Pastor Kevin Redding
Adult Ministries Pastor, Shiloh Community Church
Deuteronomy 31:8 – “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
Back in July 2010, I led my first missions trip to Latvia. Now, July 2018, I just led trip number 8 to that beautiful country. No matter what the team is, or the place of the camp, or the church that we work with, God teaches me something very significant–either about Him or me or both. Sometimes the lesson learned is about God’s nature & character; sometimes it’s about my personal growth & development; sometimes it’s about my professional leadership & passion. This year, it was about God. Throughout the trip, He reminded me that He is the God who goes before us and is not surprised by circumstances that happen to us, but even puts things in place before they happen to show us He cares for us in the midst of them.
While those instances actually started last year when we were adjusting to working with a new church and new team, continued as the team this year was being put together, there are 3 specific times to share from the trip where we saw God going before us.
The first was on the trip over. We once again flew directly from Phoenix to London. As we landed in London, they passed out immigration papers, but were unclear as to who needed to fill it out. We were just transferring from Heathrow to Gatwick and then leaving a few hours later, so we didn’t fill them out. As we followed the crowd into the immigration area, we realized those papers were important. I decided to ask an immigration person, just to be sure, and as soon as she heard we were transferring airports, she told us to fill out the papers and go back to her. When we went back to her, she ushered us to an “EU fast track” line, and put us in front of all the non-EU passengers, saving us about 45 minutes. As we headed to get our luggage, every piece was off the belt and waiting for us to pick it up. We were amazed the time that we saved through that process…until we were 7 miles away from Gatwick Airport in the mini-bus we rented and the driver told us he had a flat tire but would try to get us there before he had to change it. He did great, until we were ½ mile from the airport and he could go no farther. So, we got out of the bus, got off the road and waited (sometimes in the rain) for someone to come to change the tire or bring a new bus. Eventually someone came and changed the tire…you guessed it…45 minutes later. While we had to run through the airport, we made out connecting flight to Riga. We knew that God saved us the time through immigration, because He knew we would be waiting on the side of the road.
The next was when we got to camp and discovered that there were no shower curtains (OK…the girls’ showers had the equivalent of mosquito nets). As we asked the Latvian and Josiah Venture leaders, the answer we basically got was “welcome to Europe”. We began to try to figure out alternatives (guarding the door to the shower area, hanging towels, etc), when we remembered that I had purchased some “Pouch Couches”…the air-filled hammock alternatives…on a whim for the team, and reluctantly decided to bring 3 of them with us. We grabbed two of them, some scissors and duct tape, and made some shower curtains. While shower curtains may not seem very spiritual, it was definitely God going before us in knowing we would need them.
The third could have been much, much worse than a missed flight or showering with someone standing guard. One evening we were playing “Ships & Sailors” as our crowd-breaker game, when Rachel (who was an emcee) told Ethan to go to the back (even though he wasn’t “out”) and pointed for me to do the same (I wasn’t “out” either). As I turned around, I saw Amy laying on the ground, crying in severe pain. As she was running, she tripped and cork-screwed herself against the wall, thus causing her back to experience a tremendous amount of pain. As Ethan was helping her to stay calm and assuring her, I was assessing whether she had any paralysis or concussion symptoms (praise God she didn’t have either). As we were tending to Amy, a local woman came in who was a nurse and she assessed that there was nothing life threatening or long-term serious, but said it would be best to call an ambulance and have her be looked at. We were in a town of about 150 people, but an ambulance showed up 5-10 minutes after being called. On the ambulance were 3 paramedics–one was a woman who compassionately sat down next to Amy, lovingly put her hands on Amy’s cheeks and told her that she would be OK; one was a man who spoke English. Also there that evening was one of the Latvian leaders’ fiance…who drove behind the ambulance and they were able to translate and advocate for Amy & Ethan at the Latvian hospital, including making sure they were in a private room. While Amy was being cared for, the students left the room and went to pray for Amy. Many of those students prayed for the first time, and their hearts began to soften to the things of God. Amy returned to camp the next day, with all tests coming back normal, and was able to continue to show the love of God to the students.
Did God cause the flat tire? No. Did God take the shower curtains away? No. Did God trip Amy and cause her to go to the hospital? No. Did God go before us in each of those circumstances and put the pieces in place to experience His provision. Absolutely. He is the God who is not surprised by circumstances. He is the God who goes before us to lead us through whatever comes our way. He is the God who reigns forever!