We were supposed to travel to India.
January 2011, there were approximately 20 people from Williamson’s Chapel that were going to travel to India to begin building a partnership with a church in Kolkata. WCUMC had been accepted as a pilot church in a new venture of Willow Creek Association and Compassion International. Kathy Warner and I traveled to India with 30 pastors from all over the United States. We spent two weeks there, walking the streets of Delhi, Kolkata, and nearby towns, meeting people who lived their Christianity in secret for fear of persecution by the government.
Yet the closer the departure date came, the trip just did not seem to “fit.”
WCUMC nor now, West, believes in “toxic mission” so we were not going to just swoop in with some soccer balls, jump ropes, and stuff to “save the day.” What we were looking for was a mutual partnership between our church and the one in Kolkata; a partnership that would grow through the years as we sought to follow the nudges of the Holy Spirit.
Sadly Kathy and I realized that the partnership just was not going to be reality. There was too much red tape, too many obstacles in the way. So on a fateful day in November, we made the call to cancel that trip which kicked us out of the pilot program.
Ironically, however, I had emailed one of the leaders of Samaritan’s Feet who had spoken at WCUMC just a few weeks earlier asking if there were any parts of the world that were looking for a relationship/partnership. We had some people, and some plane tickets. We needed a mission.
He responded there was going to be a scouting trip to Nebbi, Uganda to meet a gentleman named Pastor Geoffrey. Geoffrey was passionate about providing education and support for orphans, and Samaritan’s Feet was looking to see if that might be a future partnership for their missional organization.
He asked if we would like to go.
The answer was a unanimous, “Yes!”
No one knew what to expect, including Pastor Geoffrey.
We went, we distributed shoes with Samaritan’s Feet, and near the end of the trip Pastor Geoffrey took us to some land he had personally purchased to be a site for an orphanage, “Acres of Hope.”
He asked if we would pray over the land, that God would lead people to help that vision become reality.
Easter Sunday Rev. Rob Fuquay decided to go “rogue” during his benediction.
He had used our Ugandan journey as an illustration about how God works in the most adverse of situations to bring hope (referencing that death is never the last thing – there is always hope in the resurrection).
During the benediction he said, “Some of you today are going to leave here today and during this Spring Break week you are going to go buy a new boat . . . a new car . . . or a down payment on a vacation home. What if, instead of doing one of those things, you were to make a donation to Acres of Hope and what if WE, followers of a Risen God, were to make this dream become reality?
What if we became vessels of hope?”
I had been at Lake Norman High that morning with our first Easter preview service.
I’ll never forget that phone call . . .
“Well Andrea, I’ve got to tell you what I did. And you are really going to love me for it . . . or you are going to be really frustrated. But . . . I challenged the congregation to give money, $15,000 to be exact, so that Pastor Geoffrey could build the orphanage. As people left worship I had four people tell me they would be calling this week and donating money to make this dream a reality. I have no clue if they will or not . . . but I just thought you should know.”
True to their word, six individuals called that week and worked out ways to cash in stock, make a charitable contribution to a designated fund, etc. so that this dream would become a reality. By the end of the week, we had approximately $80,000 in hand. Kathy nor I knew ANYTHING about funding building orphanages in Africa. But we figured if there were a will, we would find a way.
Five years later here we are. 150 children sponsored through an amazing non-profit founded out of Myers Park UMC, World of God, pod homes build, a piggery, a well, and much more . . . dreams continue to become reality.
In the day-to-day existence of life it is easy to feel like things never work out to our advantage. It is easy to get distracted by hurdles to cross, disappointed with setbacks, and frustrated when our dreams do not become reality.
Sometimes in the day-to-day things, it is hard to see hope.
However, when we stop and look back through that which we’ve come, we can see that we’ve never been alone.
As we seek to find ways to cross hurdles, overcome obstacles, and break down barriers . . . there is a force of goodness that is with us. That goodness never leaves us nor forsakes us.
When God called Moses he did not promise it would be easy. But he did promise he would always be with him.
That same promise is ours for the claiming, we just have to be willing to grasp it and not let go.
The worst things are never the last things.
Over the past five years, there have been numerous hurdles with our partnership. We’ve learned to break down cultural barriers. We’ve learned to communicate and appreciate one another’s differences. We’ve learned to trust each other. We’ve learned to take risks as new adventures present themselves.
Yet through each one we’ve never been alone.
None of us . . . regardless of where we are in life – are ever alone.