Saturday, April 09, 2005

An Encounter with God's Providence at Christian Conference

Image hosted by Photobucket.comIt was 10:00 pm last Thursday night. The final workshop of the day had ended on the opening night of the HIM Honolulu 2005 Conference (see here & here).

There were two of us left in the room talking. Leon (not his real name) and I had found some things in common. He was a short, black Baptist from California wearing a coat & tie and I was a tall, white Presbyterian from Hawaii wearing a "Mililani Presbyterian Church" polo shirt. But, we both loved the Lord, were sons of Pastors, had grown up in the San Francisco Bay area, had become pastors ourselves and were just about the same age.

Almost as an afterthought, he asked if I knew somewhere that he could spend the night. And that's when I began to see that God's hand was directing the traffic, so to speak.

Several months ago I had made reservations at the Ala Moana Hotel for the two days I would be at the conference. My wife would join me on the second night. I had requested a King-size bed but was told they did not have any. When I checked in on Thursday afternoon, I was assigned a very large room with a wonderful King-size bed. Praise the Lord! But a strong wind was blowing straight onto the 10th floor balcony with whistling and roaring that was more than annoying. Reluctantly, I requested a different room and was given a smaller room with two regular sized double beds.

Having two beds allowed me to say, "Hey, why don't you spend the night with me in my hotel room." So he did. Coincidence?

On our way out we ran into Charlotte and a couple of other Conference folks who had earlier prayed that Leon would find a place to stay. Charlotte just praised the Lord and said that she KNEW that her prayer would be answered! Coincidence?

Leon mentioned that he had gone to a different workshop session that evening but that after 10 minutes the session leader had become too dizzy and light-headed to continue. So, he had somehow felt led to attend the second half of the workshop I was attending instead. Coincidence?

Before the night was over we found we shared a common love of music, a similar conservative political and religious world view and compiled a list of over 20 people we knew in common. Coincidence?

During breakfast the next morning he told how he had won two free tickets for a tour of Jordan this coming September. I told him that I was registered to participate on a (partially subsidized) tour of Jordan beginning the first of October. It turned out to be the same tour (different weeks) led and organized by the same man (a black Presbyterian Elder in Washington D.C. working with the Jordanian Tourist Board). We had both spoken with him and knew all the same details about the website and the trip. Coincidence?

For him, the trip would be free from New York but he didn't have the money to get from California to New York.

For me the trip was going to be free from Honolulu to New York (via frequent flier miles) but would cost me $1,100 for the tour from New York. Hmmm?

So, this coming week we will be looking into the possibility of my switching my tour dates and going free as his guest while I, in turn, chip in the cost of flying him to New York. I'll come out at least $600 ahead, he'll be able to make the trip and we will each have a "friend" to share the experience with. Coincidence?

John Toillion, an Elder in my congregation, likes to call this a "God-incidence." Protestant tradition calls it "providence." The Calvinists might see it as "predestined" or "fore-ordained." While I think it might possibly be all of the above I know that I can say this for sure: I helped out a stranger in need, discovered a friend and might even wind up saving some money in the bargain!

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Providence, not a new idea

Be careful the next time you start up a conversation with a stranger. It may well be that God has brought you together for a purpose that might surprise you. Keep your eyes open. The Bible says that we might even be "entertaining angels" and be unaware of it!