Soon after becoming a follower of Christ, I heard the phrase “divine appointments.” Namely, that God arranges opportunities to touch another person’s life with the gospel or a word of hope.
For someone who makes a living taking notes, you might think I would have kept better track of such encounters. Sadly, I haven’t. Still, a recent experience reminded me of the reality of these experiences.
Distributing Toys and Books
It happened on a Saturday, when our home group took several bags of toys and children’s books to a homeless ministry that meets in the parking lot of a downtown Episcopal church.
Sorting through donations from church members and friends the previous Sunday, I thought, “This will be a worthwhile project.” Aside from a few damaged items that we tossed in the trash, these were quality items that would warm any kid’s heart.
To say they were eagerly awaited would be an understatement. Almost all the toys and books were gone by the time the serving line for food opened a half-hour after we arrived.
With our task largely done, my wife distributed copies of the Book of John she had ordered from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. After a few minutes, she returned, handed me a stack and asked if I wanted to pass them out, too.
“Not really,” I thought, being the kind of person who—despite interviewing thousands of people over the years—gets tongue-tied approaching strangers.
Still, I accepted them and weaved through the crowd, asking, “Can I offer you a Book of John?” About half accepted one, while the rest either refused or replied, “I already have one.”
Finally, with only two left, I approached a man who said his name was Anthony. Turned out he hailed from High Point, North Carolina. Janet and I “happened” to have had dinner there in July, prior to going to a wedding in Greensboro the next day.
The High Point link established an instant connection. Now, I can’t remember how the conversation turned that way, but I wound up telling Anthony how (and why) Janet and I came to Christ more than 30 years ago after moving to Denver. To condense:
- How my stepson’s drug use, rebellion and dropping out of school led me to the brink of insanity.
- Then, two months after going to live with his father, he called asking if he could come back. How this mysterious force took hold of my jaw and I heard myself saying, “It’s okay with me if you go back to school.”
- And how we asked an ex-drug dealer at the church we visited occasionally what we could do to help our son and he replied, “There’s nothing you can do. The best thing you can do is get right with God.”
Not only did Anthony listen intently, as I recounted our experiences I noticed out of the corner of my eye a friend of his had his eyes glued to me. Maybe he was the guy I was really talking to even though I addressed Anthony.
As we went on, I shared how life wasn’t perfect and I still struggle with challenges. At one point, Anthony said he had been baptized, but after a decade of drifting from place to place knew he needed to settle down so he could better serve God.
I encouraged him to read the Bible and pray for direction. We talked so long that I finally told him I had to go, but first Anthony insisted on a hug. In the words of Hebrews 13:2 (NKJV), it felt like entertaining angels.