POWERFUL GIFT TESTIMONIES OF GOD AT WORK IN OUR WORLD TODAY
God may have a bicycle for you -- but it's not about you!
It was a late August night at Chicago O'Hare airport. We were one of three families who, along with a translator, had gathered to welcome a young refugee family from Bosnia - a widowed mom and her two children.
The father had been taken from their home, beaten and returned to the home to die when the youngest was under a year old.
The family's home had also been bombed -- twice. The second time, the mom was thrown across a room. She was rendered unconscious, and she severely injured her back.
When she was released from the hospital, she was homeless and the family had to live in the fields. Often there was no food or milk. Little wonder they were deemed refugees.
Coming from the fields of Bosnia and arriving in O'Hare was a shock to the kids. They didn't speak any English. Upon arrival, they wouldn't even pay attention to the birthday cake and song we were singing for the mom who had just turned 29 the day before.
Struck with fear, the six year old girl and four year old boy clung to their mom's legs and they struggled to make their way to the airport garage.
Once at the garage, I presented the boy with a bicycle my 4 year old son had donated to the family. I asked the translator to tell the boy that the bike was for him, and that there were two more bikes at home for his mom and sister. The boy, who couldn't look at us when they first arrived, was now beaming.
Four years later, when we got together again, we reminisced about their arrival. When it came to the part about presenting the bike in the airport garage, the mom told us the rest of the story. It was a story she couldn't tell us back then as she couldn't speak English.
When in Bosnia, she frequently comforted the kids by telling them, "Maybe when we get to America, I can get you a bike." And she prayed to God, "Lord, when I get to America, could you please help me get bikes for the kids."
As soon as she arrived, they had their bicycles. God is so faithful.
Prayer can sock it to you... We're powerfully networked - with "Knee Mail"
In the early days of the internet, I had joined a new friend driving throughout the suburbs of Chicago as he collected socks to donate to homeless shelters. Our "sock run" ministry would be completely unannounced to the shelters.
We arrived first at the Pacific Garden Mission, the country's oldest homeless shelter. Since there was no parking outside the shelter, I took one of the unmarked boxes full of socks inside.
As I put the box on the reception desk, I overheard a man telling a woman, "It's hard to get enough underwear and socks."
Shocked by the connection between the man's comments and my unannounced, unmarked delivery of socks, I interrupted him and asked him to "rewind the tape" and repeat exactly what he had said.
He explained he was the Assistant Superintendent. He said that he and the Superintendent had been so concerned about homeless men coming in without socks, they'd been down on their knees, in tears before God, praying for socks.
I explained we were there to deliver two large boxes of socks.
As soon as my friend joined us, I had the Superintendent repeat his statements. Clearly God had orchestrated an answer to his prayers and a means for us to see God at work through us.
I then had my new friend outline another plan we were formulating that would connect all the shelters together via networked computers.
However, the Superintendent politely refused the offer for new computers. He explained, "I'm already networked. I pray and socks come in."
I went home that night in awe of God. He had clearly orchestrated our travels such that we could see such a powerful answer to prayer. He socked it to me.
And now I know I'm networked, too.
When God's in control, you'll have all you need.
We had teamed with a Sudanese refugee pastor to minister to local Sudanese children. Although this pastor was safely in the U. S., he had two daughters who were still refugees in Zimbabwe.
And despite being young refugees themselves, the oldest daughter had just begun an orphanage for other Sudanese children in Zimbabwe.
She started the orphanage because Sudanese kids living in Zimbabwe's refugee camps were being asked for sexual favors in exchange for food by those running the camps. (This was confirmed in a Newsweek article.)
The Pastor's daughter had removed the orphans from the camp and had committed to raising them herself. Now, however, the daughter was being evicted from her cold flat and needed to buy a home - as no property owners would rent to her with such a large number of children.
At the same time, white property owners living in Zimbabwe were being expelled by the government. So a suitable property owned by a missionary was put on the market for just the transfer costs.
Wanting to help the Pastor's daughter, we converted our savings to a certified check and used Western Union to affect the money transfer. But, someone beat us to the punch and acquired the low-cost property before we could get her the money.
The Pastor's daughter was now confronted with what to do next. After considerable prayer, she decided to put the existing funds down on another property and depend on God for the balance. A large balance. A balance we didn't have. Within in a real estate contract that expired in a few weeks. Such that if she didn't raise the balance, she'd lose the entire deposit.
We had some life insurance cash value, which we redeemed, but we lacked all that was needed. Despite our effort to raise additional funds, we were unsuccessful. In anguish, we began praying for wisdom and more.
One option would be for us to take out a loan. But the problem was, we were in the middle of a relocation ourselves, and we had our own home purchase to finalize. On our mortgage application, we had indicated that we held no other loans.
While praying, I confessed I was concerned about getting our mortgage, about getting ahead, and about not having enough savings to pay for college for our four children. But the thought God put in my mind was, "You're worried about getting ahead, they're worried about surviving."
Convicted in my prayers that the girls needed our help, we went to People's Bank and took out a loan to supplement our life insurance cash value. That evening, we brought a certified check to Western Union. But this time, we were told Western Union couldn't accept the certified check like they had done the first time. Apparently the first check they accepted was in error - their policy required just cash. The transaction was thwarted.
In church the next morning, we heard a message about not going into debt and how God wanted us to depend upon Him. We became convicted that we shouldn't have taken out the loan. So we decided to return the funds to the bank and get out of the loan.
Later that night, I explained to the Sudanese pastor, the girl's dad, that we had borrowed the money, but that the payment was thwarted, such that we were returning the funds. He and I both cried.
I became convinced I should try to get the daughter's money back. I spent my early morning hours that week calling the Sudanese embassy in Zimbabwe, the real estate broker, and even the owner of the property to get the contract dissolved. My reasoning was that the girls never had the wherewithal to enter into a contract or secure the funds. They were young refugees without sufficient sources of income.
But my attempts failed.
The day before the contract deadline, I explained to the daughter all that had transpired. Again, I cried.
But then, as though guided by God, I asked her what the currency exchange rate was that day compared to the first day when we calculated how much we would need for the transaction.
To our shock, the rate of exchange had ballooned so significantly, due to a financial crisis in Zimbabwe, that those life insurance proceeds we originally had were entirely sufficient to affect the transaction.
We immediately went to Western Union and sent the cash. The pastor's daughter was able to get a sufficient rate of exchange to make the transaction.
A funny thing happened, however. Within hours after the transaction had gone through, the government of Zimbabwe shut down the currency exchange because the situation had ballooned out of control. And when it resumed operations, the rate of exchange had settled back down to where it was at the time we had first calculated the amount needed. We had made it through a very small window.
I believe God had demonstrated his awesome, transforming power once again.
Now, if only we would trust in Him and His gifts - and lean not on our own understanding - what a transformed world we could have.