Some folks call them God taps. Others call them God signs. Still others call them God sightings. Whatever one calls them, many believers feel they are evidence of God’s active presence in the world today. Of course, skeptics and others may feel they are simply coincidences, random chance, or imagination.
The reality is some people see God personally engaged in almost everything. Others see the majesty of His creation, but do not think He is orchestrating every sunrise, sunset, magnificent rainbow, or incident that someone sees as a sign. Still others wouldn’t acknowledge Him if He appeared before them as a pillar of fire. AnOldSinner falls in between the extremes.
This summer marked the third time in four years that my home church sent a group of men to the fishing village of Abreu Do Una, Brazil. We support a small church there, and have been helping the church develop a men’s ministry. I have been fortunate enough to be part of all three teams.
On my first visit to the village I wrote “Truly Blessed.” That piece was partially a follow-up to an earlier piece on blessings. Also, it looked at how God can bless those who go in His name to help others, as well as those they go to help. Here, I want to share a story from our latest mission. It is a story in which some might see the hand of God and others might simply see a happy coincidence.
The purpose of the trip was to help train local men in several areas of discipleship and leadership. Their little church is working to develop a group of Christian men intent on helping change the future of the village. The current culture is morally bankrupt, and the traditional churches in the area seem to have abandoned any thought of evangelism or outreach. In fact, the predominant church practices a form of legalistic Christianity that leaves most people on the outside looking in because they do not meet the church’s standards. The result is a community wracked by crime, drug use, promiscuity, poverty, and fear.
We were in the village a week working with three different groups of men. Each group was studying a different aspect of what it meant to be a Christian man, and how such men could reach out to others. As part of the outreach aspect of the teaching, each local man was asked to bring a friend who was not part of the church to a cookout and celebration on our last night in the village. The men accepted the challenge, and a number of men from the village joined us.
Seating was set up to assure each table of visitors included one of our translators and at least one team member. I was seated at a table with two of the visitors. They were sitting across from me, stern-faced and not eating. It was clear from their body language and expressions they were not there for dinner and a celebration.
The translator and I attempted to engage them in conversation and invited them to grab something to eat. Only one would talk, and he advised they had already eaten. They claimed they were not aware dinner was part of the invitation. As the evening progressed, I came to realize that might not be completely true.
Eventually, I discovered they were members of the church actively opposing the new church. One finally admitted the only reason they came was to check out the church. His wife and children were now attending this church, and he wanted to see just what kind of church this was.
Finally, the talkative one said he could not understand how we could all come together at church for a party. He seemed serious and made it clear his church thought we were not Christians because people got together and had fun at church. He also let it be known he did not understand a church inviting outsiders to come to these parties.
In his view, Christians were not supposed to hang out with non-Christians or members of other churches. That helped me understand why he and his friend simply sat there most of the time. They were spies in the enemy camp. I also realized they likely believed breaking bread with us was a sin.
It was then I realized I had not ended up at the table by chance. I was there because they were there. It was my opportunity to witness to them. I was able to let them know we were happy they came, and we thought of them as brothers in Christ. I emphasized an important part of being a Christian was being in fellowship with other believers, which is why we could come together in celebration.
Certainly, any of the other team members could have interacted with them in this fashion. The fact I was the one who ended up at their table was a blessing to me, but that was not the most significant part of the encounter. The most amazing part of the encounter was the Bible.
Each man on the team was given two Portuguese/English New Testament Bibles. We were asked to highlight our favorite verses or verses we thought might be important to new believers. We were to write a personal note of some sort in the Bible, and we were to put a picture of our family in it. Then we were tasked with presenting the Bibles to someone in the newest group of men in the training. If that was not possible for some reason, we would try to give them to some man in the village when walked the village in prayer. I still had one of my Bibles.
I had been somewhat upset that I had not given both of mine away. I feared I would be forced to leave it with the church to hand out to someone in the future. Suddenly, I realized I still had it for a reason. I had it because this young man was supposed to receive it.
I will not take the time here to detail what happened from that point forward. Suffice it to say, he seemed stunned about what I said, and the Bible. In fact, the rest of the evening, I saw him turning through the Bible, or looking at the picture of my family. At the end of the evening, he sought me out to say goodbye.
Earlier I told him I would pray that he make a good decision for him and his family. When he came over to say goodnight, I told him again I would be praying for him. I also told him I hoped to see him next year if I was able to come back to the village. It was clear he had no idea what to make of the situation.
Read into this story what you will. It could have been just one of those things. It could have been random chance I was seated at the one table with two such visitors. It could have been a coincidence that my duties on the team were changed at the last minute, and the new duties interfered with my chances to give away both Bibles. It could have been a lot of things, but I think God had a hand in it. I was not supposed to give on the team’s time frame, or my time frame. I was supposed to give it away in His time.
© AnOldSinner – 2017