Saturday, August 26, 2006

A Much Bigger Picture

God works. Even when we don't realize it. God is always working.

Boomama has a post up about how God was working through different people to provide a leader for a church plant in Tupelo. It's made me think about the times when God was doing something way, way beyond me. And about the times I have had the privilege of getting a glimpse of what he is doing. So, to carry on the theme of The Great Ms. Boomama, I thought I'd share a story of my own with you.

I traveled to Baku, Azerbaijan in the summer of 1998 to be part of a 6 week project, sharing the gospel with English-speaking students. It was slow work. The long-term "workers" who were there were low on contacts, and we were doing a lot of the footwork. Our strategy was to go out in groups to one of the many universities around the city, and try to find English-speaking students to talk with. We would try to get to know them in whatever time they were able to chat with us, and we would invite them to a Bible study later that week.

It usually wasn't hard to find people we could talk with, though finding people interested in Bible study was much more difficult. But, on one particular day, we were getting nowhere.

I was on a "campus" with the two other girls from our project, Shari and Alicia. They were both college students, Shari at Ohio State, and Alicia at Indiana U. We'd been to all the places we could think to find people to talk to - the cafeteria, the library, wherever we saw students loitering. For some reason, we weren't even able to start any good conversations.

We went outside, and sat on a concrete wall, trying to decide what to do. Shari and Alicia decided to go try the cafeteria again. I stayed put.

That was where I met two girls that we would end up spending a lot of time with over the next few weeks. Sabina and Leyla sat down right next to me. So, I just started talking to them. And soon enough, we were talking about the Bible. I had mine out on my lap.

While we were talking, a friend of Sabina's and Leyla's approached us. I'll call him "E." He looked at the Bible and asked us what we were talking about. After I explained the gist of our conversation, he said, "you know, I have a lot of questions about that."

But he had to go. He was on his way home to pick up a paper he'd forgotten that was due that day. I didn't think too much of it.

I don't know how much time had passed, but Shari and Alicia had returned, and the five of us were quickly becoming friends. Imagine my surprise when our group of five turned into six. E was back. And he brought his questions with him.


He approached us with a list that he retrieved while he was at home. A list of questions he had about the Bible and some church practices. It was obvious from the list that he had been around some other Christians at some point. So, we asked him.

"Yeah," he said, "I was an exchange student in the US for a year. The family I stayed with was a Christian family."

Naturally, this lead to other questions. Namely, what town he'd lived in.

"Oh, you probably have never heard of it. It's really, really small," he said.

But we insisted.

"Clyo, Indiana."

Alicia smiled right away. "NO WAY!"

"Why?" E asked, "are you from Clyo?"

"No," Alicia answered. "But I go to Indiana University. And it just so happens that I fell in with a group of friends who are all from Clyo."

Then, half way across the world, E and Alicia, who had just happened to meet in a city of six million people, began to name off all their mutual friends. The people that E had met in his high school exchange program were the people that Alicia was hanging out with at IU.

Immediately, there was a bond. It seemed E trusted us. What does that say about the witness of those high school kids from Clyo, Indiana? What does it say about God?

We hooked up E with some of the guys in our group. We all became great friends with him. And the guys showed him Scripture to help him answer his questions.

Before we left, E had made a profession of faith.T he seeds had been planted in E several years earlier. We harvested something that had been ripening for a long time. God put us there for that reason. As far as I knew, that was the end of what God was doing.

But a year later, we learned that E lead his younger brother to the Lord and was leading a campus ministry of over 50 students. See, despite my myopic vision of the work God was doing at the time, he had a far bigger picture in mind.

I don't know how God orchestrates these kinds of things. It blows my mind to think of all the things that had to come together for this to have happened. How E's heart had to be endeared to his friends from Indiana and softened toward the Lord; how that would make him feel comfortable sharing his questions with us; how we were at THAT school talking to HIS friends; how there was one degree of separation between E and Alicia.

And on, and on.

It just reminds me that God's Big Picture is much bigger than I really understand. And it is humbling when I remember that I was a very small piece of that puzzle. I think of all the details God put into place, and I can't help but think that if I had not been where I needed to be at that time, then God would have made it happen without me. Easily.

But when I think of how much joy I get just to have been that tiny little piece in God's huge work, I remeber that I would prefer to be used - even if it is in a very small way.

And I remember that God's Big Picture is much bigger than anything I could possibly imagine.



Blogger BooMama said...

I have the biggest chillbumps known to man right now. UNBELIEVABLE - only God could do that.

You have said so much that I wanted to say earlier - but I think this whole thing is so fresh that I can't even articulate it. I just sort of stammer around and say some variation of "Kevilo" or "Tupevin" - can't even get my words straight. :-)

There are two parts of the whole story that continue to amaze me: 1) I have a visceral, vivid memory of turning my car into the park that day. I really think God wanted me to remember it so that I could tell the story one day. 2) There are 4,000 people in my church. About 60 people on staff. That God took one of those people from the congregation, and one of those people from the staff, and put them in the same place on a seemingly random Saturday morning because He had work He wanted done in Tupelo? That blows my mind.

I cannot WAIT to see what He does once Kevin starts preaching there. Cannot WAIT.

Sun Aug 27, 12:19:00 AM  
Blogger Sarah's In the Midst of It said...

WOW! That's all I can say, wow!

I love it when God lets us see a little of His amazing work:)

Sun Aug 27, 06:07:00 PM  
Blogger theresa said...

L, you are a awesome example of Christ and I can only imagine he will be using you in many more ways like this in the future. Go God and go YOU for witnessing to others!

Mon Aug 28, 02:28:00 AM  
Blogger Minnie said...

WOW! WOW! WOW! What an incredible story!!! It gave me "goosie bumps" (as Kale calls them) all over.

Mon Aug 28, 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger Addie said...

THAT, is NOTHING short of AMAZING!!!!!

WOW! WOW! WOW! is Right!!! Loved this story Lor!

Mon Aug 28, 01:30:00 PM  
Blogger the voice said...

When we are obedient to God's calling, we plant, and sometimes nuture, seeds in others. Most times, we will probably not see the fruits of those seeds. But when we do see how those seeds grow and multiply, it is truly glorious. This is my first visit to your blog. I found a link at Minniemoments. Great post! I look forward to reading more. May God bless you richly. Ken

Wed Aug 30, 11:41:00 AM  
Blogger Luisa Perkins said...

What a wonderful story! I had many similar experiences on my mission to Montreal--a lovely, lovely time of my life. How great that you had that experience, and that it taught you such deep truths. God is good.

Wed Mar 28, 05:49:00 PM  

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