“Really?!” I said.
Was I surprised? Caught off guard? Not completely. But I did have a big grin on my face. Why? Because this kind of stuff; this getting led along like a kid with his dad at the fair, not for sure where we’re going, but confident that “if my dad has my hand, wherever it is, it’s gonna be good,” is the kind of stuff that happens to me frequently.
The Spirit of God still leads us. Why else would He tell us to keep in step with His Spirit if He didn’t? He wasn’t audibly whispering in my ear that day, “Turn here. Go in there. Wait, wait, back up . . . “ But He did make sure that I thought to call my Dad who directed me to his cousin, who just happened to be the mother of the young man who grew up being best buddies with Bryce Marshall, to whom she directed me to inquire of, who . . . “well, I’ll be” . . . would be the preacher I was looking for! Coincidence? Chance? Random series of events? I guess if you are a Darwinian Christian.
Bryce Marshall is just a few years shy of 30. He graduated from SWOSU and returned to his home town of Carnegie to help his dad run the family business, the NAPA Parts store. It was a good decision, but not near as good as his decision to ask Margarite to marry him. Margarite met Bryce at SWOSU in Weatherford, OK. Like most men, Bryce married “up” when Margarite said, “Yes.” And Bryce stepped up when the little church in Carnegie where he grew up, no longer had a preacher.
Bryce doesn’t have a degree in Bible. He didn’t go to seminary or a preacher’s training school. But He loves God and he loves the people in his town. And he loves God’s word. While we were sitting in the back of the parts store that day he told me, ”I just try to preach from my own life and share what I’m learning as I try to follow God.” I think God can work with that. I’m seeing God work with that in Carnegie.
Bryce and Margarite have a son named Kohen. He’s growing up in the footsteps of his parents in a little town that is undoubtedly unknown to the vast majority of the world. But because of the faith of his mom and dad, he will grow up knowing a God who takes small things and makes them big and who takes notice of people who know He does. Kohen will hear the story of how his dad, the Napa Parts store owner, decided he better step up and let God use him for His purposes. He best let God make a preacher of him even if he runs a parts store.
Kohen will hear the story of how their dying congregation of 12 decided they’d been isolated long enough from other Christians and so invited some of the surrounding congregations to join them for a Sunday evening of worship and fellowship. They didn’t know what to expect, but they dreamed a little and asked themselves, “What if 50 people came? Wouldn’t that be somethin’!” They never imagined they’d have 100 pack in that night. As if that wasn’t a big enough surprise, they ordered sandwiches from Subway to feed 80. (Just to have a few extra for the 50 they dreamed of coming.) Even though a 100 people showed, they still had enough food. It wasn’t because someone was in the back of the fellowship hall cutting the sandwiches into smaller pieces. Nope. They just fed 100 with 80 sandwiches. Jesus must still be multiplying loaves. It’s God’s way of doing things – taking small things and making them big. Kohen will grow up hearing stories like this and knowing this God.
Kohen will hear the story of how this little struggling church with only one child among them (Kohen!) decided they should do something for their town so they invited some college students to come to Carnegie one summer and help them assemble some playground equipment for the city park. He’ll hear how his mom and dad and grandpa and grandma (when his church was really small, with just him as the only kid) put an ad in the town paper inviting everyone to bring their kids to the park and try out the new playground equipment. “Oh, and come enjoy free cookies and cool-aide too!” And he’ll hear how later that week when their little church with just Kohen as their token kid met for Bible study had 11 new kids show up!
I found the preacher. Not because I’m a super-sleuth or just a hair short of brilliant. No, I found the preacher because there was a young man in Carnegie who was willing and God works through the willing.
God has so much good to accomplish in our world gone mad. He’s made some serious investments and painful sacrifices to see it done. He starts small and goes big. In little, unknown towns like Carnegie with unknown people like us. (Unknown to the world, but not to God.) And it’s not a question of “if” or “when,” but “who?” Who will join Him in the redemption of the world and experiencing the unexpected? Bryce has. Margarite has. Kohen will. What about you?