This past weekend, was our first statewide event for women in two years. Let me tell you, when more than twelve hundred women gather for a time of preaching, prayer and FUN it's pretty amazing!
Our state director, Deanna Shrodes (along with her assistant, Judi Cotignola) does such a stellar job leading this ministry. I had enough work just getting our fourteen ladies organized and set up. I can't even imagine the work that Deanna and her team did in order to make the event seamless for us. WHEW!
About three weeks ago, Deanna asked if I would be responsible to receive the offering on Friday night. Those offerings are a key part of funding all the other work they do through the year. So, I prayed about what to say. Almost immediately I knew this story from our early days of ministry was the thing to share.
God used this moment to mark us with the importance of always participating in what He is doing. We have a part to play in every miracle. So, here you go. Hope it builds your faith as it has continued to build ours all these years.
|Sharing at the THRIVE Conference|
As young twenty-somethings, the Lord sent us to our first pastoral position. We were given the opportunity to love on thirty settled souls in the mountains of NC. And although the salary was small, we were so happy to be serving that we didn't realize we were rather poor.
Frank decided to make the first Sunday of February our missions emphasis which meant we would be receiving a cash offering for a special missions endeavor. We were excited until we looked at our own budget and realized we would have No Personal Cash to give.
We've never asked our congregations to do what we weren't willing to do because you can not lead from behind. So, the young pastor and his wife went to prayer asking God to provide us with cash for this special offering.
On the Saturday before missions Sunday, I was cleaning house and praying again about our need. Imagine my joy when I opened a particular box and discovered a five dollar bill. Our missions offering!
Now, this was five dollars I had tucked away in early December for the purpose of adding to Frank's Christmas present. I hid it so well that I promptly forgot about it, until that Saturday morning of discovery.
(I know, some of you are shaking your heads in disbelief. "How can you hide money then totally forget about it, Sheri?!" But other readers are nodding and saying, "Yep! I've done that very same thing." Whichever camp is yours, I'm just glad you read Embrace the Grace.)
No one could match the smiles on our faces as we placed our paltry five dollars in the offering basket that Sunday morning. God had heard our cry and answered in what we considered to be a miraculous way and we were ecstatic. What a great story.
But life is seldom so neat and tidy, right?
On the following Wednesday, we had another little crisis come up. I reached into our pantry to pull out the potatoes I was using to make potato soup for supper. (My Mama had taught me how to live on a frugal budget and had helped me develop a terrific recipe for potato soup. Tasty and Filling.)
I was startled to realize this would be the last of the potatoes and the last food in our house as well. Not one can of tuna. Not one package of hamburger. Not even a loaf of bread. Nothing. And we wouldn't be paid again until Sunday.
Tearfully, I explained my grocery miscalculation to Frank who hugged me and assured me that the Lord had not forgotten us. Everything would be alright. We were tempted to regret having given the entire five dollars on Sunday but we reminded each other what a miracle it was that I had even found it and again thanked the Lord for the privilege He had given us to participate.
The next morning while getting ready for work, I decided to call my parents and ask them to wire money so we would be able to eat the rest of the week. As the phone was ringing, I felt a clear nudge from the Holy Spirit, "Do not tell them what you need."
The thought was so distinct that it was almost startling. My dad answered with his customary, "Nnnyello!" And it came to me again, "Don't tell him. Trust Me."
We talked briefly before Dad asked, "Why did you call, Sweetheart? Are y'all okay?" I took a deep breath trying to remove any quiver from my voice. "Yessir, we're fine. Just wanted to say I love you, Daddy. You and Mama pray for us. Gotta run, bye!"
Hanging up from the call, I swiped at the stray tears landing on my cheeks.
My position as a substitute teacher at the local high school was next on the agenda that morning. While driving, I thought maybe there would be a special basket delivery that day. Many in our dear congregation realized how tight our budget was and often dropped by with grocery items or canned goods as their way of helping out.
When I returned home and searched Frank's face, I knew immediately there had been no such delivery that day. Being the woman of faith that I was at the time, I went into our bedroom, threw myself across the bed and cried myself to sleep. There was no dinner to prepare so sleep seemed appropriate.
About forty-five minutes later, Frank burst into the room and starting shaking me awake while simultaneously talking about some miracle. "Look, Sheri! It's a miracle. Look what the Lord has done for us!"
I rubbed my eyes and saw he was waving an envelope. The mailman ran late that Thursday but the letter he delivered arrived right on time. In the letter postmarked New Orleans, Louisiana was a check written for support of Frank and Sheri.
It hadn't arrived on Wednesday because that was too early. And it didn't arrive on Friday because that would have been too late. Our heavenly Father had it delivered on the very day we needed it most.
You see, we had a dear friend in New Orleans who had promised to pray for us as we started our adventure as pastors. Mama Terri told us her side of the story when we called to thank her.
She seldom ever left her home on Monday mornings as that was her time to be quiet and recover from the weekend. But this particular Monday, she felt the Lord urging her. "Get to the post office and mail a check to those kids!" was how she described it to us.
We all laughed then cried and thanked the Lord together for His attention to detail. What a Faithful God!
Frank and I dashed to the bank so we could cash the check then we enjoyed what was our favorite meal at the time, Kentucky Fried Chicken.
For decades now, Frank and I have been able to refer back to this moment as encouragement for ourselves as well as others. How thankful we were that we gave all that was in our hands to give. We participated by planting our little five dollar bill in the missions offering. And God responded by bringing a great harvest.
Oh, I forgot to tell how much Mama Terri felt prompted to send us. Hold onto your hat. The check that arrived in our mailbox on exactly the right day was for five hundred dollars. One hundred times what we gave, by faith. (You can't make these things up, dear reader.)
So, I ask you: How can you participate in the miracle you need to see take place? What is in your hand/heart to share? Have you sown seed into good soil so you can watch for a harvest?
Let me encourage you to pray and ask God for the seed you need. He loves to surprise us with answers to honest prayers. What you have to offer may seem insufficient to you, give it anyway. You never know what He will do even with just five dollars of faith.