One of my favorite Oswald Chambers devotionals speaks of gracious uncertainty and breathless expectations as marks of a spiritual life. In the uncertainty we trust and wait breathlessly for what God is going to do. This past Sunday at church I heard testimony of that in a real and tangible way. This is the story of two women: Lori, a Caucasian woman, has been a member of our church since childhood. Karen, an African American woman has been there only a few months. The story is told in Lori’s words….
July 5, 2012 seemed like an ordinary day. Upon arrival at our church’s ministry center I met Karen who was there to help a friend. As she indicated she was looking for a church home, I casually invited Karen to our church. Karen is African American, our church is predominately Caucasian. I never dreamed it would go any further than that.
The next day, Karen not only comes to church, she JOINS our church. She says she has prayed for God to lead her and felt overwhelmed by the Spirit as soon as she entered our building. I confess, I didn’t truly believe her and figured she would stay a few weeks and we would never see her again. Nope! She has come faithfully now for several months.
Karen was homeless; but I did not know that. She dressed well and spoke well and did not have the “homeless look.” She plugged in the activities of our church and joined our Sunday School class. She had a thirst for the Bible and asked that we explain everything to her. Karen continued her faithfulness to God and began reaching out to the homeless of York County. As she grew in understanding of Jesus, she knew she was being called to His purpose for her. She had a peace about her that God would take care of her if she remained faithful to his word. Karen would go to the Soup Kitchen for food and then began volunteering to serve others. Although she was in need, she knew she could help others too. At the soup kitchen, she met a woman who listened to Karen when she told her she had to get away from the houses she was “crashing at” because they were surrounded with drugs, alcohol, and bad influences. Karen had worked hard to keep herself “clean” since 2003. Karen began calling Pilgrim’s Inn, a homeless shelter, everyday asking if there was a room available…only to be turned away. Finally, her friend insisted they go sit at the shelter until someone would speak to them. In October, someone did finally speak to them and told Karen she had one hour before they closed. If she could provide a clean background check back to her, she could have the room that had just come available. Within 53 minutes, Karen and her friend were back with the clean background. Karen had a room at the shelter.
In March, Karen tells us within 6 months, she may have the opportunity to get an apartment within Pilgrim’s Inn. In April-- less than one month, not 6 (!), the apartment came available. Although this was wonderful news, Karen didn’t own the first necessity. No furniture—even a bed, no kitchen supplies, no cleaning essentials, no appliances, nothing. Although she was moving up from her status in the shelter, she was now on her own—with nothing! Karen kept saying, “God will provide; God will be faithful to me.”
On Tuesday, in just the few minutes it took to type up a plea, I facebooked that I had a friend who needed help. Then I rushed with my day and forgot about the post, but God didn’t. Three hours later, I was so upset about an issue at my son’s school that I was in quite a stew. I was trying to get my mind off of this event, when I sat down at my computer to do something mindless—facebook. I forgot about my post I was so consumed with me. However, when I turned on the computer, I was flabbergasted. There were no less than 10 messages of strangers donating items for Karen. My post had been shared on others’ pages. The spark I set had ignited. I started typing as fast as I could that we wanted it. Then grabbed a notebook and jotted down who had what and when we could pick it up. Before I knew it, my problem was so far in the distance and a new problem surfaced--Coordinating pick up of all these things. I couldn’t answer the posts quick enough. They kept pouring in! Someone who lived about 2 hours away was coming that very next day to clean out a storage building and we could have a sofa, chair and other miscellaneous items. Someone else donated a bed, then a living room set and swivel rocker was donated. Then a post came from a lady living in England who had a kitchen table and chairs still here to donate. An armoire, bedside tables, coffee tables, end tables, lamps were donated. Picnic baskets, coffee maker, microwave, blender, crockpot! Bags of supplies and food began being donated from people I didn’t even know. TV’s, pots/pans, gift cards just kept coming in. Our ministry center had just the right size comforter and sheets. And curtains!! My mind couldn’t stop singing the song I had not heard in years, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” with the lyrics “look full into his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.” I wondered why that song until I remembered… something happened at my kids’ school that no longer mattered…..
We moved Karen in the next day. When we went to bed that night, in less than 36 hours, Karen went from a homeless woman at a Shelter to a tenant in her own apartments that God fully furnished for her except for one item. She needed a refrigerator. The next morning, I went back to facebook to thank everyone since I was so overwhelmed, as was Karen, with gratitude. And there the notification sat…..”you have one message.” At 5am Thursday, April 11, I opened the message and there were the words from a single mom of a 10 year old, working third shift in Connecticut who I didn’t even know, that God had placed it on her heart to buy Karen a brand new refrigerator. She needed to know color and dimensions and she would order it online and have it delivered. I almost fell to the floor. It all made sense at that moment. God had put all this together and worked out all the details because Karen had shown faithfulness and trust in him. God set up the arrangement for me to meet Karen because Karen was going to need the resources I had with a facebook account and a truck and trailer and most importantly, a wonderful church to feed her spiritually. God moved me away from “me” and into a special place of where He was through a homeless woman and an empty apartment filled with nothing but Hope.
Lori and Karen lived gracious uncertainty and breathless expectation. Sunday, when she spoke on the subject Karen said, “What limitation is God asking you to embrace?” My prayer is that I learn to embrace every limitation the way Lori and Karen did…with gracious uncertainty and breathless expectation.