“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21b ESV).” This has been my mantra since the flood. Our “secure” housing fell through three days before we were supposed to move in, and just twelve hours later our car drowned in the flash flood. The auto insurance agency would not cover flooding, so the incredible minivan that was such an amazing deal, ended up being a total loss. In the hopes of reviving it or selling it for parts, Dan rented a truck and towed it over the mountains to Dunedin. He and Mark Lovejoy, our teammate, were able to get it running with a loud hammering sound, but it left us debating what to do next.
Should we buy another vehicle? Fix this one for the $4,000 quoted to us? Neither seemed a good investment and both meant far more money than we had budgeted. Meanwhile we moved into a three-bedroom student apartment with the Lovejoy family at the edge of the university. The Dunedin staff team came through with mattresses, dishes, a table, and a delicious home-made meal, which was a great comfort. They also secured the apartment for us from some of their student leaders who would not be arriving for another five days.
Five days. Five days to find housing, decide what to do about the car, and prepare for the first Facilitator School that we would be leading in three days. We know that God is Sovereign, and although this did not seem the most economical route to us, we knew it was His money, and He would provide in His timing. But we couldn’t envision how or when—especially because we were only looking for a few months of housing, not a year or even a six-month lease.
Soon we bid farewell to the Lovejoys who moved into their new home and we rejoiced over God’s provision for them. Instead of eleven people in the apartment, now there was just the six of us. I sat on my sleeping bag looking at my clothes piled on the apartment floor and remembered our home in New Hampshire. Thinking of that familiar place, our loving friends and family, the comfortable furniture and ease of life that is waiting for us filled me with peace. Wow. I was struck by the realization that the hope of heaven should have that same effect on me.
That night we purchased the cheapest van we could find—brand new in 1996. We all fit inside and it runs. I have dubbed it “the Green Clunker.”
On the morning of February 8th, we were feeling stretched to the limit. It was the first day of our Facilitator School which would run from 9am to 5pm for the next three days. We also had to move out the following morning. At that point we had looked at the only house available for short term rent and the owner had yet to clean out any personal belongings. I had believed that God would provide, but time was running out. I opened my Bible and began searching for the purpose behind the waiting. Why would God choose to wait until the last minute?
God, in His grace, led me to several passages, including Deuteronomy 8:2 “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” 1 Peter 1:7 added more insight, “These [trials] have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
As we gathered the kids together that morning to pray, kneeling before the couch, our only remaining piece of furniture, I explained to the kids and myself that this was our real test of faith—it is easy to trust when things are going your way, but true faith is the assurance of things hoped for and yet unseen. God was building our faith for His glory and for our perseverance and maturity. We have been in the Lord’s school and He has been strengthening us for the task at hand here in New Zealand.
That afternoon, we received word through the church that one of the member’s father-in-laws would be willing to rent his home to us. The Lord completely cared for us through the Body of Christ: the night after the flood, in Wanaka; during our waiting period in Dunedin; and through the church providing housing both for the Lovejoys and for us. He protected and helped us through the tangible arms of His church body.
God provided above and beyond all that we could ask or imagine through this home in Mosgiel, a small town just south of Dunedin. There is even a trampoline in the back yard! And somehow during all the upheaval, the Facilitator School turned out to be a success.
In the Facilitator School, we strive to help people grow in authenticity, recognizing that the key to bonding is being vulnerable. God is very clear that it is when we are weak that we are strong, empowered by His Spirit, and dependent on Him. Mark Lovejoy led the very first activity—an experiential Bible study in which participants wore masks upon which they had written what they wanted people to think about them. The study focused on 2 Corinthians 11 and summed up with verse 30: “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”
It occurred to us right away that God had brought us to the beginning of the school year in New Zealand, not as super heroes with all the answers, but in weakness and need. I had prayed for this very thing—a humble introduction—but perhaps I didn’t really mean it. I had also been praying that God would make me love the staff members here as I do our team at home, but I thought He would do it by merely super sizing the love I already had. Instead, He made me dependent on this team; it has not been through the strength of my love, but through their loving response to the depth of my weakness that He has endeared them to me.
Little has gone according to plan and there is little we can commend ourselves for, but there is so much we can praise God for. He is glorious and all His ways are right. Blessed be the name of the Lord.