I witnessed the providence of God guiding our church in a series of church decisions made between 1997 and 2000. In the late 1990’s the property just north of our Sanctuary came available for sale. But the price was steep and sound people had differences of opinions regarding the wisdom of the church making this purchase. I genuinely believed it was better that we own the property than not. Therefore, I went on record recommending the church make the purchase, even at a high price. However, when the church held a vote on buying the land, the motion was defeated. And in a sense, I felt defeated. It was the most significant time in my tenure that our church did not adopt my recommendation.
In the next two years, we went on to construct our plaza area at the front entrance to the sanctuary. We also purchased a residence just north of our playground that we upgraded into a Mission House. Then, in 2000, the church was offered another chance to buy the first property, at a significantly reduced price. At this business meeting, the church voted “yes” to purchase the lot. In turn, this enabled us to petition the city to close the street just north of the sanctuary and enhance the safety of those folks crossing from our north parking lot and our playground.
In hindsight, had the church made that initial purchase, we would have poured all available financial resources toward the acquisition. But in God’s timing, not only did the church ultimately own that property, we also added to the function and aesthetics of our sanctuary through the plaza and added a useful asset in the mission house. God knows what He is doing.
In June of 2013 I participated in my fourth mission trip to Brazil. However, this was the first trip where we brought medical personnel and ministered among an indigenous tribe. For five days medical and dental teams cared for local residents while others of us engaged with the community through conversations, recreation, construction, and teaching basic English.
At the end of the week the tribe invited us to share in celebration with them. They dressed in their traditional native South American garments. They played unique instruments from their culture. They shared tribal dances around the main square of the village. And they invited us to join them. I spoke to the gathering about God being the creator of all people and His offer of forgiveness and redemption to all humankind. Some in our group pantomimed a drama displaying redemption. (I was asked to act the part of Jesus because I was the only one in our group who had a beard!). We sang songs of our faith. Then, our new friends asked us to repeat a song so they could join in the accompaniment on their own instruments. So together we lifted to the heavens the message, “How Great is Our God. Sing with me! How Great is our God.” I was confident that the Lord smiled down at that moment. Our hearts were so full.
When at last we boarded the bus to leave that village for the final time, I said to our group, “We will spend the rest of our lives and never have an evening like what we just experienced.”