Wow, I don’t even know where to begin! The last update/blog that I sent out was in early June, written from North Platte, NE as I awaited the repair of my vehicle. So much has happened since then.
For those who might not be aware of the situation, I was headed from Billings, MT to a “Student Leadership Camp” in Dayton, TN when the engine on my ’96 Breeze gave out in North Platte, NE. The Lord turned what could have been a very bad situation into an enormous blessing. I spent two weeks with the Crawford family in North Platte. Bro. Crawford is the pastor of Heritage Baptist Church. It was a great blessing to get to know them and to fellowship with their church while I was there. It was also a huge blessing to be able to present the field of the Fatherless to Riverside Baptist Church. The response of several children there was especially encouraging. (See previous blog.)
During this time, the Lord provided $2000 to help me “get un-stranded”! We looked at several options. A friend later laughed hysterically when he heard me tell the whole scenario, saying “I’ve never heard of anyone ‘returning and exchanging’ engines before!” But that was exactly what we did. We attempted to replace the engine, but found out that the engine we had purchased was the Canadian model and, therefore, too big. So, the mechanic returned it and exchanged it for another engine, which also did not fit. We test drove two vehicles, neither of which seemed to have enough life left in them to make the trip that lay ahead. So, we resorted to having the original engine head rebuilt.
The vehicle was ready by early afternoon, June 11th, two weeks to the day from the time it broke down. The bill was $1300. When I left Montana, I had enough in my “pocket” to pay for Camp, buy gas, stay a couple of nights in campgrounds along the way and maybe to eat. So, God broke my car, fixed it AND provided the money for groceries!
The mechanic said that the car was idling rough, but that he thought it was just a plugged fuel injector. He had put cleaner in the tank and expected that to take care of the issue. If it didn’t, he said we could change out the injector when I came back through at the end of the month. (The windshield was somehow broken while in his shop, so we had made arrangements for him to replace it when I came back through.) Eager to get underway, I headed out around four o’clock that afternoon and made it to St. Joseph, MO. I dropped in at a small church on the edge of Kansas City the next morning and then headed to St. Louis for the evening service at Grace Baptist Church.
GBC, St. Louis is almost like a second home. It was such a blessing to get caught up with “family” there. I had no idea how far that blessing would extend later! Before I left town the next morning, we set up a meeting to present the ministry to the Fatherless on June 29th. This locked in my new timeframe. Although by this point I had already missed the Student Leadership Camp, I still had the remainder of the month of June to visit as many churches as possible. My original plan had been to squeeze as much into those four weeks as possible. I was now down to two weeks.
The car continued to idle rough as I made my way from St. Louis to Cleveland, TN. In fact, I prayed my way through every stoplight, “Please, don’t let it die. Please, don’t let it die.” The closer I came to Cleveland and the more I got into the mountains, the more I was convinced that the problem was a lot bigger than a clogged fuel injector.
My first day in Cleveland was spent regrouping and trying to put together a plan for the rest of the time there. The following day, Wednesday, I set out trying to meet as many pastors as possible. I stopped in at several churches and had very good conversations with a couple of pastors. It was an encouraging day. I also had my first taste of real traffic. (This Montana girl learned a lot of new driving skills in June!)
That weekend, I charted a map that allowed me to visit four churches in Alabama and Georgia, including three of the Sangs’ supporting churches, as well as to visit with friends in the Atlanta area that I have not seen for several years.
One of the blessings of this trip was that one of the families from the ministry in Central Asia is in the States and was also staying with the Brown family in Cleveland. This gave us opportunity to get caught up and to give me a better understanding of what some of the needs are there. Please be praying for that work! Especially be in prayer for two of the girls: Regina, whose unsaved brother drowned this summer, and Katya. I cannot go into detail on the needs in Katya’s life, but they are great. Please, be praying with me.
On Wednesday of the following week, I headed down to visit as many churches in the Chattanooga area as possible, including another one of the Sangs’ supporting churches. The Lord had a great blessing and surprise in store there. No one was at the first church that I stopped at, so I left a packet at the door and went on to the next place. I think I probably blushed as I pulled into the parking lot of Hillside Baptist Church and saw that they were starting their missions conference that night. I felt like I was about to “crash” the party and for a brief moment thought of pulling right back out of the parking lot. But I was reminded that the Lord knew I was going to be there then; I had trusted Him to lead me and this was where He had brought me. I needed to be about His business. So, sheepishly, I went inside to introduce myself as a missionary, just not the one they were expecting!
To my surprise, the pastor not only invited me to come back and attend the service that evening, he also invited me to have lunch with the ladies who had been decorating for the conference. We had a lovely time of fellowship. I went back out from there, stopped by the rest of the churches on my list and returned for the evening service. What a blessing! After the service the pastor’s wife invited me to come back Thursday evening. The next evening the pastor not only invited me back Friday evening, but also asked me to set up my display. Saturday evening I joined them for a fellowship time and then for the services on Sunday morning. Sunday evening, the pastor asked me to share my testimony and I was able to briefly share about the need to reach the Fatherless with the gospel of Christ.
After the service, they asked the missionaries to go to the back of the auditorium so that people could slip love offerings into their pockets. To my surprise, they included me. When I got home that evening, I could not believe the gift that they had given. I counted it four times before realizing that I had come up with the same amount each time. Between the love offering that they had slipped into my purse that night and gifts that two individuals had given throughout the week, the love offering came to $770! Praise the Lord! I had no idea how soon this would be needed.
There were other important things going on that week. A meeting in Atlanta at MWBM was a major highlight. Another special blessing came Friday and Saturday. A family that is praying about going to work in the ministry in Central Asia joined us at the Browns’ house. It was such a blessing to get to know them, to hear the burden the Lord has given them and to learn how to be praying for them as they prepare to go.
I was also finding more and more out about my “rough idling” car. By this point, I was convinced that the problem was not the fuel injector, but the mechanic continued to assure me by phone that changing the injector would fix it. I had Brother Brown drive the car and he smilingly told me, “I would think twice before buying that car!” He was certain that one of the cylinders was dead. Still, the mechanic in North Platte would not waiver on his diagnosis. He would just plan on having the parts there to put in the new fuel injector when I came back through.
I am so grateful for the Browns. Their love for the Lord and their burden for missions and missionaries is a huge encouragement. I found it hard to say my goodbyes in Tennessee. As I headed back to St. Louis, I discovered that even when going slightly downhill in the mountains I was having trouble maintaining 50 mph. By the Lord’s grace, I made it all the way.
Wednesday evening I presented the needs of the Fatherless at GBC. After the service, two of the young men in the church looked at my car. They confirmed that it was not the fuel injector. I had, not one, but two cylinders that were not working. Just think, by this point, I had driven 2,000 miles on half an engine! God is so good. I am convinced that it was only by His grace that I made it that far.
Paul Spilger, the pastor’s son, works in an auto repair shop. We took the car in the next day and began the wait for the diagnosis. In the meantime, God was doing other great things. Over the next few days, Pastor Spilger, one of their deacons, Debbie Guimon (BIMI Uganda) and I had some very meaningful and productive conversations. We discussed how to better present the need and importance of reaching the Fatherless for Christ, and how to assist churches in meeting the need. We also discussed what are the root causes of this pandemic problem and how they can be addressed through the church.
The Lord always knows just when and where we need to be “stuck”. In this case, I needed to be stuck for about 3 weeks! And what a wonderful three weeks they were! We were able to make some real progress toward the things that we discussed in the days that followed. Not only in finding ways to better present the need, but also putting together an initial sketch of information to help churches begin reaching the Fatherless for Christ.
By Fourth of July weekend, we had learned that the original repair had not been what we had been led to believe. The engine head had never been machined as we were told it had been, instead it had been sanded. Yes, you read that right. Sanded. The shop in St. Louis sent it out to be machined properly and estimated that the bill would be another $1200. My heart sank. That first day, and at moments throughout the next three weeks, I saw very clearly how much easier it is to have a good attitude when you are simply dealing with mechanical failure, than when you are dealing with “mechanic”-al failure. But God is faithful and He is able to give peace, and the ability to forgive, in the midst of storms. After several conversations with the mechanic in North Platte, it became evident that he had no intention of claiming any responsibility for the botched repair. At this point, we had to just trust that it was between him and God.
As for the engine, well, there was just no hope for it. The machine shop in St. Louis had to take so much off of the engine head to smooth it out that when they brought it back it would no longer fit. By this point, I was beginning to wonder if I would have to just leave the car there and fly home, but God had a plan. As all of this was going on and I was wondering how I was going to pay the bill that promised to be anywhere from $1200-2400, I received a phone call from North Platte, NE. It was then that Mrs. Crawford told me with great excitement that a family in their church had a vehicle that they wanted to give to me! I was shocked. I can put it no other way. I was simply shocked.
This was a huge blessing, but I still faced the problem of the bill at the repair shop. Even if I had a vehicle, I needed to have the money to make the drive home. I can just see God smiling and saying, “Don’t worry, I’ve got it all figured out.” Because He truly did! One of the men who was working on the car had an engine head at home that would fit. He brought it in and said he only expected to be paid for it if the mechanic in North Platte took some responsibility and helped with the bill. Otherwise, it was a gift. The man who owned the shop also gave us a 10% discount on all of the labor, which I have been told he never does. To make a long story short, when it was all said and done, the bill came out to $881. The love offerings at Hillside Baptist and Grace Baptist in St. Louis, nearly covered the entire bill! Hudson Taylor once said, “God’s work, done in God’s way, will never lack God’s supply, and he would sooner do it before hand as after!” How true that is! (Not an exact quote since I do not own the book in which I read it.:)
And so it is, that I was able to pay the bill and come home with a new-to-me 2001 Suzuki Swift with only 25,000 miles on it! The Breeze, broken windshield and all, is still in St. Louis. My parents are scheduled to be in Grace Baptist’s missions conference in September. Our current plan is to drive the Breeze home from the conference, stop in North Platte to pick up the replacement windshield and bring it back to Montana to sell it, but we will see what the Lord does. It may be that He has another plan for it.
The Spilgers were headed to Nebraska for a family reunion so I rode along with them as far as Grand Island. The Dirks family met us there and took me on to North Platte. We had a wonderful weekend rejoicing in what the Lord had done since I had been in North Platte nearly two months earlier. Sunday night, I had the blessing of sharing the ministry to the Fatherless with Heritage Baptist. Then, at last, I was headed back to Montana to do the work that lay ahead and to meet my newest nephew, Jackson Lee Darling!
God is so good! Thank you to all who were praying!
What is that work that lays ahead? Be watching for the next blog!