“Are you two tourists?”
“Well, we’re actually visiting our friends’ church here in Elgin and we want to reach out to the community.”
The booklet was actually a track.
“Oh, really. That’s so great. Praise God.”
Recognizing each other as brother and sisters in Christ, we began to just chat. Turns out Nancy and John were teachers from a bible college in Baltimore. Together they had done missionary work in Ecuador for six years.
For Nancy, after she got saved, it was as if God had taken her by the hand and before she knew it she found herself in Baltimore asking herself, how she had actually gotten there.
Their church is connected to the bible school and has a branch in Germany.
Was this God taking me by the hand now? Nancy asked to share some of my own background and before I knew it we were talking about the gifts I believe the Lord has entrusted me with.
The biggest project being the book I started writing several years ago. What had started out as a self-therapeutic journal had evolved from intercultural travel memoirs into an inspired testimony of God’s supernatural intervention in my life. How he turned a bitter past into sweet rewards and a glorious future, free from depression, wrong addictions and dependencies, debt, abuse, self-destructive tendencies...He literally turned darkness into light, gave me a new heart filled with faith, hope, love and purpose to pursue.
Meeting Nancy after having thought about bible college and missions I was tempted to give way to an old habit of looking for direction through outward circumstances- to maybe just pack my bags and go to Baltimore. This time wisdom would restrain me. All that’s left is an echo of the still, small things that were uttered when Nancy reminded me, of my righteousness in Christ.
“It is just so evident that God has your life in His hands. Always remember, that you are already perfect.” My flesh wanted to yell out “No, I’m not!” But then I remembered what God had been speaking to me about in our private time of late, just as I had heard in church so many times. And yet I can’t imagine ever hearing too much of it. When the Father looks at me, He sees His Son, who is blameless, spotless and perfect. His grace towards me abounds and He’s pleased with me just the way I am. He loves me unconditionally.
God knows how I will decide, he’s not surprised. I make plans but He orders my steps.
He knew I was going to make that choice to follow His leading to go to the lake.
That same morning, God had told Nancy’s friend, who was the pastor of this group to go down to the river. Out of our obedience our paths crossed by divine appointment.
Nancy and I exchanged numbers, said our good-byes and as I was leaving I noticed a big bronze sign further along he path, closer to the Fox River’s dam. When I got closer I saw the portraits of two firemen, who had given their lives in an attempt to save another man. Fire Capt. Stanley Balsis and firefighter Michael Whalen. On a warm and sunny day in 1974, in the wake of a dare a man decided to cross the dam by Kimball Street with a rubber boat and got caught in the current right beneath it. Dramatic hours passed, both firemen lost their lives, one after the other. The man despite His act of folly survived.
The tribute ends with John 15:13:
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
It made me wonder how many times firefighters or policemen would have to endanger their own life, because of something that stupid. Leave their families behind, their children, their future. How many times does a guardian sacrifice what’s most precious so that another might have life? And who of those answers the call out of duty to a stranger and who was the one responding to love?
Then I think about that one man, who unleashed unfathomable guilt over having birthed death out of human error.
What if the hero, who died to save is alive? Does this one act not change your heart forever? Does this not shed abroad a love so deep that all you want to do is shower your Savior with thankfulness and love? Knowing that Jesus laid down his life for me, is it not the reasonable response that I would do the same and lay down my own? Leave all of it behind at an instance if he asked me to?
And so, as the leaves are turning and falling to the ground summer parts and I, too, do part from a life that is not my own, but to be a living sacrifice of gratitude responding to love.
Revelation 2:7-8 (NLT): 7Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God. 8 Write this letter to the angel of the church in Smyrna. This is the message from the one who is the First and the Last, who was dead but is now alive.
John 5:21(NLT): 21 For just as the Father gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants.