany as a missionary school teacher (to help our missionaries, Eddie and Grace Buford), my first thought was, of course not! As our conversation continued, however, I couldn’t help but feel that God was in it. I asked Bro. Matt if I could pray about it for a week before giving an answer. He agreed. That afternoon, I asked the Lord to show me His will through my dad. I knew my dad was not comfortable with other places I had considered (like Italy and Mexico) and I didn’t feel comfortable making him uncomfortable! Besides I knew that “the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever he will” (Pro. 21:1). I asked the Lord to cause my dad to be fine with it if He wanted me to go to Germany. My plan was to pray about it for a week. That night, however, I got a call from my mom:
“We need to know right now if you are going to be able to go to New York with Gina’s group in June.” (We had been discussing the possibility of my going as an adult sponsor, but nothing had been confirmed.) Of course, I couldn’t go to New York in June if I was going to be in Germany. So much for waiting a week to talk to my parents! I asked to speak to Dad. When he got on the phone, I was very careful to not sound like I was trying to persuade him one way or another. I really wanted God’s will, which He made very clear with Dad’s response: “Well, I’d miss you, but I’d much rather you be in Germany than Mexico!” Wow! That was good enough for me. I confirmed it with Bro. Matt the next day. Less than three months later, I was in Germany.
I wish I had weeks to write everything that God did in my life during my years in Germany. Unfortunately, I don’t have weeks to devote to that, so here are the highlights as they come to mind.
German Taxes (THIS IS REALLY COOL!!!!!!!!!!!)
(These first few stories are from a journal I wrote back when I was living in Germany.)
Several years ago, my church here in Germany was approached by the German government and informed that it should be paying taxes on church and school employees. “Ok,” our pastor thought, “we’ll start paying taxes.” There was only one problem—the government insisted that we pay back taxes on everyone who had ever worked here. For years our case was in the courts. We were not opposed to paying taxes if that was the law, but how does a church consisting of a hundred military families come up with an extra hundred thousand dollars? Sometimes months would go by without any word from the government. That was fine with us. If they let the case slide until the rapture, we would not mind! Finally, in 1992, a final decision was made—we had to pay. When my pastor, Eddie Buford, asked a German pastor and friend for advice, he received this reply:
“Get out of the country.”
Although the suggestion was tempting, considering that he had been told he could go to jail if we failed to pay, Pastor Buford could not do it. After all, how big is God? Couldn’t He supply a hundred thousand dollars? Our church got behind our pastor. We prayed and we gave. Soon money was coming through the mail. Still, as the deadline approached, we had a long way to go. Then God did something that still gives me goosebumps.
It was the spring of 1992. The deadline for paying the back taxes was approaching, and we were still thousands of dollars away from our goal. One day a German came to read our meter. He noticed that two meter boxes had been installed. He asked us if we knew why. We had no idea. For ten years we had been paying double on our electricity—an excess of over one hundred thousand dollars! Ten years earlier, God had opened an Eifel Baptist Church savings account with the German electric company and had kept it a secret until He knew we needed it. How about that? They paid us back, and we paid our taxes. A skeptic might still say, “Coincidence,” but everyone in my church knows better! Our pastor refused to skip out on God when the going got rough, and God showed the world that He won’t skip out on those who trust Him.
One day the Lord put a woman on my heart whom I’d only seen twice in my life. (Her daughter was on a friend’s bus route.) I wasn’t sure why I couldn’t get my mind off this woman, but when I learned that she was getting ready to return to the United States, I knew I had to go see her. I didn’t know if she would even remember me, but I felt compelled to go see her. When I knocked on her door the following Tuesday, I could hear all kinds of commotion going on inside. I wanted to leave, but a woman eventually opened the door. “You’re right, Lori!” she called over her shoulder. “Someone’s at the door!” She turned back to me. “You want Lori?” she asked. “She’s in the kitchen.”
In the kitchen I discovered Lori making tacos. She had other visitors over, her Rottweiler was running everywhere, and her two-year-old was chasing the Rottweiler. The atmosphere was definitely not conducive to a meaningful conversation!
“Lord, I don’t know why You brought me here,” I prayed silently, “but help!”
I asked Lori if she remembered me. She did.
“I heard you were going back to the States, so I thought I’d drop by and see how you’re doing.”
She let me know that she was nervous about flying. I laughed and said that I understood. “I’m a Christian,” I told her, “but I still get nervous about flying. I’m just glad God’s in control, and He can take care of me!” I paused for a moment. Lori turned back to her tacos. Then I asked, “Do you know God?”
She stopped stirring the meat. “I need to,” she answered.
“Do you want to go to another room and talk about it?”
“Yes,” was all she said as she led me to the back bedroom. She walked away from her guests, her tacos, her children, everything that was going on. She even seemed oblivious to the dog as he kept poking his head through the door to the bedroom. The latch wasn’t working, so I shoved a laundry basket against the door. That didn’t discourage him, so I propped my foot against the laundry basket and turned to Lori with my Bible. I shared with her that Christianity isn’t a religion. It’s a relationship… a personal relationship between a human being and God Himself.
In spite of all the commotion, Lori listened intently. When I asked if she wanted to pray, she nodded and quietly received Christ as her personal Savior. It didn’t take any sales pitch or pressure tactics. She was ready. For the past month she said she had not been able to get her mind off the possibility of dying in a plane crash before her family back home could see her second child. For the past month, I had been unable to get my mind off this woman whom I’d only seen twice in my entire life. Coincidence? I don’t think so. God was preparing me to speak to her as He was preparing her for salvation.
Before I left, Lori told me that God was already easing her fears. I told her that I wasn’t surprised. “Christianity isn’t a religion…” I began.
Lori smiled and finished my thought: “It’s a relationship.”
Long before school started last year, I asked the Lord to make Himself real to my students in the coming year. It was exciting to see many answers to prayer in big things as well as in small matters. In fact, one of the neatest blessings involved a matter so small that I kept forgetting to pray about it. That winter we had the best snowfall that Germany had seen in five years. My students were thrilled. One day after school, they had a snowball fight behind the church before heading home. Later that evening, one of the girls, Renee, discovered that a shoe was missing. Evidently, it had fallen out of her backpack during the snowball fight. Someone remembered seeing it in the backyard, but when he went to get it, it was gone. Every day for a week Renee requested prayer that it would be found, and every day I forgot to pray! Finally, more than a week later, the Lord rebuked me, and we had an old-fashioned prayer meeting at the start of the school day. I reminded the Lord of all the other answers to prayer this year and told Him we knew He could “do it again” for Renee. At three o’clock school ended, and the students headed home. About fifteen minutes later, Debbie, an eighth grader, came tearing into the building, huffing and puffing, carrying Renee’s shoe in perfect condition. She hadn’t been looking for it; she was just walking home, same as always, and stumbled across Renee’s shoe on the sidewalk. Coincidence? No one will convince my students of that!
My Christmas Tree
A few days after Renee got her shoe, I also received a special blessing. Even though I was twenty-nine years old and had been on my own since I was seventeen, I had always gone to my parents’ home for Christmas, so I never bought a Christmas tree. That year for the first time, I was going to be away from my family on Christmas. I wanted a tree, but I didn’t feel I could afford a tree and all the ornaments it would need.
Another thing: I truly wanted to honor the Lord in all that I did, and I had been in a few conversations with some friends about whether or not it was ok for Christians to have Christmas trees. (One friend made an argument against the practice.) After all, there are passages in the Old Testament that talk specifically about people cutting down trees, adorning them with silver, and worshiping them. I wondered how God felt about our modern practice of putting up Christmas trees.
One Saturday morning as I was getting ready to visit the children on my bus route, I decided against buying a Christmas tree. If the Lord wanted me to have a tree, I decided, He could give me one. After all, maybe He didn’t want me to have a tree. I remember my prayer: “Lord, if You want me to have a Christmas tree, please give me one… and give it to me today so I’ll have a chance to put it up before my students come over… And, by the way, if You’re going to give me a tree, give me the ornaments today also since I don’t have any ornaments. Thanks.”
After my prayer, I finished getting dressed and headed out to the car. The snow had started falling an hour or so earlier and was already accumulating as I drove to Bitburg for my bus route. Twice, I considered turning back, especially when my car spun around less than four miles from my home. Still, something compelled me to keep going, so I did.
My friend Bonnie and I were the only workers to show up for the route. Since the snow was continuing to fall, we decided to split the route and meet halfway. The goal was to get home before we got stranded! When we met up after a couple hours, Bonnie had a question: “Do you happen to know anyone who could use a Christmas tree?”
“I could,” I replied. “Why do you ask?”
“You know so-and-so? Their dad is deploying to Saudi Arabia, so they’re going back to the States for Christmas. They have been trying to find someone to take their tree so they won’t have to throw it out!”
Later, as we were shoving the tree into my car, I remarked, “Now I just need to get ornaments.”
“You need ornaments?” Bonnie remarked. “Jeff and I are going on a tour of Italy over Christmas, so we’re not putting up a tree. You can use our ornaments.” So on my way home, I stopped by her house to pick up the ornaments.
Some could read this and think, “That’s no big deal. Christmas trees are not that expensive.” That may be true, but I believe I had more fun with my Christmas tree that year than anyone else I know! Whenever I felt discouraged, I would plop down in front of my timely answer to prayer. It always made me smile!
A New Teacher
During my years in Germany, I spent the summers working in the church office. One day in August, about two weeks before the start of the new school year, I poked my head in the pastor’s office to let him know I was leaving. He seemed to have a lot on his mind, so I asked if there was anything more I could do.
“You could get us an elementary teacher!”
Oh, yeah! It was two weeks before the start of school, Mrs. Buford was going to the States to be with her ailing mother, and we didn’t have anyone to teach Grades 4-6!
I smiled. “I’ll pray about that!”
“Please do!” he replied.
A few days later, I was in the church driveway getting ready to leave when a car pulled up and a family of four got out. It was the Martinez family. They had just arrived in Germany and had heard about our school. They were interested in it for their boys. As I talked with the family, I suddenly got the sense that standing in front of me was the answer to our prayers. I rushed into the office to call Pastor Buford, who was at home helping his wife get ready for her flight.
“I’ve got an elementary teacher for you!” I told him.
One week later, school started without a hitch!
MORE TO FOLLOW!
Note: Everything up to this point is from my single life. God didn’t suddenly stop working once I got married. I’ll share some of those stories in the next few days!