Let's call this guy "J" and his daughter "Bella"....
These are not their real faces and names. I can either tell you their names or their stories but not both in order to ensure his safety.
On Monday, May 28th...Memorial Day, I boarded a flight at 6:30 am from Syracuse to Atlanta, had a layover in Atlanta that was delayed 1hour because of a brief equipment failure and repair, and then flew from Atlanta to Raleigh-Durham Airport.
Now I have had strange things happen on flights before and even shared multiple legs with the same passengers in different parts of the same planes. BUT this is the only time I've been moved by how clearly God wanted me to talk to another passenger!?!
See I spoke Sunday at Faith Fellowship in NY about risking relationships and letting God reach others thru your story. Then on the first leg of my flight Monday this guy with a high and tight fade, obviously military, is seated next to me. I was so overwhelmed that I had to turn my face towards the window where I was seated to cry. I was overcome by some letters and cards from the Bartholomew family with whom I had just spent 5 wonderful days. The guy ignored me or graciously pretended to and slept for most of the flight with his sunglasses over his eyes. A few times near the end of that flight I felt a little guilty for not making any attempt at connecting.
We landed in Atlanta, found our new gate and passed each other several times, which only made me feel guilty that God had allowed me an hour and a half to reach into this guy's world and I had wasted it.
I was thinking about that as I boarded the plane after assigning my own seat just minutes before boarding using an app on my iPhone. I chose the exit row for the 2nd flight in a row because everyone avoids choosing them beforehand. They cost from $19.99-39.99 extra unless it's the only open seat. My gain : )
I arrived first and the plane was almost full when I see "J" walking down the aisle. He found his seat and put his bag in the seat next to mine! I was so dumbfounded he actually realized something was up...by the look on my face.
"Were you just on the flight from Syracuse?" he asked. "Yes," I mumbled, still gaining my composure.
"Did we sit next to each other?" he continued. "Yep, same seats, exit rows, same plane, both times." I managed to add.
We both sort of laughed and had to process that. I think honestly that I would have still wasted the opportunity if the Captain hadn't announced after about 20 minutes that we had an electronics issue that was non-threatening but would require servicing and a delay.
I thought "alright God I can take this 3rd hint. So here goes."
I began asking him if he was in the military and found out he is a company commander at Fort Bragg. His company heads to Afghanistan and breaks into smaller units all over the world very soon. He has a wife and a 3 year old daughter "Bella" who he clearly loves. He was late 20s and articulate. His work was in IT systems and he had served a previous tour in Iraq. He was unsure whether he'd reenlist after this his 2nd tour and what he would do after in the real world. I asked one of my favorite questons " If money were no object what would you choose to do that you love" and he answered "work on a fishing boat"...(like on the reality TV shows about fishermen...the dangerous ones : ) !
None of that astounded me. Somehow as he asked reciprocal questions he asked if I was nervous and clearly was either unchurched or a nonbeliever by the awkwardness of his reactions to why I was in NY (to sing, preach, and share about France church-planting.)
I processed our conversation which had been full of superficial details and worked up the courage, trusting our banter so far, to ask..."aside from safety what is your number one prayer request?"
He allowed me to probe and flesh out his answer which was..."for peace."
Because of my vulnerability earlier and maybe he had noticed my emotional struggle on the first plane...
and because the Holy Spirit was working...He shared that he had battled with anxiety the first time ever that year. Having a family and higher stakes for him and his men had led to some therapy and counseling earlier in the year. This guy was tough but he resolutely said it was the toughest thing he'd ever been thru...including his training! He said he had a whole new perspective on those who return and experience PTSD etc or in general experience anxiety. His face told a story of weathering storms too big for himself.
I was shocked at his candor and told him I would pray for him DAILY by name for the rest of the year, and for his men, his wife and his daughter "Bella." I also took a risk that he might someday have other prayer requests or questions, so I gave him my card. It has every way you can contact me imaginable.
He looked shocked for a moment and grateful and perhaps moved.
Now I believe you have to discern when to share Christ and he wasn't ready. But he was closer now than before our encounter. We chatted thru the delay but when we prepared to takeoff he clearly ended the conversation and began contacting people at the base and at home to reassure them he was on the way.
He did allow me to be a little corny by sincerely thanking him and his company for their service because many don't understand that signing up is an implicit admission that if need be you are willing to die for this country. That moves and wrecks me everytime and I never take it lightly. He seemed to take it seriously and thanked me humbly and intently nodding his agreement.
I have never experienced such a vulnerable conversation with a perfect stranger so far from God but so clearly open to share what would for some seem embarrassing. I have been praying for him as promised first thing every day. Today I felt led to share his story and to give it it's own space and telling away from my newsletter. It's that important.
My prayer is that God would use you and me to reach people far from Him not just to connect like this but to lead them to Himself. Will you pray with me that "J" would be able to feel our prayers for him and God drawing Him in, to Himself?
My selfish prayer is also that we would either meet again or that he would use my card to contact me one day to announce he has become a brother in Christ!
So let it be written; so let it be done.
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
This update includes everything EXCEPT a rather involved but amazing story from my journey back to SC.
Click here to read J's story
MAY 30TH SPECIAL EDITION
My final support-raising tour to NY went very well. I know some expect that to mean more support. BUT I mean God aimed me at what He wanted me to share, I did that and my family in Christ at Faith Fellowship Responded! It was Pentecost Sunday and a celebration of Memorial Day. So I shared about Jesus who, more than any other has shown us love by laying down His life, resurrecting and sending His Holy Spirit so we can join Him in His work in the field where we are planted.
I was led by the Spirit to share personally about His miraculous rescue, salvation, healing and redeeming of my life since becoming His adopted Son more than 30 years ago. God took a troubled, severely introverted and wounded kid and made of him a man who believes to his core that LOVE is risk and sacrifice but is always worth it.
"Greater love has no man than to lay down His life for His friends."
Friends and family-to-be who haven't yet met Christ.
My challenge was to let God use the brokenness we all experience, and sometimes engender in others, by being vulnerable, and sharing how he is healing and redeeming those wounds for the good of His Kingdom.
God wastes NOTHING. Our every wound, victory, lesson learned can be a tool to help others see Him more clearly in their own lives!
I usually don't get immediate feedback on the message but several men, women, and teens stopped to share about specifically identifying with an abusive childhood that caused them to feel rejected and fear relationships. Each was empowered by the Spirit to heed the call to be courageous and risk to make relationships where they are vulnerable...only because He is with them and redeeming their pain for their good and the good of those He plans to reach thru them.
I was most touched by the 2 teen boys who both shared a confirmation of a future call to missions and a past similar to my own that had almost made them give up on God's plan for them. They were inspired and excited that if God could use my trials to draw me closer o Himself and to other people then He can do the same for them! That made the trip worth it!
Several families made pledges. In addition to 4 or 5 other families we are being cautious but optimistic that we will be very close to fully funded. About 99%.
So there is still room if you are thinking or praying about monthly support.
Since my last newsletter and posts I have been able to spend special time saying "goodbye-for-now" to some special friends like Nickalus, Betsy and Caleb Johnson who made a surprise visit to SC in time to get hugs in person. I drove to Nico's family home, where his parents live and got some great shots of the kind of Americana, landscapes that sing, that I will truly miss.
After leaving the Johnsons I prepared for my trip to NY and got another surprise. It was cheaper to fly out of Raleigh, NC RDU Airport, so I had asked Jeremy and Kim Alford if I could park my car at their home during my absence. I din't think I'd get to see them but they stayed awake extra late, for them : ) , and we got to reconnect, share news, inaugurate their new apartment by bein the first friend visit, and to hug goodbye-for now in person.
I love to fly...my favorite parts are takeoff...when you can feel the transition from land to air...and being ABOVE the clouds. Every single time I am moved and just imagine what it will be like when we can do all that, fly above he cloud to meet Hm in the air, under only the power of His Holy Spirit! Rapture Practice!
After an easy flight I arrived in Syracuse where Jon Bartholomew was ready to meet me. We drove to Watertown after some serious Dinosaur BBQ in Syracuse. I enjoyed every single minute of the next 4 days with Jon, Tracey, Tristan, Kendall, Kiersten,, Aidan and Isaiah (Zay)! We had bonfires in the backyard, sang a lot, stayed up late into the night talking and sharing our hopes, fears and celebrating how God has moved in all our lives since I met John in MB 4 or 5 years ago!
Zay Zay looks like a little man in this pic before the sun went down and our bonfire blazed to life!
We visited some of the historic sites in the area!
The Battlefield itself.
The Church where Jon,s dad Pastors, where Jon grew up, and his sister is the worship leader. Nicole and her team were so welcoming and even held a special rehearsal on Saturday so Tracey and I would feel comfortable singing and worshiping with them on Sunday!
As I said before the message Sunday was more than I'd hoped for and we all left celebrating those who died for our freedom, most of all Jesus who asks us to be ready to die as well but more importantly TO LIVE for Him! I left early Monday orning and cried the whole first leg of my flight. I bonded with the family in such a short time but it seemed like years we had known each other. Zay Zay said he wasn't gonna let me leave. Tracey and Tristan sent me off with letters from the family that spoke eloquently of that bond and moved me to tears. We plan to Skype to preserve the bond of unity He has woven between us!
Tuesday I had another milestone. It has been clear since I learned I have to learn to drive a stick-shift or manual transmission that only one person could teach me. Kinsey Muller. She is so patient and kind of a little sister to me and a dear friend, and the mother of my Godson with AC Muller.
I knew I needed someone so patient and loving that my only stress or fear would be about the driving itself. No worries about disappointing my instructor. I had my first lesson and it wen so well I was pleasantly surprised. I still need lots of practice and my goal is to balance clutching and giving it gas as soon as possible.Thanx Coach!!
Gratuitous pics of Micah's family: Me, Kinsey and AC
Micah with Mommy and the Kipe women : )
"Hey girl, you know my uncle is a Missionary...I plan to visit him in Paris when I'm older. He's pretty cool."
Then last night, even tho I will see them all separately, I had dinner with the Ortiz's and saw them for the last time all together : (
Noah Benjamin is so stinkin cute huh?
"As I was sayin...this is CLEARLY not enough bread crumbs mommy!"
I love you guys! Jamin, Lauree and Noah Benjamin Ortiz! Can't wait to Skype but I'll miss those live hugs and giggles. And by giggles I mean you Jamin cuz you giggle more than Noah! I wish you could all see how tenderly Lauree sings to Noah. It's one of my favorite things about my sister : )
That's all for now. There's Texas soon and packing in between. I'll prolly send out one more of these to say I finally received my visa and will definitely board a plane on the predicted date. In the meantime remember on Friday June 1st at Travinia I will be celebrating my 41st Birthday. You may join but by RSVP only : ) Just so we can plan space for you : )
Until next week be blessed and pray with us for this moving and momentous transition!
Tuesday, May 8, 2012